(Editor's note: UW Athletics release)
LARAMIE, Wyo. - University of Wyoming head football coach Craig Bohl released the Cowboys’ most recent depth chart on Wednesday as the Pokes are already in the summer conditioning portion of their schedule. The current two-deep is filled with a great deal of experience across the board on offense, defense and special teams.
“This spring it was encouraging to see the development of a lot of players, who have been able to take advantage of our strength and conditioning program,” said Bohl. “Last fall was a trying season, but there were some positive things that came out of the fall. We had a number of younger players who were able to gain some maturity by playing more than they may have otherwise.
“We are really pleased coming out of spring with the depth in our program. We’re much deeper than what we’ve been since I’ve been our head coach. That depth is going to be important as we get into a rigorous season.”
Leading the way are a trio of returning First Team All-Mountain West performers. Juniors Xazavian Valladay at running back, Chad Muma at middle linebacker and Keegan Cryder at center all return for the 2021 season. Also returning is Second Team All-Conference place-kicker John Hoyland, who will still be a freshman. Senior offensive guard Logan Harris and sophomore cornerback C.J. Coldon received Third and Fourth Team All-Confernce honors from Phil Steele, and Harris and redshirt freshman wide receiver Isaiah Neyor both received Honorable Mention All-Conference honors from Mountain West head coaches and media.
(Returns 10 of 11 Starters From the 2020 Season)
The offensive line will be one of the deepest and most experienced groups on the 2021 Cowboy team. That unit returns eight players with starting experience. The eight returning Cowboys on the O-Line have played in a combined 180 games and have started an amazing 145 combined games.
Junior center Keegan Cryder has started all 31 games he has played for Wyoming. He will be backed up this season by redshirt freshman Latrell Bible, who started the final five games of the 2020 season at left tackle for the Cowboys. Bible was moved back inside during 2021 spring practice and he is perhaps the most versatile Cowboy O-Lineman, being able to play all three positions, center, guard and tackle..
At right guard, senior Logan Harris has played in more games (41) than any other current Wyoming offensive lineman, and he has started 30 of those games. Slotted behind Harris is freshman Nofoafia Tulafono, who currently is the largest Cowboy at 338 pounds. On the other side at left guard will be junior Eric Abojei, who has 24 games played and 17 starts to his credit. Abojei slimmed down this offseason from around 350 pounds to 328. Sophomore Zach Watts is listed No. 2 at left guard. Watts has started seven of the nine games he has played as a Poke.
The left tackle position for the Cowboys is more experienced than any position on the offensive line. Senior Alonzo Velazquez is listed as the starter. Velazquez missed the entire 2020 season due to injury, but he has started 23 of the 24 career games he has played in. Junior Rudy Stofer is right behind Velazquez with 21 starts in 26 career games. Combined, the duo has started 44 career games and played in 50. At right tackle, the tallest player on the Cowboy offensive line is returning starter Frank Crum. Crum has started 11 of 18 games over the past two seasons. He will be backed up by freshman Mana Taimani.
The Cowboy running back unit is another very experienced group. The top two backs bring not only experience but a lot of talent to the Cowboy offensive attack. Junior Xazavian Valladay returns after leading the Mountain West in rushing each of the past two seasons, ranking in the Top 20 in the nation in rushing for two straight years (No. 17 in 2020 and No. 18 in 2019) and earning First Team All-Mountain West Conference each of the past two seasons. Joining Valladay at running back will be Trey Smith, who after transferring from Louisville in 2019 will be entering his third year as a Wyoming Cowboy. Smith also put up strong numbers in 2020, ranking No. 46 in the nation in yards per carry (5.55) and No. 48 in rushing yards per game (81.3).
During 2021 spring practice both Cowboy quarterbacks Sean Chambers and Levi Williams showed how effective they could be when healthy. In the Spring Game, Chambers completed 61.5 percent of his passes (8 of 13) for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Williams threw for 132 yards on 10 of 17 (.588) passing and had one TD pass. Chambers earned the starting spot coming out of 2021 spring drills. He of course was injured in the 2020 season opener on the third play of the game at Nevada and missed the remainder of the year. Williams started the last five games of the 2020 season, but played with an injured throwing shoulder for much of the season. In the 2019 season, Chambers led Wyoming to a 6-2 record in the eight games he started before missing the final five games of the season due to injury. Williams helped guide the Cowboys to a 38-17 win in the Arizona Bowl over Georgia State in his one start of the 2019 campaign.
Wyoming’s top four receivers on the depth chart feature one senior and three freshmen. The lone senior is Ayden Eberhardt, who led Wyoming in receptions (16) and receiving yards (252) in the COVID-shortened season of 2020. Eberhardt is slotted as the starter at one wide-out position. Redshirt freshman Isaiah Neyor is the projected starter at the other wide receiver position. Neyor burst on the scene last year to average 31.0 yards per reception and earn Honorable Mention All-Conference honors from MW head coaches and media. Backing up those two are freshman Joshua Cobbs and redshirt freshman Devin Jennings. One distincitive feature of the Cowboys wide receivers is their size. Eberhardt and Jennings stand 6’2”. Neyor is listed at 6’3”, and Cobbs measures 6’4”.
Another young but talented group are the Wyoming tight ends and fullbacks. Both sophomore tight end Treyton Welch and redshirt freshman fullback Parker Christensen return as starters from last season. Christensen’s versatility also allows him to line up at the tight end position in addition to fullback. Junior-college transfer Colin O’Brien, who transferred to UW a year ago, earned the back-up spot at tight end in the spring of 2021. Freshman Caleb Driskill is the projected back-up at fullback.
