Three defensive starters opt out of 2020 football season
LARAMIE -- Wyoming is losing its leading sack producer, one of its best run stoppers and an up-and-coming star in its secondary.
Solomon Byrd, Mario Mora and Rome Weber, respectively, have decided to opt out of the 2020 football season because of "medical concerns." The school confirmed the news Wednesday night.
The Cowboys' defense will also be without junior end Davon Wells-Ross and sophomore tackle, Claude Cole.
Byrd, a freshman All-American in 2019, tallied a team-best 6.5 sacks for the Cowboys. The Palmdale, Calif., product also registered 40 tackles and forced two fumbles.
Wyoming had one of the top pass rushes in the Mountain West last season, racking up 31 sacks in 13 games. Only Boise State had more with 40.
Mora was a pleasant surprise in the middle of the Pokes' defensive line during his freshman season. He racked up 22 tackles and a pair of sacks. The import from Covina, Calif., also forced and recovered a fumble.
The Cowboys didn't allow a 100-yard rusher in 13 games last season. In fact, they held teams under the century mark on the ground seven times, including a season low of 50 in a Week 2 road victory over Texas State.
Weber, a San Bernardino, Calif., native recorded his first career interception in a blowout win over UNLV. Playing opposite of the league's leading tackler, Alijah Halliburton, the free safety finished 2019 with 38 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
So, who steps in for these guys?
At the defensive end position, senior Garrett Crall and his 4.5 sacks are returning. Teagan Liufau added one.
A player to watch could be incoming freshman Oluwaseyi Omotosho. The freshman from Houston impressed Bohl at a camp last spring. It's easy to see why. The 6-foot, 2-inch, 225-pound end was recruited by Kansas State, among others.
When asked if Omotosho reminded him of a young Carl Granderson, Bohl said physically, he's already ahead of the current New Orleans Saint.
"We clocked him a couple of times in the low 4.5 and under 4.5," Bohl said of Omotosho's 40-yard dash time. "He has a big frame, great explosion, and we got to see him in the one-on-one drills. We are fired up about him. We think he's a really, really talented player."
Victor Jones, who played mostly in the middle last fall, could also be an option to slide out to the end spot. He finished with 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Bohl said Wednesday night that he was impressed with Jones in the team's first practice in full pads.
Jack Boyer, DeVonne Harris, Sabastian Harsh, Leevi Lafaele, Jaylen Pate, Braden Siders and Cameron Smith are also listed at the defensive end spot on the roster.
Remember, no eligibility will be lost this fall because of the abbreviated season. That affords the coaching staff to see what they have in these young players.
Bohl touched on that during his Monday night press conference.
"We have always repped a lot of guys in camp, and we are going to do that even more so this year because we have no idea who could or could not be playing," he said. "... It gives everyone an opportunity to play and so as a result we're repping everybody and we're evaluating everybody."
Cole Godbout and Ravontae Holt should be the Pokes' starters on the interior defensive line. Godbout, a sophomore, finished with 34 tackles, two sacks and a pass breakup in 2019. Holt suffered a torn ACL in fall camp, but was expected to be one of the Cowboys' top linemen. As a freshman, Holt registered 31 tackles to go along with a forced fumble and a recovery.
"I'm really, really pleased with Cole Godbout and his progression as a defensive tackle," Bohl said Wednesday.
He was also impressed with a rookie at that spot.
"Caleb Robinson from Omaha did some great things at the defensive tackle position for a freshman," he said.
Robinson is 6 feet, 2 inches and weighs in at 265 pounds. He was a Nebraska First-Team All-Metro selection and received a two-star rating from Rivals.com.
Other defensive tackles are: Jordan Bertagnole, Akili Bonner, Justis Borton, Jason Davis, Alonzo Hall, Gavin Meyer and Duncan Radakovich.
Those seven have a combined zero collegiate starts on the line. Only Borton (13) and Davis (2) have played in a game.
At the free safety spot, the Cowboys have a proven back-up in Braden Smith, who was in a battle with Weber for the starting spot last fall. Smith finished the 2019 season with 11 tackles and an interception in a victory over Texas State.
Smith could line up opposite of strong safety Esaias Gandy.
A name to watch for here is Keshaun Taylor, a freshman from Denver. Taylor was coached in high school by former UW standout, Derrick Martin.
Martin had this to say about Taylor.
"I think he's the real deal," he said. "He's a true ball hawk that doesn't mind laying a hat on someone. He's a mix of Halliburton and (Tashaun) Gipson."
Sound impressive enough?
Keyon Blankenbaker, last season's nickel back, could also be an option at safety.
Other safeties listed on the roster are: Buck Coors, Cameron Murray, Isaac White and Miles Williams.