Q&A With Wyoming Wide Receivers Coach Mike Grant
LARAMIE -- Can this Wyoming passing game improve?
It needs to.
Just ask head coach Craig Bohl. Or wide receivers coach Mike Grant. Or the wideouts themselves.
The Cowboys, once again, ranked near the bottom of the FBS standings in passing offense last fall. Same ol' song, same ol' dance. Andrew Peasley connected on just 52.4% of his passes. His outside targets hauled in a grand total of 80 catches. That accounted for just 938 yards and five touchdowns.
Joshua Cobbs snagged a team-best 35 of those balls for 407 yards and a pair of scores. He is now at the University of Houston.
Wyatt Wieland finished with 23 grabs for 299 yards and a touchdown. Will Pelissier, though injured for much of the 2022 campaign, pulled down eight catches for 101 yards and a score. Alex Brown scored the eventual game winner at Colorado State on a 32-yard pitch and catch from Jayden Clemons. He caught just five other passes for 37 yards.
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Help could be on the way.
The Cowboys went out and picked up transfers Devin Boddie Jr. (Vanderbilt) and Ayir Asante (Holy Cross). The latter has 1,722 career receiving yards under his belt to go along with 16 touchdown grabs. Boddie, who played three seasons in the SEC, has just 32 grabs and 324 yards to his credit. He also has a touchdown catch. Both missed spring camp to finish their degrees at their former schools.
What about Gunner Gentry? The senior is coming off back-to-back major knee injuries. Will he be a factor?
We sat down with Grant after the first practice of the fall last Wednesday to discuss the wide receivers room and his thoughts about this fall.
Q: Devin and Ayir are coming in. Are those guys similar to one another? What are their biggest differences and similarities?
A: I think they're very similar. They're both multiple, you know, they can play the outside, they can play inside, and they possess good speed. So, we're trying to catch them up. No. 1: to the altitude. No. 2: just the pace of things. Ayir, being a fifth-year guy, and, you know, Devin in the SEC, there's nothing new. It's more the development of this tempo and the pace, playing here.
Q: So, from what I've heard, you guys are really working on some different things this year in the passing game, as far as maybe getting some guys in space. Are these the perfect kind of dudes that you want to get in space?
A: Right. We're looking to be capable of, you know, throwing a five-yard route and not ending at five yards. That's one thing that we really want to stress. That also starts with, you know, the guy who doesn't get the ball reacting fast, trying to get on the block. The one thing I think they've really done is gelled into the room. The room has really accepted them because everybody's got an ability and everybody's got their limitations. So, you know, they're not coming in and it's 'Oh, he's taking my job,' but recognizing, 'Oh, he does this better than me or I do this better than him.'
Q: Are these guys similar to anyone you've had during your time here, comparison-wise?
A: I would say they are physical, speedy, more like a Rocket Ismail. A little more physical. Not knocking Rocket.
Q: Jaylen Sargent and Caleb Merritt obviously ended the year on a good note (Both caught their first collegiate pass in the Arizona Bowl). Have you noticed that carry into the offseason and are they ready to take the next step?
A: I think they are. They've really come on. I think they know what they're doing now. So, it's not the what anymore, you know, it's now the how and why we're doing things. So they can go a whole lot faster and really show their ability, because they're not thinking about the play and the play call. I really think those bowl practices really helped them. Beyond spring ball, when I really saw a difference in them was during bowl prep. You know, obviously we lost Cobbs, and now they have to step up and realize, 'Hey, it's my turn.' Now, sometimes these young receivers will sit back, thinking 'I got all these guys in front of me, when it's my turn I'll get going.' And I think I saw a little bit of that in Sarge, but now you can see that he feels like it's his time.
Q: How about Gunner Gentry? Is he coming along, fully healthy?
A: Yeah, he's coming along. We're going to see kind of where he lies. It's going to come down to what he can do. How can he help the football team? You know, he's different from some of these other guys as far as size and stature. He's shown willingness to do whatever it takes to be a part of the football team. Last spring he was, you know, in a health jersey the whole time. So, now we're going to see when people are falling on him and all those things.
Q: I think you told me -- off the record -- a couple of years ago that during those last practices before he got hurt for the first time he was starting to look like his brother (Tanner Gentry). Does he still possess that?
A: At times, I did see a lot of that in the spring, especially in one-on-one. He's just got to trust it and I think he's coming along now. He was really doing a great job. We had him all summer and like I said, he's willing to do it. He hasn't just given up on his ability.
Q: Could he be an X-factor? Like a pleasant surprise who gives you a couple of huge catches?
A: Yeah, that would be big if he can do that. That would be big. He's a big-body guy -- and strong.
Q: I think we've all kind of been sitting here waiting for Alex Brown to do what his body appears to say he's capable of doing. Is it that time?
A: I think it's his time. He's done a really good job. Like I said, I think bowl prep and the CSU game gave him some life. That's what I've told him, 'You've been here long enough now that you can't be the same person.' I think he's taking it to heart. He has all the physical tools, this is a matter of putting them together.
Q: Any new guys the fans should be keeping an eye on or thinking about whether it's not this year or in the future?
A: Those two young guys (Bricen Brantley and Justin Stevenson) are pretty good. I think, you know, Bricen is tiny in size, but he's got good height and put on some weight. He's really fast. He was a big time track guy in Houston. He really can roll. So, I'm looking forward to watching them. Even just watching them today, they catch the ball pretty well. That was a plus for me.
Q: Is this the most depth -- the best it's been in this room -- since you got here?
A: Yes, I think we are. Probably since my first year here in 2015 with Tanner (Gentry) and CJ (Johnson) and James (Price). All those guys were young, at the time, but talented.
Q: You guys know the elephant in the room and the big question is, when is this passing game going to get going? When are you going to add that element that I think a lot of us, including me, think could've vaulted you to a championship in the past? Has that been an emphasis?
A: It's been an emphasis. It's been an emphasis in the winter time and we emphasized it during the spring. The most important guy in the whole thing is the quarterback. It's our job to be where we're supposed to be and, you know, sometimes that wasn't the case. We've got to get to where, when he's looking, we should be there. That's the goal for us.