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Wyoming Cowboys Defensive Preview

The strength of this Cowboys team has some excellent linebackers, a solid secondary, and a glaring weakness that must be exploited

NCAA Football: Wyoming at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Wyoming Cowboys

Projected Defensive Rank: 68th

[note: all stats are from 2018]

NCAA Football: Utah State at Wyoming
Garrett Crall
Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive End

Josiah Hall – SR: 6 tackles/4 solo/2 TFLs/0 sacks/0 INTs/0 PBUs/0 FFs/33.3% HAVOC

Leevi Lafaele – R-FR: x

Nose Tackle

Mario Mora – R-FR: x

Cole Godbout – R-FR: x

Defensive Tackle

Javaree Jackson – JR: 8 tackles/4 solo/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 INTs/1 PBU/0 FFs/12.5% HAVOC

Victor Jones – SO: 10.5 tackles/6 solo/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 INTs/0 PBUs/0 FFs/0% HAVOC

Defensive End

Garrett Crall – JR: 28.5 tackles/19 solo/6.5 TFLs/4.5 sacks/0 INTs/1 PBU/1 FF/29.8% HAVOC

Solomon Byrd – R-FR: 3.5 tackles/2 solo/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 INTs/0 PBUs/0 FFs/0% HAVOC

When a G5 team has a unit that ranks in the Top 75 of the country, it typically means that the unit is pretty dang good. Last year’s Cowboy defense ranked 41st, and with attrition is projected to rank 68th this season. The main reason for that drop off is due to the defensive line. Replacing Carl Granderson and two other starters are two upperclassmen backups and a redshirt freshman. Considering that the rest of this defense will be stout, abusing the d-line absolutely has to be the point of focus for the Tiger attack. Having Bryant and Rountree soften the line to the point where they need to stuff the box will help open up our receivers on the outside. Of course, if I of all people know this, then certainly the gentlemen being paid millions of dollars to do this as a job know it too, so there are many ways that this game can unfold. However, the best place to start chipping away at the Cowboys is up front.

NCAA Football: Wyoming at Air Force
Logan Wilson
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Strongside (SAM) Linebacker/Nickel Back

Keyon Blankenbaker – SO: 24 tackles/21 solo/0.5 TFLs/0 sacks/0 INTs/3 PBUs/0 FFs/14.6% HAVOC

Allen Smith – FR: x

Middle (MIKE) Linebacker

Logan Wilson – R-SR: 80 tackles/57 solo/11 TFLs/2 sacks/2 INTs/2 PBUs/0 FFs/18.8% HAVOC

Chad Muma – SO: x

Weakside (WILL) Linebacker

Cassh Maluia – SR: 34.5 tackles/23 solo/6 TFLs/0 sacks/1 INT/3 PBUs/0 FFs/29% HAVOC

Ben Wisdorff – SR: x

Wilson and Maluia have been excellent in their roles as starting linebackers, each playing for the past three years. Blankenbaker was used more in coverage, but the three together are experienced and talented. You’re going to hear these three names the most when finding out who made the open field tackle, but as the numbers show, Wilson is the one they’ll send the most on blitzes.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Wyoming
Antonio Hull
Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback

Antonio Hull – SR: 37 tackles/30 solo/1 TFL/0 sacks/2 INTs/8 PBUs/1 FF/32.4% HAVOC

Azizi Heam – SO (Arizona): 23 tackles/20 solo/1 TFL/0 sacks/0 INTs/1 PBU/0 FF/8.7% HAVOC

Strong Safety

Alijah Halliburton – SR: 44 tackles/34 solo/0.5 TFLs/0 sacks/0 INTs/2 PBUs/1 FF/8% HAVOC

Esaias Gandy – JR: x

Free Safety

Rome Weber – R-FR: x

Braden Smith – JR: 1.5 tackles/1 solo/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 INTs/0 PBUs/0 FFFs/0% HAVOC

Cornerback

Tyler Hall – SR: 33.5 tackles/28 solo/2.5 TFLs/0 sacks/1 INT/9 PBUs/1 FF/40.3% HAVOC

C.J. Coldon – SO: 7 tackles/5 solo/0 TFLs/0 sacks/0 INTs/1 PBU/0 FFs/14.3% HAVOC

The depth has definitely taken a hit, but the talent at the top is stout. Hall and Hull (that’s fun!) are multi-year starters that are excellent in creating havoc (TFLs, PBUs, FFs). Weber is the surprise starter over career second-stringer Smith, but Halliburton had a lot of rotational experience last year so they’re not quite starting over completely at safety. You have to hope that our receivers can out-athlete them, but Craig Bohl teams have always had excellent secondaries; it’ll probably take multiple gashings in the running game to start seeing cracks form in coverage.

NCAA Football: Poinsettia Bowl-Brigham Young vs Wyoming
Cooper Rothe
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Kicker

Cooper Rothe – SR: 28-28 PAT/11-11 FG (0-39)/5-6 FG (40+)/83.3%

Luke Glassock – FR: x

Punter

Ryan Galovich – SR: x

Tim Zalenski – JR: 36 punts/1,395 yards/38.8 avg/34.6 net average/2.2 avg return/3 TBs/8 FCs/6 I20

Kick Returner

Tyler Hall: 5 returns/112 yards/22.4 avg/0 TDs/0 FCs

Austin Conway: 4 returns/84 yards/21 avg/0 TDs/1 FC

Punt Returner

Austin Conway: 27 returns/156 yards/5.8 avg/0 TDs/19 FCs

Rothe has been an excellent #collegekicker for several years now, and should be again this year. Galovich is stepping in for an injured Zalenski... the impact of which is unknown (I mean, give me a break— the answer to “Coach, how do you feel about the race for the primary punter duties?” typically doesn’t elicit any interesting feedback). Hall and Conway were both decent in returns, but certainly weren’t a threat to break away for a score, and Conway never did much damage as a punt returner either. If Missouri gives them any scores in the special teams department, you have my permission to freak the @*%$ out.