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Wyoming Football: 2018 Cowboys Preview and Prediction

Logan Wilson, Wyoming Football

Logan Wilson, Wyoming Football

The biggest question for Wyoming is who will replace Josh Allen at quarterback, although the offense wasn't all that proficient even with the first-round NFL Draft pick. This season, the defense should keep the Cowboys in games in the Mountain West and even win them a few until the offense catches up.

Previewing Wyoming Football's Offense for 2018

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Boise State Football/2018 Athlon Sports College Football Preview Magazine

Senior Nick Smith and redshirt freshman Tyler Vander Waal are the top candidates. Smith has four starts under his belt, including two late last season when Allen was injured. Vander Waal has the size and skill set the coaches like. Vander Waal left spring practice with a lead over Smith in the battle to replace Allen.

The Cowboys were slated to welcome back their top two running backs in sophomore Trey Woods and junior Kellen Overstreet, who combined for 974 yards and five touchdowns last season. However, Woods was ruled out for the 2018 season in late May. The coaches want more from this position, but Overstreet will need more help after the loss of Woods. Wyoming uses a fullback in its pro-style offense but must replace four-year starter Drew Van Maanen. Jaylon Watson is the top candidate.

Everyone returns at wide receiver and tight end. Junior receiver Austin Conway, who signed with Wyoming to play basketball, led the team with 62 catches for 553 yards last season. Junior C.J. Johnson averaged a team-best 17.7 yards per catch and had a team-high seven receiving touchdowns. Johnson suffered a knee injury in Wyoming's 37–14 victory over Central Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and may miss a couple of games to start the season.

The Cowboys have five players who have started games along the offensive line. The group is anchored by a pair of seniors -- left tackle Zach Wallace and right guard Kaden Jackson.

Previewing Wyoming Football's Defense for 2018

Eight starters return from a group that led the country with 38 turnovers forced, including eight in its bowl win, and allowed 17.5 points per game.

Two first-team All-Mountain West players are back along the defensive line in senior end Carl Granderson and junior tackle Youhanna Ghaifan. Those two finished first and second on the team, respectively, in quarterback sacks and tackles for a loss last season.

Junior middle linebacker Logan Wilson, an in-state product from Casper, led Wyoming in tackles last season with 119. Junior outside linebacker Cassh Maluia is a nice complement to Wilson.

Wyoming may have the best safety duo in the Mountain West in seniors Andrew Wingard and Marcus Epps. Wingard has recorded 100-plus tackles in each of his first three seasons. In 2017, Wingard and Epps combined for nine interceptions.

Cornerback is a big question but should get a boost with the return of junior Antonio Hull, who missed all but one game last season with a leg injury and received a medical redshirt. Hull started 20 games over his first two years. The coaches expect big things from redshirt freshmen C.J. Coldon and Keyon Blankenbaker.

Previewing Wyoming Football's Specialists for 2018

Junior placekicker Cooper Rothe made 15-of-18 field goal attempts last season, including 10 of his last 11. After a rough start as a true freshman, Tim Zaleski averaged 39.2 yards per punt. Conway averaged 10.4 yards per punt return, and Tyler Hall returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last season.

Final Analysis

Even with Allen, Wyoming wasn't as productive offensively as coach Craig Bohl expects. If the new quarterback can be efficient and protect the ball and the rest of the offense improves, Wyoming is good enough to contend for the Mountain Division title and do something that has never been done in school history -- play in a bowl game for a third consecutive season.

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