LARAMIE — The number of wide receivers that signed with Wyoming during the 2020 recruiting cycle was small, but the group possesses a distinct characteristic.
It’s been there for the last couple of years.
The position was a need for the Cowboys during the traditional signing period last week after UW failed to ink a single wideout in December. UW has to replace Austin Conway, Rocket Ismail Jr. and John Okwoli, three starters who are all out of eligibility after combining for 55 catches as seniors this past season.
So UW coach Craig Bohl and his staff dipped into Texas and signed Wagner wideout Joshua Cobbs out of San Antonio and Daingerfield product Tyrese Grant. Neither of them is shorter than 6-foot.
“I think you’ll find a couple of our receivers next year are going to look different than what we have had,” Bohl said.
Grant finished with 51 catches for 1,031 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns for Daingerfield this past season. A 6-0, 160-pound speedster, Grant also played defensive back in high school, but the three-star recruit will start out strictly as a wideout at UW.
“Really like the fact Tyrese played on both sides of the ball and is very competitive,” UW recruiting director Ian McGrew said. “We feel like he’s going to bring a little bit of a different element to our receiver room.”
Grant is also the shortest receiver the Cowboys have signed in their last two recruiting classes. At 6-4 and 205 pounds, Cobbs is more in the mold of the kind of big-bodied pass-catcher UW has made a more conscious effort to bring into the program, particularly at the outside receiver spots. Cobbs also played both ways for Wagner but had a whopping 62.9 percent of his receptions (17 of 27) go for touchdowns as a senior while averaging 24.5 yards per catch.
“He’ll be a strong, physical guy to go up and get the football and then be a physical blocker,” Bohl said.
Bohl added having a receiver with that kind of stature will also allow the Cowboys to get creative with matchups by moving bigger wideouts into the slot against slower linebacker or smaller safeties in coverage.
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“Make no mistake, (Cobbs) has got great ball skills,” Bohl said.
Cobbs is the latest rangy receiver to join the Cowboys’ roster. UW signed three receivers out of Texas a year ago, Alex Brown, Isaiah Neyor and Devin Jennings, who are all 6-2 or taller. Brown matches Cobbs’ height at 6-4 while Jennings is the shortest at 6-2. Neyor splits the difference at 6-3 and nearly 200 pounds.
Getting bigger at the position, Bohl said, has been by design.
“What we find in the Mountain West sometimes is you can gain some mismatches when you have a big, physical body and deploy that guy,” Bohl added. “Some of the defensive backs in our league sometimes don’t have the stature. So you’re trading off a little bit at times with speed for size. But I think we’ll have four really big receivers, and then we’ll integrate some other guys who are faster slot guys.”
Sheridan native Dontae Crow, who could possibly take over for Ismail in the slot as a senior, is by far the shortest receiver on the roster at 5-9. Sophomore Gunner Gentry and junior Ayden Eberhardt, who were also part of the rotation out wide this past season, go 6-3 and 6-2, respectively. Former walk-on Wyatt Wieland is 6-1.
Of course, the group is looking for any advantage it can get after UW finished the last two seasons among the least productive passing teams in all of college football. The Cowboys finished next to last in the Mountain West in passing yards this season (136.2 per game) after tying Air Force for the fewest in the league in 2018 (131.1). UW has also finished last in the conference in completion percentage the last two years.
Some of that has to do with how much UW has leaned on its running game — the Cowboys’ rushes (1,070) have more than doubled their pass attempts (532) the last two seasons — but Bohl said the Cowboys need more consistency going forward from a receiver group that combined for just five touchdown receptions this past season. Eberhardt’s eight catches are the most among UW’s returning wideouts.
“I think much was said — and rightfully so — about our lack of production in the passing game,” Bohl said. “I thought we got a little better at the end, but we’re going to need to throw the ball better, complete the ball better, make more plays and particularly make more plays that are contested. We think this next group is going to be able to do that.”
In all, UW will have five scholarship freshman receivers next fall with Brown, Neyor and Jennings redshirting this past season. At the least, some of them figure to be part of the rotation.
And some could possibly make a big push for starting roles. Literally.
“It’s a great opportunity for these guys,” Bohl said. “During the course of the fall, some of them served on the scout team some. In comparison to past years, they really stressed our defensive backs.
“I think we’re going to be able to stretch the field, I think we’re going to get some mismatches, and I think they’re going to be physical as well.”
Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter at @DavisEPotter.