Wilson weighs in on defensive coaching departures
LARAMIE -- One of the biggest question marks heading into Wyoming's 2019 season was how would the defense perform without Carl Granderson, Youhanna Ghaifan, Kevin Prosser, Andrew Wingard, Marcus Epps and others.
Arguably the program's biggest loss was defensive coordinator, Scottie Hazelton, who bolted for Kansas State after the 2018 campaign.
At Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas last July, no one seemed too concerned about this proposition, especially senior linebacker Logan Wilson.
"Obviously, we will be different, but the scheme will remain mostly the same. Not much has changed," Wilson said, confidently. "Ultimately, it comes down to us. Our coaches will put us in the right position to win."
Craig Bohl answered that question only the way the veteran head coach could.
"If you look in the rear-view mirror too much, you will probably get in a wreck," Bohl quipped.
Fast forward six months and the Cowboys are facing many of the same questions after Nick Rolavich and Washington State raided Wyoming's defensive staff Sunday, hiring defensive coordinator, Jake Dickert, defensive ends coach, AJ Cooper, and cornerbacks coach, John Richardson.
Bohl will also have to find a safeties coach to replace Dickert, who filled in for Willie Mack Garza after he resigned mid-season.
After two lightning-fast touchdown strikes in the season opener against Missouri, Dickert's defense settled in nicely. The secondary didn't come around until week 11 against Border War rival Colorado State. That frigid evening in Laramie, the Cowboys back end gave up just 217 yards through the air against the top passing team in the Mountain West Conference.
"I mean, there's a reason why we didn't lose a step on defense with him taking over like a lot of people expected us to," Wilson said Sunday afternoon from his training facility in San Ramon, Calif.
Much of that credit can go to Dickert. And look no further than the senior campaign Wilson had.
The Casper product finished the season with 105 tackles, 8.5 of those for loss. Wilson also picked off a team-high four passes, forced a fumble and knocked down seven passes.
In 2018, Wilson tallied 99 tackles and intercepted two passes. He batted down two throws and racked up 10.5 tackles for loss.
Those numbers aren't drastic, but that's not the point. Like Wilson said, the Pokes' D didn't skip a beat. In fact, they got better in some areas:
- Rushing defense: 2018, 129.5 yards per game; 2019, 107.1 yards per game
- Sacks: 2018, 17; 2019, 31
- Turnover margin: 2018, 0; 2019, plus-5
Those are just a few small examples.
"He's a players' coach," Wilson said of Dickert. "He'll definitely be missed in the program."
Cooper was instrumental in turning Garrett Crall from a walk-on to one of the top pass rushers in the conference. He also had a big hand in mentoring Freshman All-American, Solomon Byrd, who led the team with 6.5 sacks in 2019.
Richardson's crew didn't put up impressive numbers, but considering what he had in the defensive backfield after the departure of three-year starter Antonio Hull and the dismissal of Allen Smith coupled with the season-ending injury to CJ Coldon, the Cowboys cornerbacks got better as the season progressed.
In the Arizona Bowl, Wyoming held Georgia State to just 156 yards passing.
Bohl has his work cut out for him -- and the timing of this couldn't be worse for the Cowboys, who are in the midst of a second cycle of recruiting ahead of the traditional February signing day.
Chau Smith, a three-star defensive back from Chicago, who posted on Twitter in December that he was committed to Wyoming, never signed his letter of intent. Instead, two Power-5 schools came in late. One, Purdue. The other -- Washington State. He is set to visit both schools in the upcoming weeks.
"Wazzu is getting a good one, not only with (Dickert) as the defensive coordinator, but with coach Coop and coach Rich, as well," Wilson said.