LARAMIE – With a 2-6 conference record and a handful of key contributors entering the transfer portal, the University of Wyoming football team had its share of disappointment in 2021.
However, it wasn’t all negative for the Cowboys.
Here’s a look at some bright spots for UW during the past year, and what they mean moving forward:
Swen displays feature back potential
While losing Xazavian Valladay – the second-leading rusher in school history – to the transfer portal hurts, the presence of Titus Swen in the backfield should help ease concerns. After opting out of the previous season, Swen rushed for 785 yards and seven touchdowns in 2021, with his 5.9 yards per carry ranking second among Mountain West running backs.
The Fort Worth, Texas, product ran for a combined 335 yards and two scores in blowout wins over Border War rival Colorado State and MW champion Utah State, with the Pokes going 0-5 in league play when he received 10 carries or less.
Offense showcases ability amid inconsistency
UW’s offensive struggles played a key part in an 0-4 start to conference play, with the Cowboys going 11 quarters without a touchdown at one point. Despite this inconsistency, however, there were flashes to feel optimistic about.
The Pokes’ Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory over Kent State is a prime example. They racked up 315 yards in the second half alone, as UW scored more than 40 points for the fourth time in the season.
There are going to be some significant challenges in 2022, with several multi-year starters departing on the offensive line, as well as UW’s leading passer, rusher and receiver. However, the development of Swen and others like sophomore receiver Joshua Cobbs, junior tackle Frank Crum and sophomore running back Dawaiian McNeely spurs some positivity moving forward.
Underclassmen in secondary show promise
Several younger defensive backs delivered strong performances in 2021, something that should allow the Cowboys – who led the MW in passing defense – to remain effective in the secondary despite losing five starters.
Sophomore nickelback Keonte Glinton appeared in a career-high nine games, recording 10 tackles, nine of which were solo stops, four pass breakups and one interception. Classmate Cameron Stone was the first option to spell starting cornerbacks C.J. Coldon and Azizi Hearn, and showcased his athleticism with a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown against Utah State.
Redshirt freshman Isaac White also received extended playing time at safety late in the season, as senior Esaias Gandy dealt with an injury. In the final six games, White recorded 33 tackles, 26 solo stops, two tackles for loss, one sack, one fumble recovery and one interception.
UW continues to produce NFL talent
In what has become a common trend throughout coach Craig Bohl’s tenure, the Cowboys continued to produce NFL prospects in 2021.
Senior linebacker Chad Muma is the most obvious example, with the Butkus Award finalist set to compete in the Senior Bowl next month. Defensive end Garrett Crall will also take part in The College Gridiron Showcase, while four-year starter and three-time all-conference center Keegan Cryder has signed with ProStar Sports Agency.
Cowboys stop the bleeding
With nine players that started in 2021 entering the transfer portal since the end of the regular season, including eight in the first six days after the bowl game, there has been understandable concern among Cowboys Nation. The exodus has died down since, however, with no new entries in over a week.
The loss of both quarterbacks that played last season is worrisome, but it’s also worth noting some of the circumstances surrounding the other departures. Coldon, Hearn and Valladay had all completed their degrees and are in the portal as graduate transfers, while leading receiver Isaiah Neyor has offers from an array of prestigious programs – including Texas, LSU, USC, Ole Miss, Baylor and Tennessee.
While losing as many contributors as Wyoming has is far from ideal, the Pokes still have less portal entries than MW foes Colorado State, Hawaii, Nevada and UNLV.