5 questions for the Wyoming Cowboys entering Mountain West media days

Summer talking season is here.
This fall it will be time to see if Wyoming can walk the walk.
Head coach Craig Bohl, linebacker Easton Gibbs and quarterback Andrew Peasley will represent the Cowboys at Mountain West football media days this Wednesday and Thursday in Las Vegas.
Here are the five biggest questions for the Pokes entering the event at the Circa Resort & Casino:
1. Can Bohl deliver a championship?
Bohl is entering his 10th season at UW, which makes him the longest tenured head coach in program history. He matched Lloyd Eaton’s mark of nine seasons in 2022 by leading the Cowboys to an up and down 7-6 finish to give him an overall record of 52-56 (32-38 in the MW).
Those numbers are skewed considering Bohl suffered a 6-18 record (4-12 in conference) during his first two years rebuilding the program after winning three consecutive FCS national titles at North Dakota State. The Pokes also struggled during the bizarre 2020 campaign, finishing the pandemic-shortened schedule 2-4.
In Bohl’s other six years, UW is 44-34 with five winning seasons, five bowl appearances, two second-place finishes in the Mountain Division and one appearance in the MW championship game.
The Pokes will not be favored to collect the hardware in 2023, but everyone witnessed how painfully close the gap between Boise State and UW was last season.
With his contract set to expire following the 2024 season, this is a golden opportunity for Bohl to deliver UW’s first MW championship and either sign a long-term extension or ride off into the sunset on his own terms.
2. How will Jay Sawvel’s defense handle lofty expectations?
This will be UW’s best defense, at least on paper, since 2018 when future NFL players Marcus Epps, Carl Granderson, Tyler Hall, Cassh Maluia, Chad Muma, Logan Wilson and Andrew Wingard were all wearing the brown and gold together.
There is a good chance Gibbs, who learned the ropes from Muma and Wilson as a youngster, will be voted preseason MW defensive player of the year by the media. The senior led the team with 121 tackles during last season’s transition from the weak side to middle linebacker.
Gibbs should be poised for an all-American campaign considering three members of the defensive line – defensive end DeVonne Harris, defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole and nose guard Cole Godbout – could also be on the preseason all-MW first team.
Defensive ends Braden Siders and Sabastian Harsh are both expected to add even more pressure to opposing quarterbacks as sophomores.
Internally, there is a buzz about cornerback Kolbey Taylor emerging as another star. The return of a healthy Buck Coors bolsters a secondary that returns cornerback Jakorey Hawkins, free safety Wyett Ekeler, strong safety Isaac White and hard-hitting nickel Wrook Brown.
There is also quality depth at every position for the first time since Sawvel, a former Power 5 defensive coordinator at Minnesota and Wake Forest, was hired by Bohl in 2020.
If defense still wins championships, the Pokes are in good shape.
3. Can Peasley improve as QB1?
Peasley has been a perfect fit inside the locker room and a source of frustration for the fan base since transferring from Utah State to UW.
The super senior will be the starting quarterback when the Pokes take the field to face Texas Tech in a critical opener on Sept. 2 at War Memorial Stadium.
There is pressure on Peasley to perform, but he doesn’t have to be Josh Allen given the aforementioned talent on defense, an elite kicking game with the return of John Hoyland and Stewart Clayton, and what should be a formidable running attack with Harrison Waylee and Dawaiian McNeeley leading the way.
But the Cowboys need Peasley, who completed 52.4% of his passes for 1,574 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions, to at least be an average quarterback in the MW to wear the crown. His passer rating (105.89) ranked eighth among the nine quarterbacks in the conference who played in at least 75% of their team’s games and averaged at least 15 passes per game.
Offensive coordinator Tim Polasek must find a way to make Peasley more comfortable in the passing game. The addition of wide receiver transfers Ayir Asante and Devin Boddie and the development of tight ends Treyton Welch and John Michael Gyllenborg should help.
If Peasley struggles to move the chains against the Red Raiders, at Texas or at home against Appalachian State, it might be time to see what Evan Svoboda can do to help the team win the MW.
4. Are the Pokes collectively stronger?
UW fared pretty well in the transfer portal during the offseason. Three positions that lost key contributors – wide receiver Joshua Cobbs (Houston), cornerback Cam Stone (Hawaii) and defensive end Oluwaseyi Omotosho (Oregon State) – have been upgraded with Asante, Taylor, Siders/Harsh and others expected to play at a higher level.
The one gut-punch was losing starting right guard Emmanuel Pregnon to USC. There is a list of young players capable of filling the void but losing a high-level MW starter to the Pac-12 in the spring was suboptimal.
The athletic department is hopeful the formation of 1WYO, Inc., a collective designed to raise money to pay Pokes for their name, image and likeness while they work for in-state charitable organizations, will help keep more talented players that are developed at UW from entering the portal.
It will be interesting to hear Bohl’s thoughts on the benefits of the collective, which was started by a group of Laramie attorneys and is not officially affiliated with UW per NCAA rules.
After a mass exodus following the 2021 season, Bohl and his staff adapted to the portal well. Having an organized collective doesn’t mean UW can compete on the NIL market with rich programs like USC, but it is important to keep the roster relatively stable and the program competing near the top in the MW.
5. Can the Pokes navigate this schedule?
Tom Burman deserves credit for finding ways to get Power 5 programs to come to Laramie. During his time as athletics director, national brands like Nebraska, Oregon and Texas have played the Pokes at 7,220 feet.
UW also hosted Mike Leach and Washington State and stunned Missouri at War Memorial Stadium.
Now the Red Raiders, who are picked fourth in the preseason Big 12 poll and will likely be ranked in The Associated Press poll, are coming to the High Plains.
An upset victory on CBS in front of a sellout crowd is the dream scenario to start this season for UW. Of course, there is a lot of work to do for the ticket office and the Cowboys over the next six weeks to make it a reality.
Win or lose, the Pokes need to beat FCS Portland State (Sept. 9) without any drama, avoid any catastrophic injuries at Big 12 favorite Texas (Sept. 16) and grind out a victory over App State (Sept. 23).
The starting line of the MW race sets up well with UW hosting New Mexico (Sept. 30) for homecoming and reigning champion Fresno State (Oct. 7) before a pivotal game at Air Force (Oct. 14).
The Pokes have a bye ahead of the Oct. 28 game at preseason MW favorite Boise State. Could this be the year UW finally celebrates a win on the blue turf that isn’t in the Potato Bowl?
Bohl will have the team prepared for the Border War against Colorado State (Nov. 3) under the Friday night lights at the War. UW has had possession of the Bronze Boot for six of the last seven years.
The key to a championship is having enough gas in the tank in November. Remember, the Cowboys were 7-3 and in position to make the title game following last year’s win in Fort Collins.
The Pokes couldn’t finish off what would have been a legendary win over Boise State and were out of healthy bodies during a drubbing at Fresno State before losing in overtime to Ohio in the Arizona Bowl.
UW has a chance to make a final push this time with more depth and a favorable draw against UNLV (Nov. 10), Hawaii (Nov. 18) and Nevada (Nov. 25).
If Bohl isn’t coaching in the MW championship game on Dec. 2, his 10th season will be a disappointment.

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