CHEYENNE — The University of Wyoming was picked to finish No. 2 in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division in a preseason poll released by the league Wednesday.

Cowboys coach Craig Bohl is happy his team is getting respect from the league’s media, but he has coached long enough to know too much can be made of preseason predictions.

“Polls are always good,” said Bohl, who is entering his eighth season at UW. “It gives guys in the media something to talk about, and also the guys in the coffee shop in Sheridan or out in Rock Springs.

“… I’ve coached long enough to know you don’t know (how good your team is) until you get into the middle of the first quarter of your first game. Then you look around and say, ‘I think we can be this or that this year.’”

Boise State was tabbed to win the Mountain Division, picking up 23 of 25 first-place votes. UW was listed first on the other two ballots. Nevada was tabbed to win the West Division, garnering 19 first-place votes. San Jose was picked No. 2 in the West with five first-place votes. Fresno State nabbed the other first-place vote and was picked to place fourth in the West.

The Cowboys return 10 offensive and 11 defensive starters from a team that went 2-4 in the abbreviated 2020 season. UW’s off-season wasn’t the same as it was pre-pandemic from a strength and conditioning standpoint, but it was close, Bohl said.

“It was much more normal (than 2020),” he said. “It was much more akin to 2019. With winter conditioning, we had 10 straight weeks of work that allowed our guys to get bigger, stronger and faster. We had a good spring, and the summer has been good.

“We’re excited about getting into this next year.”

The spring gave the Pokes a chance to take on Bohl’s challenge of reengineering the offense under new offensive coordinator Tim Polasek. Polasek was hired to replace offensive coordinator Brent Vigen, who took the head coaching job at Montana State.

UW made strides in that department, Bohl said. However, the scheme won’t look too different than what fans grew accustomed to during seven seasons with Vigen calling plays.

“There were elements of our offense that needed to improve, and we think we made steps during the course of the spring to address a lack of execution and explosiveness,” Bohl said. “Some of it was in the passing game, and some was in the running game.

“You’re not going to see an earth-shattering change in our style of play, but you’ll see different wrinkles that haven’t been there before.”

Valladay named to Walker watch list

UW junior running back Xazavian Valladay was named to the Doak Walker Award preseason watch list Wednesday. The two-time MW rushing champion is a two-time first team All-MW selection.

He averaged 110 yards in 2020, which ranked No. 17 in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision. The 6-foot, 198-pounder averaged 105.4 yards in 2019, which was good for No. 18 nationally.

The Doak Walker award is given annually to the nation’s top running back. This is the second season Valladay has made the preseason watch list.

Valladay — who hails from Matteson, Illinois — also was named to the Maxwell Award watch list Monday. That honor goes to the best college football player in the nation.

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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