Wyoming Cowboys set to open fall camp on Wednesday

LARAMIE – Eric Donoval, Wyoming’s director of sports performance for football, had a simple mantra during offseason workouts:
Finish.
The 2022 Cowboys were 7-3 overall and in the Mountain West race before stumbling down the finish line.
Injuries played a big part in the losses to Boise State and Fresno State to end the regular season. The Pokes had a chance to enter the winter with a win but fell short in overtime against Ohio in the Arizona Bowl.
The result was another 7-6 campaign for head coach Craig Bohl, who is entering his 10th season at UW determined to win a conference title.
The Cowboys, picked to finish sixth in the MW media poll, open fall camp on Wednesday.
“Eric Donoval talks about finish all the time,” quarterback Andrew Peasley said. “He mentions our last three games we lost. And so, finish, finish, finish everything we do. That’s definitely our motivation going into the season.”
The team’s plan for success starts with getting improved play from Peasley, who missed the heartbreaking loss to the Broncos due to injury and played poorly during the lopsided loss to the Bulldogs.
The super senior will be UW’s starter again this season. Evan Svoboda was moved to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart ahead of Jayden Clemons following spring practice.
Following the portal exchange in which Levi Williams left UW for Utah State and Peasley left a backup role in Logan for an opportunity to start in Laramie, the Pokes’ new QB1 completed just 52.4% of his passes for 1,574 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2022.
That won’t cut it when UW hosts Texas Tech on Sept. 2 at War Memorial Stadium (5:30 p.m., CBS).
“Well, I mean, Texas Tech has to come into Laramie,” Peasley, who struggled in last year’s opener at Illinois, said of the challenge of facing a Power 5 opponent. “I think they’re a tempo team, and so they’re going to be tired. I don’t know how you prepare for elevation when you’re not living in it. I think we’ll have an advantage there. I think Laramie is going to be rocking, too.
“That’s all I’m really thinking about now.”
Peasley’s confidence stems from having a much better grasp on UW’s pro-style offense. He also has great rapport with center Nofoafia Tulafono and the luxury of having 6-foot-7, 315-pound Frank Crum moving to left tackle to protect his blind side.
Offensive coordinator Tim Polasek will still lean on the running game with Dawaiian McNeely getting his turn as the featured back.
D.Q. James, who suffered a torn ACL against Colorado State last November, is expected to be available against the Red Raiders. Northern Illinois transfer Harrison Waylee will miss “a couple weeks” while recovering from knee surgery, according to Bohl.
“Dawaiian McNeely we think has tremendous ability,” Bohl said. “We’ve always had somewhat of an ability to have a running back by committee when we’ve really been good. I think last year we probably got a little bit imbalanced with Titus (Swen). I think we’re going to have more home run plays from that group. If we have great production out of that group, and I think our offensive line is going to do a good job moving people, we’re going to be poised to have a great year.
“The bottom line is I’m very confident.”
The most interesting competition during the three-week camp will be at wide receiver with transfers Ayir Asante (Holy Cross) and Devin Boddie (Vanderbilt) – who add an element of speed that was missing from the group – challenging program veterans Wyatt Wieland, Alex Brown, Will Pelissier and Ryan Marquez for snaps.
The coaching staff is also excited about the development of redshirt freshman Caleb Merritt and sophomore Jaylen Sargent. If Gunner Gentry, who has missed the last two seasons with devastating knee injuries, can stay healthy he could also help Peasley improve the passing game.
“There’s no doubt we need to improve and there’s many things that go into that beyond the quarterback,” Bohl said. “How to you distribute the ball to certain receivers, certainly the protection game. To say that we’re going to go in and radically change and all of a sudden, you’re going to see us play with four wide receivers and an empty backfield, that’s not going to happen.
“The needle needs to move. Tim and I have had some really candid conversations, we’ve done a deep dive, and I’m confident we’re going to improve in that area.”
Tight ends Treyton Welch and John Michael Gyllenborg are also expected to be targeted more this season.
Despite losing Jackson Marcotte and Parker Christensen to graduation, there is still quality depth at the position with senior Colin O’Brien and junior Nick Miles pushing for playing time and redshirt freshman Isaac Schoenfeld developing.
“That’s going to be our big advantage,” Peasley said. “Treyton and I are really close, J-Mike has taken a step up, Colin O’Brien, too. I never had tight ends before I came to Wyoming that we used to our advantage. I’m really excited. Treyton probably has the best hands on the team. I better be careful saying that, someone might get offended, but he’s a strong dude. J-Mike has stepped up and he has some speed. I think they will be a deadly weapon this year.”
***
The Pokes, at least on paper, have a championship defense.
Middle linebacker Easton Gibbs is the preseason MW defensive player of the year and joins defensive end DeVonne Harris and defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole on the all-conference first team.
An argument could be made that nose tackle Cole Godbout, who missed the second half of last season with a foot injury, should also have been included on the all-MW squad.
“That dude is a stud,” Gibbs said of Godbout. “He has been playing great football his whole career here. I don’t think any of the guys are focused on the preseason stuff, more the postseason, and more than that just getting this team to where we want to be this year. He’ll definitely have some fire coming in this year. It will be good.”
Defensive ends Braden Siders and Sabastian Harsh could find themselves on the postseason all-conference team. Backups Gavin Meyer (nose tackle) and Ben Florentine (defensive tackle) would be quality starters if Godbout and Bertagnole had not returned.
Linebackers Shae Suiaunoa and Connor Shay will have an opportunity for breakout seasons with opposing offensive coordinators focused on dealing with the front four and Gibbs.
The secondary expects to be more of a ball-hawking group with spring standouts Kolbey Taylor and Tyrecus Davis pushing veterans Deron Harrell and Jakorey Hawkins for the starting cornerback spots.
Starting free safety Wyett Ekeler, strong safety Isaac White and nickel back Wrook Brown have returned. Buck Coors, Andrew Johnson and Malique Singleton still have a chance to make their cases for roles on this deep defense.
***
The kicking game also is in good shape with Lou Groza Award candidate John Hoyland handling extra points, field goals and kickoffs; and Clayton Stewart battling Ralph Fawaz at punter. Long snapper Carson York is coming off a steady freshman season.
Peasley took pride in representing the Pokes at the MW media event last month in Las Vegas.
When the new husband and father takes the field on Wednesday to begin his sixth and final season of college football, Peasley’s focus will be making sure subpar quarterback play isn’t the missing piece to the championship puzzle in 2023.
“It means a lot,” Peasley said of being one of the faces of the program with Gibbs at the Circa Resort & Casino. “It took me six years to get to media days, but I’m fine with it. Then the media days I make it to we don’t go to TopGolf. That kind of hurt my feelings.
“But I don’t do this to make it to media days. I do this to play football and meet a lot of good people and kind of be in this environment. I just want to win football games.”
Time to finish.

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