(Returns All 11 Starters From the 2020 Season)
The defensive line was one group that saw a lot of young players gain valuable experience in 2020 due to injuries to multiple veteran players. Those young players are among the group Bohl singled out as gaining valuable experience a year ago. In 2021, not only do those young players return but so do some very talented veterans. At defensive end, senior captain Garrett Crall returns. He was forced to miss the first three games of the 2020 season due to injury before returning to start the final three games. He is joined in the projected starting lineup by a young player who maybe made as big a leap in 2021 spring drills as anyone. DeVonne Harris, a redshirt freshman, vaulted up the depth chart to earn the No. 1 spot at the other defensive end position opposite Crall. They will be joined by a pair of sophomores in Solomon Byrd and Teagan Liufau. Byrd had an outstanding Freshman All-America season in 2019, but opted out of the 2020 season. Liufau played in 10 games for the Cowboys in 2019, but missed the entire 2020 season due to injury.
On the interior of the defensive line, redshirt junior Ravontae Holt started the first two games of the 2020 season before a season-ending injury caused him to miss the remaining four games. Holt, like Crall, was projected as one of Wyoming’s top defensive performers entering the season. He has played in 23 career games and started nine. He will anchor the middle of the Wyoming D-Line from his defensive tackle position. Beside him will be sophomore Cole Godbout at nose tackle. Godbout averaged 6.0 tackles per game in 2020 to lead all UW defensive linemen and rank No. 26 in the Mountain West among all players at all positions. Listed No. 2 on the depth chart at defensive tackle behind Holt is redshirt freshman Jordan Bertagnole. Bertagnole started the final four games of the 2020 season. The No. 2 nose tackle on Wyoming’s depth chart is freshman Gavin Meyer. Meyer also saw extensive playing time a year ago.
A year ago, Wyoming entered the season looking to replace four-year starters Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia, who both were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Enter junior linebacker Chad Muma. Muma had backed up both Wilson and Maluia his first two seasons as a Cowboy and in 2020 he emerged as one of the best linebackers not only in the Mountain West but in the nation. Muma led the MW and ranked No. 3 in the nation in tackles in 2020, averaging 11.8 per game, and he earned First Team All-Conference honors. Muma is back and his projected back-up will be Read Sunn, who also did an excellent job in his first season as Wyoming’s long snapper last year. At the weak-side linebacker spot, two young players -- sophomore Chuck Hicks and redshirt freshman Easton Gibbs -- made the most of their opportunities in 2020. Hicks started the first five games before suffering an injury. He recorded 27 tackles in those five games and had a 47-yard interception return. Gibbs also saw plenty of playing time and ended the season third on the Cowboy defense with 42 total tackles.
Experience at all positions describes the Wyoming secondary entering the 2021 season. The Cowboys return both safeties who started all six games last season, return both cornerbacks who started all six games and return the two players who shared the six starts at the nickel position. Senior free safety Esaias Gandy had an outstanding first season as a starter. He was No. 2 on the Cowboy squad with 45 tackles and ranked 12th in the Mountain West. He was an Honorable Mention All-Conference selection by MW head coaches and media. Starting beside him at strong safety was senior Braden Smith. Smith is again at the top of the depth chart entering the summer of 2021. Both of those seniors are from the state of Colorado, while both of their back-ups, Miles Williams at free safety and Rome Weber at strong safety, are native Californians.
Wyoming’s starting cornerbacks are once again expected to be sophomore C.J. Coldon and junior Azizi Hearn. Coldon led the Pokes in interceptions last season, with two, while Hearn recorded the most pass breakups of any Cowboy, with four. Coldon was also named Fourth Team All-Mountain West by Phil Steele. They will be backed up by freshmen Cameron Stone and Xavier Carter.
At nickel, junior Keyon Blankenbaker has started 17 of 28 career games, including the first two games in 2020, before hamstring issues forced him out of action at mid-season. Stepping in to start the remaining four games of the season was redshirt freshman Keonte Glinton, who was a very capable starter in 2020.
As the 2020 season began, Wyoming was in search of both a new place-kicker and punter. In the very first game of the season, the Cowboys found a gem at place-kicker in true freshman John Hoyland. Hoyland was thrust into the starting spot when redshirt freshman kicker Luke Glassock was unable to play vs. Nevada due to injury. All Hoyland did in his first college game was make all four of his field-goal attempts from 27, 36, 42 and 38 yards, with the 42-yarder coming with only 23 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 31-31 and force overtime. In the first overtime, Hoyland would again be successful. This time he made a 38-yard attempt to give UW the lead at 34-31. But Nevada would respond with a touchdown to win the game 37-34. Hoyland would earn MW Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts and he would end the season being named Second Team All-Mountain West and First Team Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). Wyoming does enter this season in search for a punter and that looks to be freshman Ralph Fawaz, who showed promise during 2021 spring practice.
Read Sunn returns to start at the all-important long snapping position after starting all six games in 2020.
The punt and kickoff return spots are still a little bit up in the air, but senior wide receiver Ayden Eberhardt is the leading candidate to handle punt returns, while junior running back Xazavian Valladay and freshman wide receiver Joshua Cobbs are among the leading candidates to handle kickoff returns.
Other Personnel Information Announced
Cowboy junior defensive tackle Victor Jones and redshirt freshman linebacker Shae Suiaunoa have both returned to full team activities for summer conditioning after missing spring practice.,
Freshman quarterback Hank Gibbs, who a year ago walked on to the team from Fayetteville, Ark., has earned a scholarship.
Players who are no longer part of the Wyoming Football program as of the end of the 2021 spring semester include: walk-on freshman fullback Xavier Ellis, redshirt freshman defensive end Alonzo Hall, sophomore nose tackle Mario Mora, walk-on redshirt freshman wide receiver Chris Ndushabandi, redshirt freshman safety Keshaun Taylor and defensive end Davon Wells-Ross, who will graduate in the summer of 2021.