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Heavy on experience, Wyoming's cornerbacks return intact

Heavy on experience, Wyoming's cornerbacks return intact

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C.J. Coldon and Azizi Hearn

Wyoming's C.J. Coldon (21) celebrates an interception with fellow cornerback Azizi Hearn during the Cowboys' game against Boise State on Dec. 12, 2020, at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. The duo is back this spring to lead a seasoned group of corners that has 49 career starts among them.

LARAMIE — When it comes to the back end of the defense, Wyoming is getting the entire gang together again.

Not only are the Cowboys keeping their two-deep intact at safety, but the same can be said for the cornerbacks. In all, UW is returning 49 starts at its three corner spots, which includes the slot, or nickel, corner.

Between veterans C.J. Coldon and Azizi Hearn, 28 of those starts are returning on the outside. Coldon, a junior, has started all 12 games he’s played in his career and got through last year’s pandemic-shortened season healthy after previously bouncing in and out of the starting lineup with injuries. He finished with 26 tackles, three pass breakups and a team-high two interceptions in six games.

Returning on the other side is Hearn, who’s been a mainstay in the starting lineup since transferring from Arizona two seasons ago. The 6-foot-1, 202-pounder has started 16 of the 19 games he’s played for UW and has eight pass breakups. Four of those came last season, the most for a defense that gave up the 29th-fewest passing yards (202.7 per game) in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Lining up at nickel this spring figures to be another familiar face in Keyon Blankenbaker, who has largely held down the starting job there since moving inside two seasons ago. Blankenbaker had eight tackles and a pair of pass breakups last season, but was hampered by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss two games.

Blankenbaker led the Cowboys with 10 pass breakups when he was healthy in 2019 and is expected to begin the spring with a clean bill of health. His primary backup, Keonte Glinton, is also back after getting some valuable reps when Blankenbaker wasn’t available.

Glinton actually started the final four games last season as a redshirt freshman and tallied 16 tackles and one pass breakup. The former three-star recruit has played in eight career games and gives UW a couple of nickel backs that are capable of handing a starting role.

Sophomore walk-on Blake Harrington, who’s played in five games, and redshirt freshman Wyatt Ekeler will provide additional depth at nickel, a hybrid position that’s a mix between a corner/safety and an outside linebacker in UW’s 4-2-5 scheme.

Freshman Xavier Carter and Cameron Stone finished last season as the primary backups to Coldon and Hearn on the outside, and the spring should give each a chance to build up his practice rep count. Carter and Stone have combined to play in just six games to this point, but Blankenbaker could slide back outside and play corner in a pinch.

Another freshman, Caleb Roberson, is also an option at cornerback, and the group will add more depth this spring in Zaire Jackson, whom UW coach Craig Bohl said is the lone early enrollee among UW’s incoming freshmen that will go through spring drills. The former Valor Christian (Colorado) standout was a three-star recruit who signed with the Cowboys in December.

Once they report to campus this summer, fellow 2021 signees Kolbey Taylor and Jovan Marsh will join the competition at a position that’s got plenty of experience at the top of the depth chart.

Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter at @DavisEPotter


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College Sports Reporter

Davis Potter is the University of Wyoming athletics reporter. An Alabama native and 2011 Auburn University graduate, Potter joined the Star-Tribune in 2018 after five years covering Ole Miss and the Southeastern Conference. He lives in Laramie.

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