Wyoming Football – Breaking Down the ‘Boys: Tight Ends
LARAMIE -- Craig Bohl and the Wyoming football team are starting spring football a tad late this season.
Last year, COVID-19 put a halt to it all together. So, better late than never, right?
There's a method to Bohl's madness. 1) He wants more time to pass so the virus will hopefully be well under control. 2) He wants to see quarterback Sean Chambers at full strength.
There's arguably never been a more important training camp than this one in Bohl's eight seasons in Laramie. He is "re-engineering" his offense and has a pair of new coaches on that side of the ball, including Tim Polasek, who replaces longtime offensive coordinator Brent Vigen.
April 6 is when it all starts, culminating with the annual spring game May 8. So, what better time to break down this roster position by position?
We've already touched on the Cowboys' defense. You can find those right here:
Yesterday we analyzed the wide receiver spot, now let's move to the other primary pass catchers -- the tight ends.
Who are they: Parker Christensen (R-Fr. 6-2, 229, Sheridan, Wyo.), John Michael Gyllenborg (Fr. 6-5, 225, Leawood, Kan.), Jackson Marcotte (Soph. 6-7, 250, Mt. Carmel, Ill.), Nick Miles (Fr. 6-5, 253, Parker, Colo.), Colin O'Brien (Soph. 6-6, 238, Mission Viejo, Calif.), Treyton Welch (Soph. 6-3, 233, Buffalo, Minn.),
How they fared in 2020: Wyoming once again boasted one of the top rushing attacks in the nation, averaging 219.5 yards per game on the ground. That was good enough for 14th in the country and second in the league behind only Air Force.
Xazavian Valladay was the conference's leading rusher with 550 yards on just 99 carries over five-game.
That was the highlight of 2020 for this tight end group.
In the passing game, Treyton Welch led the way with a meager five catches for 95 yards. Nate Weinman, who came into the season without a career catch, snagged four for 49 yards. He is no longer listed on the Cowboys' roster.
Parker Christensen hauled in two passes for 28 yards. The former Wyoming Gatorade Player of the Year from Sheridan, who typically lines up in the H-Back position, nearly scored at UNLV on a 21-yard scamper. His foot touched the chalk just short of the goal line.
Jackson Marcotte rounded out the tight end production through the air with a single catch for 12 yards.
Analysis: When tight ends come up in conversation, here are a few words that come to mind: Underused, underutilized, neglected.
Those words don't work if you are talking about the Pokes' potent rushing attack, but in the passing game, these guys have been all but non-existent at times -- most times. And they aren't getting the entire blame for that.
Like the wide receiving corps, a lot has to go right for a pass to be completed. The line has to block, the quarterback has to make his reads and fire a strike and the receiver has to get open. Not much of that has been happening over the past four seasons.
Mike Grant, who was named the Cowboys' passing-game coordinator earlier this month, said utilizing the speed and size of the tight end group will be a priority this fall.
"There's not many linebackers who can cover Treyton," Grant said.
Welch, who stands 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, showed flashes of becoming a major playmaker for this team. The other three veteran tight ends -- Marcotte, Christensen, and Colin O'Brien -- weigh in like this: 6-foot-7, 257 pounds, 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, and 6-foot-6, 236 pounds, respectfully.
I like their chances against most linebackers, safeties or nickelbacks.
This group has to average more than two receptions per outing if this team hopes to compete for a conference title.
Questions: Call me crazy, but wouldn't a big, strong, fast tight end be the ideal outlet for a young quarterback who is trying to improve accuracy and get into the flow of a football game?
The question with this unit isn't whether or not they can make plays, it's will they get the opportunity. Tight ends coach Shannon Moore has a ton of talent at his disposal, but these guys need to be more than glorified blockers. Yes, that will always be a main part of their job description, but this group can find the soft spot in defenses or even go deep down the field and make a play.
Just look at what a pair of tight ends did to the Cowboys in 2020:
Colorado State's Trey McBride: 5 catches, 90 yards, 2 touchdowns
Nevada's Cole Turner: 7 catches, 119 yards, 2 touchdowns
Those two are some of the best pass-catching tight ends in the game, but Wyoming needs to rival that output on a weekly basis. Even if it's a group effort.
The last time the Cowboys had a performance from a tight end that even rivaled those numbers was in 2018. That was Tyree Mayfield catching four passes for 112 yards against Air Force. The last time a tight end caught two touchdowns in a game? That was Austin Fort in 2017 against New Mexico.
Tight ends have to play a much larger role in this offense under Tim Polasek. It's a must.