LAS VEGAS, Nev., -- "We're lying in the weeds."

Craig Bohl has made that statement before. He did it again Wednesday afternoon at the annual Mountain West Media Days inside Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay.

"You know, we have the ability to be pretty good," he added.

Wyoming's head coach, who is heading into his ninth season on the sidelines in Laramie, says he is optimistic about his team despite the media pegging the Cowboys' for a fifth-place finish in the six-team Mountain Division.

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That ranking means little. But the reality is, his roster is the third youngest in the FBS, ahead of only conference foes Nevada and Hawaii. UW lost 15 players to the NCAA Transfer Portal. That tally includes both quarterbacks from a season ago, its best wide receiver, two starting veteran cornerbacks and the program's second all-time leading rusher.

Star linebacker Chad Muma is also gone. He was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third round of last spring's NFL Draft.

 

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So, where does this confidence come from?

Wyoming has been in this spot before.

"Another year that turned out to be really good was 2016," Bohl said, referring to the experts picking his team dead last in the preseason polls. "I think we brought Dewey (Andrew Wingard) and Josh (Allen) here, two guys nobody really knew anything about.

Indeed they were.

Just three seasons into the Bohl era, Allen and Co. opened the season with a triple-overtime thriller over Northern Illinois and eventually rolled off five straight conference wins, including a 30-28 upset of No. 13 Boise State inside War Memorial Stadium. The Cowboys would eventually go on to host the Mountain West Championship game where they fell to San Diego State.

Eighteen days later, UW dropped a 24-21 heartbreaker to BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Wyoming arrived ahead of schedule. Allen was thrust into the national spotlight thanks to an underdog story and a golden arm. Wingard, along with Logan Wilson, Marcus Epps, Rico Gafford, Tanner Gentry, Carl Granderson, Tyler Hall, Jacob Hollister and Chase Roullier are all cashing NFL checks today.

What does all that mean? Nothing.

No one knows that more than Bohl.

He didn't talk about expectations this fall. He didn't guarantee victories. But the grin that creased the 63-year-old's face suggested he knows there is plenty of talent and potential on this roster.

"I'm optimistic this year," he said. "I'm excited about working with this group."

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