LARAMIE -- Rome Weber burst onto the scene in 2019, starting 12 games at the free safety spot for the Cowboys as a freshman.

Alongside first-team All-Mountain West selection and leading tackler, Alijah Halliburton, the San Bernardino, Calif., product tallied 38 tackles, registered a sack, forced a fumble and snagged his first-career interception during a 53-17 rout of UNLV in Laramie.

The 2020 campaign was sure to feature Weber side by side with Esaias Gandy in the Cowboys' secondary.

That all changed Oct. 1 when Weber, along with Mario Mora and Solomon Byrd decided to opt out of the season because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Others like Titus Swen, Claude Cole and Davon Wells-Ross would follow.

Now, Weber is back on the field again.

You think he's excited?

We know the sophomore is back, so are the other five opt outs, but the main question now is, how does he look?

Second-year defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel answered that question last week.

"If a defensive back misses time, that's a that's not a position you just go, let's go, let's just plug and play like this, from footwork, from vision, from everything else," Sawvel said. "There's been progress, but it's going to take some time."

When Weber decided to opt out, Sawvel said, he wasn't around the team, lifting weights, watching film or hanging with his teammates. Only those who were getting the coronavirus test three times per week were in the building.

 

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Weber hasn't set foot on a football field since Dec. 31, 2019 when the Cowboys polished off Georgia State in the Arizona Bowl.

"You can't take six months off from running fast, and then run fast," Sawvel said. "It takes you a little bit of time to get used to covering people. I thought today there was progress from him, but, you know, I told him before we started this spring, I'm not going to put an unreasonable expectation on you. Just go get better every day, then we'll see where we're at."

Senior Braden Smith started all six games for the Cowboys alongside Gandy last fall. The duo combined for 66 tackles, two sacks and an interceptions. Despite a slow start -- giving up 420 passing yards in the opener at Nevada -- Wyoming's secondary settled in and allowed just 202.7 yards through the air per game. That was good enough for 29th in the nation. The Cowboys also held opponents to just 125.3 yards per game on the ground. That earned them the No. 21 ranking in the country.

Wyoming had completed nine spring practices and capped a full scrimmage inside War Memorial Stadium last Saturday afternoon. Weber has six more practices and the annual spring game May 8 to knock off some rust.

Time and repetition, Sawvel said, is exactly what Weber needs.

"When you are a reactionary player, which a defensive back is ... you have to react all these things, and you have to react to it with speed and vision and footwork and everything else," he said. "And, oh, by the way, you hadn't done speed, vision and footwork since December of 2019. That takes a little bit of time.

"So, there's reality in that, and that's what we have to continue to work with."

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