Wyoming tight end Colin O’Brien embraces the art of blocking
LARAMIE -- Colin O'Brien has just two catches for 27 yards through the Cowboys first 11 games. Both of those came in a 45-12 victory over Ball State.
That was in Week 3.
Guess how much Wyoming's tight end is concerned with targets in the passing game?
Hint: He isn't.
In Craig Bohl's run-heavy offense, tight ends are valued in one area more than any other -- blocking. With sincerity in his voice, the sophomore from Mission Viejo, Calif., emphatically embraces that weekly challenge wholeheartedly.
"I love it," O'Brien said. "Coming into the week, we knew we weren't getting a lot of targets in the game plan. We don't care about that, we love to go out and block. There's no better feeling than blocking a guy and to see a running back run off your butt for big yards or even a touchdown.
"It's the best thing in the world. We love it."
In that 44-17 stunner on the road at Utah State, only Treyton Welch hauled in a pass from that position group. It went for 18 yards and set the Cowboys up at the Aggies 37-yard line. Four snaps later, UW placekicker John Hoyland would split the uprights from 28 yards out to extend the visitors lead to 24-14 late in the first half.
If you don't follow this program, you might think the tight ends didn't do much to aid in that win which ultimately earned the Cowboys official bowl eligibility.
You would be wrong.
O'Brien swears up and down he takes more pride in blocking than anything. He proved that on Wyoming's first drive of the third quarter.
That's O'Brien, No. 88, at the bottom of the formation. The 6-foot-6, 238-pound extension of the offensive line, explodes off the line, gets Utah State outside linebacker Cash Gilliam in his grasp and starts the bullying process.
Gilliam goes roughly 12 yards in the wrong direction.
UW running back Titus Swen took care of the rest, flying into the end zone from 43 yards out.
"Basically, I knew the ball was coming my way," O'Brien said. "I saw No. 5 go wide and I knew that was my guy. He came at me with force and I just did what we've been taught: keep my hands tight and drive my feet. Next thing I know, we are 10 yards off the ball and Titus is gone for the touchdown. There's no better feeling."
Gilliam had a few choice words for the tight ends throughout the game, O'Brien said. He was awfully quiet after that one though.
Wyoming rushed for 362 yards on 49 carries in Logan. That's an average of 7.4 yards per rush.
Like his line mates, O'Brien doesn't expect or seek the spotlight. After all, he said, they do that on every snap with little to no fanfare.
"I think of them," he said. "It just feels right."
You might not be too familiar with O'Brien.
He transferred to UW from Saddleback College (Calif.) before the 2020 campaign. There, he helped lead the Gauchos to a 9-2 record and a trip to the Southern California Football Association Regional Semifinals. His size and athleticism caught the eye of recruiters from UMass and Boise State.
The former three-star recruit and No. 6-ranked junior college tight end in the nation chose Wyoming.
The wind on the high plains has been a "shell shock" for the southern California kid, he joked, but the small-town atmosphere and the love the team gets from entire state sold him on Laramie.
During a COVID-19-shortened first season in Laramie, O'Brien appeared in just two of six games, mainly on the Cowboys' special teams units.
Wyoming is guaranteed just one more game this fall. Hawaii will pay a visit to War Memorial Stadium Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff. O'Brien said he has no clue what this week's game plan will feature, but he hopes its another play sheet filled with "13-personnel" formations -- three tight ends on the field at once -- so him and his running mates can continue to open holes for two of the top running backs in the conference, Xazavian Valladay and Swen.
He's also in hopes that one more victory assures the Cowboys a trip to the postseason.
"We played Cowboy tough in all three phases last week," O'Brien said. "We ran the ball down their throat and kept the pedal to the metal. We hope we can continue that against Hawaii and hopefully in the bowl game.
"... We need to continue this momentum."