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Wyoming Football: 2021 Cowboys Season Preview and Prediction

The Cowboys rank No. 81 in Athlon's Top 130 for 2021
Xazavian Valladay, Wyoming Cowboys Football

Wyoming's Xazavian Valladay has led the Mountain West in rushing each of the past two seasons

Wyoming coach Craig Bohl has a familiar formula to lean on in the program’s quest to win the Mountain West in 2021. The Cowboys boast one of the top backfields in the conference with Xazavian Valladay and Trey Smith returning, while new play-caller Tim Polasek hopes to spark some improvement out of a sluggish passing attack. With nine returning starters, Wyoming’s defense should be strong once again after limiting teams to 21 points a game in 2020.

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2021

Previewing Wyoming's Offense for 2021

Head coach Craig Bohl hopes to, in his words, "re-engineer" the offense that ranked 14th in the FBS in rushing last season (219.5 yards per game) but averaged just 153.3 passing yards per contest.

Sophomore quarterback Sean Chambers suffered a season-ending leg injury on the third play of 2020, and a knee injury cost him five games in 2019. Chambers is expected back, along with redshirt freshman Levi Williams, who gained valuable experience in place of Chambers. Williams completed just 49.6 percent of his passes last season for 877 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, but he led the Cowboys with six rushing touchdowns.

Junior running back Xazavian Valladay led the Mountain West in rushing the last two seasons and is a two-time first-team all-conference selection. Valladay and senior graduate transfer Trey Smith give the Cowboys a powerful 1-2 punch. Wyoming returns plenty of starting experience on the offensive line, which is anchored by junior All-MW center Keegan Cryder and senior guard Logan Harris.

There are some pieces to work with at wide receiver in senior Ayden Eberhardt and redshirt freshman Isaiah Neyor, along with sophomore tight end Treyton Welch. Eberhardt had a team-high 16 catches; Neyor averaged 31 yards on his eight catches; and Welch showed the ability to be a reliable target over the middle.

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Previewing Wyoming's Defense for 2021

Ten starters return from a group that was 16th in the nation in total defense and ranked in the top 30 in 10 defensive categories.

Middle linebacker Chad Muma led the MW and was third nationally in tackles per game last season with 11.8. Senior Garrett Crall and sophomore Solomon Byrd at defensive end give Wyoming two solid bookends along the line. Byrd opted out last season, but he led Wyoming with 6.5 sacks in 2019. Wyoming gets a boost along the line with a host of game-tested players who opted out in 2020.

Sophomore cornerback C.J. Coldon led the Cowboys with two interceptions, and senior free safety Esaias Gandy had 44 tackles; both earned all-conference honors in 2020. Wyoming gets back sophomore free safety Rome Weber, who opted out last season.

Previewing Wyoming's Specialists for 2021

Freshman kicker John Hoyland went from unknown walk-on to a Freshman All-America pick by the Football Writers Association of America. Hoyland led the country in field goals made per game (2.2 per game). Wyoming must find a new punter, along with kickoff and punt returners.

Final Analysis

Despite a disappointing 2020, optimism is high this season with the players returning. Longtime offensive coordinator Brent Vigen is now the head coach at Montana State, so Bohl brought in former Iowa assistant Tim Polasek to run the offense and promoted wide receivers coach Mike Grant as pass-game coordinator with hopes that the offense will be more balanced and explosive. Keeping Chambers healthy is vital, and so is developing playmakers at wide receiver and tight end. Don't expect the Cowboys to go from a run-first offense to the Air Raid, but if that side of the ball improves and the defense continues to shine, the Cowboys will be competitive in the always-rugged Mountain Division and will be in contention for a bowl game.

National Ranking: 81

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