Wyoming Football: 2020 Cowboys Season Preview and Prediction

The Cowboys rank No. 64 in Athlon's Top 130 for 2020

Wyoming coach Craig Bohl has guided this program to at least eight wins in three out of the last four years. While Boise State is the favorite to win the Mountain West in 2020, Bohl's team could push the Broncos for the top spot in the conference if Sean Chambers or Levi Williams provides steady play under center, and the defense reloads a bit with just five returning starters. The Cowboys host their three toughest opponents in league play - San Diego State, Boise State and Air Force - in Laramie this fall. 

 

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2020

 

Previewing Wyoming's Offense for 2020

 

Wyoming has two young and capable quarterbacks in sophomore Sean Chambers and redshirt freshman Levi Williams. Chambers suffered a season-ending knee injury in the eighth game but threw seven touchdowns and was the Cowboys’ second-leading rusher with 567 yards and a team-best 10 TDs. Williams played in the final three games and started in the bowl victory over Georgia State.

 

Junior All-Mountain West running back Xazavian Valladay returns after rushing for 1,265 yards and six touchdowns in 2019. Senior graduate transfer Trey Smith (Louisville) was granted another year of eligibility after an ankle injury ended his season. Sophomore Titus Swen showed promise as a true freshman.

 

No returning wideout caught more than eight passes last season. Wyoming does have a pair of 6'7" tight ends in sophomore Jackson Marcotte and junior Nate Weinman.

 

Nine offensive linemen on the bowl game two-deep return, including eight who started games last season. The group is anchored by junior center Keegan Cryder, a second-team All-MW pick in 2019.

 


 

Previewing Wyoming's Defense for 2020

 

A lot of production was lost, along with three assistant coaches who joined Nick Rolovich’s staff at Washington State.

 

There is experience along the defensive line, as seven guys return who played in nine or more games last season, led by senior defensive end Garrett Crall (6.0 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks) and sophomore defensive end Solomon Byrd (9.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks). Byrd earned freshman All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America. Tackle Ravontae Holt is back after missing 2019 with an injury, and he could be the best lineman of the group.

 

Linebackers Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia played in 102 games in their careers, and Wilson recorded more than 400 tackles, but both must be replaced. Junior Chad Muma steps in for Wilson in the middle, but he can also play outside. Junior Keyon Blankenbaker was fourth on the team with 57 tackles after moving from cornerback to nickel — a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive back.

 

Sophomore Rome Weber and seniors Esaias Gandy and Braden Smith will have bigger roles at both safety spots. Experience returns at cornerback in juniors Azizi Hearn and C.J. Coldon and sophomore Jordan Murry. Coldon played in only three games each of the last two seasons due to injuries.

 

Related: Ranking the Mountain West Coaches for 2020

 

Previewing Wyoming's Specialists for 2020

 

Wyoming must find replacements at kicker, punter, holder and returner. Nick Null, a graduate transfer from Cornell, may handle placekicking. Tim Zaleski handled the punting duties in 2017, but a knee injury midway through 2018 was slow to heal, so he won’t return.

 

Final Analysis

 

There were a lot of question marks prior to last season, but Wyoming recorded its fourth consecutive .500-or-better season, which hadn’t happened since 1996-99. The running game should be a strength, and it needs to be to take pressure off the quarterback as weapons in the passing attack develop. Wyoming has ranked among the nation’s best scoring and rushing defenses in recent years. If the Cowboys can play at a similar level and make the transition to a new defensive coordinator, they should be contenders in the Mountain Division and return to a bowl game.

 

National Ranking: 64

 

(Top photo by Troy Babbitt/Wyoming Athletics)

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