LARAMIE — There’s never any confusion for Nate Weinman and Jackson Marcotte as to when they’re supposed to be on the field together.
All they have to do is listen.
“When coach wants me and Jackson in the game, he’ll just be like, ‘Trees, trees, trees,’” Weinman said. “We just know right away.”
It’s just one of the nicknames that’s catching on for a pair of tight ends at Wyoming that’s larger than most.
“We should have like the twin towers or something like that,” offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said.
That’s because it’s virtually impossible to miss Weinman and Marcotte on a football field. Both stand 6-foot-7, putting them at the same height as offensive tackle Frank Crum — the tallest offensive lineman on Wyoming’s roster. Weinman is pushing 270 pounds while Marcotte, who’s north of 250, isn’t far behind.
Even senior Josh Harshman, who’s a good size at 6-3 and 230 pounds, can’t help but feel small at the position.
“We’ve got the twin towers with those guys,” Harshman said, “and then just a veteran guy I guess.”
But the variety those two bring to the position makes for untapped potential in an offense that wants to get the tight ends more involved in the passing game. That started happening toward the end of last season when Tyree Mayfield finished fourth on the team in receptions (21), second in receiving yards (341) and led the Cowboys with 16.2 yards per reception, but both Mayfield and Austin Fort are in NFL training camps after exhausting their eligibility.
Harshman, who’s back for a fifth season, is by far the most experienced tight end left, but the Casper native is coming off a knee injury that limited him to three games and four receptions last season. Weinman and Marcotte are different kinds of reinforcements.
“I kept thinking to myself that these are two of the biggest tight ends I’ve ever coached,” said Shannon Moore, who was hired in January as Wyoming’s tight ends and fullbacks coach. “I thought, ‘Man, if these are the guys I’m going to have a chance to coach, we’ve got a chance to be pretty dang good.’ ... When you see them, they’re what you want them to look like.”
Weinman and Marcotte both came to Wyoming from basketball backgrounds in the Midwest. Weinman played at Norwayne High in Creston, Ohio, where he doubled as a big-bodied receiver for Norwayne as a senior. Marcotte also caught Wyoming coach Craig Bohl’s eye on the basketball court at Mount Carmel High in southeastern Illinois, but like some smaller schools that also offered Marcotte a football scholarship, Bohl envisioned Marcotte lining up at tight end for the Cowboys.
Marcotte tore his ACL during the summer of 2017 and didn’t play his senior season at Mount Carmel, but Bohl still wanted Marcotte’s combination of size and athleticism at Wyoming.
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“We were betting that ACL was going to heal, which it has,” Bohl said. “And now you’ve got a guy that can really run that’s 6-5 and 250 pounds, and that’s a good thing.”
Weinman, a sophomore who played in nine games last season, and Marcotte, a redshirt freshman, will be part of a rotation with Harshman and will find themselves on the field together at times given the multiple tight-end sets Wyoming implements in its pro-style offense.
Exactly how often that happens will depend not only on down and distance but how frequently the Cowboys feel like the pair’s girthy frames can be used to create mismatches in the passing game.
“It really helps coming off the ball and making contact on the line with those secondary players,” Marcotte said. “They don’t really expect that (physicality). They expect receivers who kind of shake them and stuff, and we just go through their face.”
Weinman admitted his blocking is still the strength of his game, but both said they’re more complete tight ends than when they first showed up on campus. And ask anyone else about their athleticism at their respective sizes, and they’ll say it’s obvious.
“For Nate being 270 pounds and Jackson almost 260, they both run pretty well,” Moore said. “I think they really do have good, good ball skills. They can go up and high-point balls and really be able to make some contested catches.”
Said Vigen, “They were both basketball players, so I think not only their ability to catch but use their body and understand that and how much that related to basketball as anything I think is there. I think they’re getting a better understanding of how to use their height and use their length and how to get open.”
Quarterback Sean Chambers is finding out during camp how advantageous their expanded catch radius can be the closer the offense gets to the end zone. Bohl singled out Marcotte for some of the catches he’s come down with in the red zone, and it’s an area where Chambers said he’ll continue to look for his two biggest targets.
“If we can utilize those guys and target those guys and complete passes to those guys, it’s going to be a good thing down there for us,” Chambers said. “They’re big, strong guys. Those are two good assets to have.”
Weinman and Marcotte add the largest component to a position that may be the most versatile on the roster. Literally.
“We’re pretty mature at that spot as far as the type of tight ends we want to have,” Bohl said. “Beyond being a good blocker, they’re good receivers. So having those guys in our arsenal gives us a lot of flexibility.
“They’re big. And big is good.”