LARAMIE — Every spring brings with it the emergence of some unfamiliar names.
That was especially the case at Wyoming, where there was plenty of competition for a team that lost 20 players off last year’s two-deep. The position that got the most attention was quarterback, where Sean Chambers maintained his lead over Tyler Vander Waal throughout and will head into the fall as the Cowboys’ starter.
It wasn’t all that surprising of a development given Chambers would’ve ended last season atop the depth chart had he not sustained a broken leg in his fourth game, but other players are now in line to be significant contributors next season after raising their stock this spring.
Here’s a look at some who did just that.
A fourth-year junior, Smith has been biding his time behind Andrew Wingard and Marcus Epps at safety. Now it’s come.
Smith is listed atop Wyoming’s post-spring depth chart at free safety along with redshirt freshman Rome Weber, but it’d be a surprise at this point if Smith isn’t the one trotting out on the field for the first defensive snap in Wyoming’s season opener against Missouri on Aug. 31. Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said Smith was the leader at that spot following a spring game in which Smith had three tackles and an interception.
A converted cornerback, Smith gives Wyoming a better option in coverage than most of the other safeties in addition to his experience. Tackling is something Smith said he needs to continue to work on.
Muma was primarily a special-teams contributor as a true freshman last season, but the Wyoming legacy is preparing for his first significant role on the Cowboys’ defense.
Muma quickly emerged as the No. 3 linebacker behind rising seniors Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia. He got reps at both linebacker spots this spring but is listed as Wilson’s backup in the middle heading into the fall.
Things slowed down mentally for Muma this spring now that he’s going through his second season in the defense, which defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said had Muma playing at a “different speed.” Add that to the physical part of Muma’s game — a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder that has the speed and range to roam sideline to sideline — and the Cowboys may have found Wilson’s future successor.
Muma led all players with 10 tackles in Wyoming’s first scrimmage of the spring in Casper on April 13 and was the Brown team’s leading tackler in the spring game with seven stops.
Casper native Josh Harshman heads into the fall as the starter at tight end, but Wyoming will use more than one next season and will occasionally have more than one on the field at the same time in its pro-style offense.
Marcotte earned praised throughout the spring from coaches as perhaps the Cowboys’ most well-rounded player at the position. He has the size to be a physical in-line blocker at the point of attack, but the 6-7, 250-pounder also possesses the athleticism and hands to be a weapon in the passing game.
There’s depth at the position with Nate Weinman also in the mix, but Wyoming figures to use Marcotte’s skill set in a variety of ways next season.
“He’s a really young, promising prospect as a tight end,” Bohl said of the redshirt freshman.
Depth was a concern on the interior of the defensive line heading into the spring, but Mora has helped relieve some of that.
Mora is on the lighter side for a nose tackle at 264 pounds and may need to add some weight to hold up consistently in the trenches, but he makes up for his lack of girth with a high motor and quickness that makes it hard to keep him out of the backfield. Mora put that on display in the spring game, racking up two sacks and three tackles for loss for the Brown team.
There’s still experience on the inside with starters Javaree Jackson and Ravontae Holt, who’ve combined to play in 40 games with six starts, but with Sidney Malauulu, Youhanna Ghaifan and Conner Cain all gone, Mora has put himself in position to be a significant part of the rotation up front.
Miller came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the surprises for Wyoming this spring.
A walk-on from Torrington, Miller was a linebacker this time last year. But after making the switch to fullback, the 5-11, 226-pound Miller vaulted up the depth chart by quickly picking up the offense and being a physical enforcer.
“What he’s able to do is adjust on the run,” Bohl said. “He’s strong, and he has the knack for being a very good blocker. He’s got a shot (to contribute). We had hoped that he would be this good, but he’s maybe a little further along than what we would have expected.”
Jaylon Watson, Jahmari Moore and Jeff Burroughs are more experienced at the position, but they’re all looking up at Miller, who heads into the fall as the Cowboys’ No. 1 fullback.