Wyoming Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice
With the most experienced team in the Mountain West on hand for 2023, what do the Cowboys need to address?
Contact/Follow @MattK_FS & @MWCwire
The path to a real breakthrough starts now.
The Wyoming Cowboys begin spring practice with plenty of momentum at their back. Craig Bohl’s team returns the most production of any team in the Mountain West, prompting speculation that this might finally be the season where they get over the seven- or eight-win hump. Despite the wealth of experience, however, they aren’t without at least a few big questions which require attention.
Who will help replenish the defensive line?
Though the Cowboys struggled in a lot of respects last season, one thing that wasn’t in doubt all year long was their ability to rush the quarterback. They finished 2022 with a team sack rate of 7.7%, good enough to rank 31st among FBS defenses, but a big piece of that puzzle left via the transfer portal when Oluwaseyi Omatosho departed for Oregon State.
The good news, at least, is the remaining defensive end duo of Braden Siders and DeVonne Harris, not to mention tackles Jordan Bertagnole and a presumably healthy Cole Godbout, look ready to wreak havoc on the Mountain West, but will the Cowboys identify reliable reinforcements? Sabastian Harsh got rave reviews on the practice field before an injury wiped out his season last year, while Keelan Cox could make a strong impression coming back from his own season-ending hurt. Wyoming should be in good shape no matter what here, but the deeper, the bettter.
How will the passing game attempt to overcome its inconsistency?
For a brief moment, it seemed like Wyoming had finally exorcised a few of its offensive demons early in 2022. Andrew Peasley completed 60% of his passes in three of the team’s first four games, but he would reach that mark just once more the rest of the way and, between him and backup Jayden Clemons, the Pokes finished the year with more interceptions than passing touchdowns.
While both quarterbacks return, the team does have to replace a handful of key contributors in the receiving corps. Joshua Cobbs is the biggest name to exit, but he and tight end Parker Christensen and and running back Titus Swen were three of the offense’s top five targets, combining to see 122 passes. More will be expected of wide receiver holdovers like Alex Brown and Wyatt Wieland, both of whom finished 2022 with a catch rate under 50%, but it will take a group effort to finally put years of maddening results in the past for good.
What shape will the running game take?
With the exception of the shortened 2020 season, Wyoming has had a running back shoulder at least 200 carries in six of the last seven full campaigns. As mentioned before, Swen has moved on and while there the remaining offensive backfield is rife with potential, do the Cowboys need another bellcow to make magic?
It’ll be fascinating to watch the competition at running back unfold because Wyoming has at least four options who could take the lead a la Swen or Brian Hill or, alternatively, head up a deep committee of powder kegs. Jordon Vaughn shined when given the opportunity to start last December’s Arizona Bowl, but D.Q. James averaged 8.65 yards on 40 rushing attempts and Dawaiian McNeely has averaged 5.6 YPC on 94 career rushes. Harrison Waylee also arrives in Laramie from Northern Illinois, who’s averaged 5.2 career YPC himself and led the Huskies in rushing back in 2020. If nothing else, this group could be a lot of fun.