LARAMIE — Wyoming knows what it has in Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia at linebacker. But what about what’s behind both multi-year starters at the position?
The Cowboys are still largely trying to figure that out, but there’s already one player familiar with Wyoming football that head coach Craig Bohl and his staff know they’ll be able to rely on next season. Chad Muma has been the talk of the linebacking corps so much this spring that there’s already a consensus starting to form about what the rising sophomore’s role will be come the fall.
“I would say Chad has really established himself as the No. 3 (linebacker),” defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said. “I think that’s very evident. It’s pretty easy to see when you turn the tape on that he’s playing at a different speed.”
That development comes after Muma went his entire true freshman season without cracking the rotation. He contributed on special teams but had to wait his turn at linebacker with veterans Adam Pilapil and Ryan Gatoloai-Faupula serving as the primary backups.
Pilapil exhausted his eligibility after the season while Gatoloai-Faupula, a sophomore last season, is no longer listed on the roster. For the first time time since signing with Wyoming, Muma saw an opening on the depth chart.
“I definitely felt like it was an opportunity for myself to really step up and show myself as a player that I can be,” Muma said.
For a legacy player like Muma, it’s not something he took lightly.
A native of Parker, Colorado, Muma became the third person in his family to play for Wyoming when he inked with the Cowboys in 2018. His father, Ty, played for the Cowboys in the 1990s while his grandfather, Rick Desmarais, was a member of Wyoming’s backfield in the early 1960s.
Wyoming offered Muma a scholarship during his junior season at Legend High, but he was also contemplating an offer from the Cowboys’ biggest rival, Colorado State. Muma said his father took a backseat approach to his recruitment and didn’t care which school he chose as long as it was the right fit.
The choice became clear for Muma once Wyoming continued to aggressively recruit him even after he tore his patellar tendon before his senior season.
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“Wyoming was still very adamant about me,” Muma said. “That’s when I was really adamant about Wyoming. Just always liked being up here. Just felt right.
“I’m sure my dad enjoys it a lot and my grandpa just because they’re able to come up to games and see old friends. For myself, I just really like being a legacy. Growing up as a little kid, I used to always come up to games up here. It’s definitely cool to be in the position I am today.”
So what has Muma done to shoot himself up the depth chart so quickly?
Now that he’s healthy, Dickert said Muma has the same sideline-to-sideline speed he had in high school, but filling out his wiry 6-foot-3 frame was a start. Muma played defensive back until his senior year and went through his final season at Legend as a sub 200-pound linebacker.
Wyoming signed him as an outside linebacker, but he’s put on enough weight that he’s cross-training at middle linebacker this spring.
“I just really feel like it’s the weight room and the improvements I’ve made in there,” said Muma, who’s up to 220 pounds. “Just getting stronger and being able to compete with older guys out there in addition to just getting in the playbook and learning everything with the defense.”
Combine the physical attributes with natural football smarts, and it makes for a player that’s seemingly always around the ball. Muma, an engineering major, had a game-high 10 tackles in the Cowboys’ only scrimmage so far this spring.
“Even last year as a freshman, all I heard was freaky smart,” Dickert said of Muma. “For a freshman to pick up the things that he did — we always saw him as a practice player last year — but for him to take it, he knows what he’s doing. Now he’s figuring out how to do it. Now you just see those flashes. He’s a kid that finishes.”
But Muma is hardly content with his emergence. Now that he’s in a position to be a significant contributor, he’s doing everything he can to hold on to it.
“It definitely gives me a lot of motivation to keep working and definitely not hold back,” Muma said.