LARAMIE -- With a little less than one month until its season-opening game, the Wyoming Cowboy Football team hit the practice field for the first time this season on Friday morning followed by Media Day in the afternoon.

Due to adjustments to squad limits with student-athletes being granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA this season, the Cowboys took the field with 118 players for its first practice.

The Pokes practiced on the grass fields at the North 40 practice area and went through a two-hour practice. As is common for the start of fall camp, a lot of time was spent on fundamental work by each position group. But Friday’s practice also incorporated eight periods of team work at the end of practice.

The Cowboys first six practices with be in spiders or half pads, before the team dons full pads for the first time next Friday.

After the morning practice, head coach Craig Bohl commented on what he saw from his team on the opening day of fall camp.

“I think the overall assessment is we’ve made good progress with our physical conditioning over the summer,” Bohl said. “We’re stronger and more athletic. We also have good competition within our football team. There are a number of positions where our depth is significantly improved. Obviously, it is only the first practice and there are things we need to improve on, but I saw a lot of good things out there today.

“I think our top two quarterbacks (Sean Chambers and Levi Williams) are making progress. X (Xazavian Valladay) came back in great shape. Defensively, we have good team speed, and we have good experience on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. I want to continue to encourage our fans to come out on Sept. 4 for what we expect will be an exciting atmosphere as we return to War Memorial Stadium.”

Experience and Program Stability Provide Cowboys With a Strong Base to Begin 2021 Preparations

The Cowboys are returning an experienced squad, with 22 of 24 starters returning from last season, including all 11 starters on defense, 10 of 11 on offense and their returning place-kicker.

According to national football writer Bill Connelly of ESPN, Wyoming returns one of the most experienced and most stable programs among all 130 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams in the country.

Based on the number of returning players and their production, Connelly ranks Wyoming second only to Toledo in returning production from last season, according to his rating system. Wyoming returns 95 percent of its team production from last season, while Toledo returns 97 percent.

In terms of program stability, Connelly ranked all 130 FBS programs in a story on ESPN.com dated July 28. In that story, Connelly ranked the University of Wyoming football program No. 1 in the country in program stability. Clemson was ranked No. 2 in the ratings. Each FBS program was ranked in three categories of stability according to Connelly’s system:

∙Coaching stability (up to 20 points). Points were awarded according to three factors: how long your current coach has been on the job, how many head coaches you’ve had over the past five years (so, 2017-21, not including late-year interims) and how many coordinators you’ve had to replace this offseason.

∙Roster stability (up to 20 points). This was based on two factors: your returning production averages (updated since February’s piece on the topic) and the number of players you’ve lost to the transfer portal since the start of last season. The former points directly at the value of who you’ve got returning, while the latter hints at a program’s overall culture and stability.

∙Performance stability (up to 10 points). This category is a bit blurrier. It asks three general questions:

        (1) How well have you done recently?

        (2) How consistent have you been?

        (3) How many games did you play last year?

 Wyoming’s combined ratings gave the Cowboys an overall rating of 40.6 (15.5 coach stability, 19.2 roster stability, 6.0 performance stability). Connelly pointed out that, “The Cowboys have one of the most reliable defenses in the Group of Five, Craig Bohl is entering his eighth year in Wyoming (and with a pretty steady staff), and virtually everyone from last season’s team is back. Bohl has proven to be one of the sport’s most celebrated culture-builders, and it makes sense that a Bohl team would lead this list.”

Clemson came in No. 2 with an overall rating of 40.3 (20.0 coach stability, 10.6 roster stability, 9.7 performance stability).

Breaking Down Wyoming’s Roster

Not only are there 22 starters returning from last year’s team, but there are a total of 40 players returning who have started games during their Wyoming careers and that experience is spread out throughout the team -- 20 on offense, 19 on defense and one on special teams.

Leading the way amongst the most experienced groups is the offensive line, who has eight different players who have started games as Cowboys.

Those eight O-Lineman have started a total of 145 games over their Wyoming careers. Leading the way are: junior center Keegan Cryder, who has started all 31 career games he has played as a Cowboy; senior guard Logan Harris, who has 30 career starts; senior tackle Alonzo Velazquez, who has started 23 career games; and junior tackle Rudy Stofer, who has 21 starts to his credit.

Among key players who return this season after missing all or a portion of the 2020 season include: quarterback Chambers, offensive tackle Velazquez, nickel back Keyon Blankenbaker, defensive end Garrett Crall, defensive end Solomon Byrd, defensive tackle Ravontae Holt, defensive end Victor Jones, defensive end Teagan Liufau, running back Titus Swen and safety Rome Weber.

2021 Preseason Honors Candidates

Three Cowboys have been selected to the 2021 Preseason All-Mountain West team.  They are linebacker Chad Muma, center Cryder and running back Valladay.

All three also were First Team All-MW selections a year ago. 

In terms of national award watch lists for the 2021 season:

        ∙Keegan Cryder was named to the Outland Trophy Watch List for the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman

        ∙John Hoyland is on this year’s Lou Groza Award Watch List for the nation’s top place-kicker

        ∙Chad Muma is on both the Butkus Award Watch List for the nation’s best linebacker and the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List for the outstanding defensive player in college football

        ∙Xazavian Valladay has been named to the Maxwell Award Watch List for Player of the Year and the Doak Walker Watch List that honors the nation’s top college running back

Returning Players Who Earned Honors a Year Ago

In addition to Cryder, Muma and Valladay, who all earned First Team All-Conference honors in 2020, Wyoming had five other players also earn postseason All-Conference honors in 2020.

        ∙The official Mountain West All-Conference football team included place-kicker John Hoyland as a Second Team selection.

        ∙Three Cowboys received Honorable Mention All-MW honors in 2020.  They were: safety Esaias Gandy, offensive guard Logan Harris and wide receiver Isaiah Neyor

        ∙Included on the 2020 Phil Steele All-Mountain West team were: Cryder, Muma and Valladay on the First Team; Hoyland on the

          Second Team; Harris on the Third Team; and cornerback C.J. Coldon on the Fourth Team.

Tickets to the 2021 Season

The 2021 season will kick off on Saturday, Sept. 4 in Laramie when Wyoming will host the Montana State Bobcats in a game scheduled to kick at 2:00 p.m., M.T. Fans interested in purchasing tickets to the 2021 Wyoming Football season may: go online at www.GoWyo.com/tickets; email tickets@uwyo.edu; call the UW Athletics Ticket Office at (307) 766-7220; or stop by the ticket office on the west side of UW’s Arena-Auditorium.  Season tickets start as low as $159 and single-game tickets to the Montana State game start at $39.

“Stripe Out” of War Memorial Stadium for Montana State Game, More Information at GoWyo.com/StripeOut

Wyoming is bringing back the Stripe Out at War Memorial Stadium for the 2021 season opener versus Montana State on Sept. 4. After the success of the 2019 season-opening game against Missouri, a Stripe Out is again being planned for this year’s opener.  Wyoming Athletics is asking all Cowboy fans to participate in the Stripe Out of War Memorial Stadium by wearing Brown or Gold t-shirts based on their seat location. The goal is to have alternating sections of the stadium be Brown and Gold. Cowboy fans may access more information on tickets and t-shirts for the “Stripe Out” by going to: GoWyo.com/StripeOut

Fall Practice Schedule

The Cowboys will return to the practice field on Saturday, Aug. 7 followed by a day off on Sunday, and then will practice Monday through Saturday mornings for the next two weeks leading up to the start of fall classes at the University of Wyoming on Monday, Aug. 23. Fall practices are closed to media and the general public due to COVID protocols.

* University of Wyoming press release

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