LARAMIE – There wasn’t a lot of talk about special teams during Wyoming spring practice.
The Pokes know they already have a leg up on the competition with the return of John Hoyland, who should be on the short list of preseason Lou Groza Award favorites in 2023.
The fourth-year junior placekicker has made 45 of his 53 (84.9%) career field goal attempts and all 84 of his career extra point attempts since stepping onto the field in his red shoes in 2020.
Hoyland was 22-for-25 (88%) on field goals last season to set a UW record for most made field goals in a season, eclipsing the mark of 20 shared by Cory Wedel (1996) and J.D. Wallum (2001). He was also 4-for-5 on attempts of more than 50 yards last season with a career-long 55-yarder in the dramatic win over Tulsa.
UW head coach Craig Bohl leaned on No. 46 seemingly every time the Cowboys were within Hoyland’s extensive range last season.
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“If you look at our wins last year, we were winning playing small ball,” Bohl said. “With those guys, every field goal, every punt, all of those kinds of things, that’s how we won a lot of games. …
“It’s great to have him. He’s kind of got ice running through his veins. He doesn’t have a sense of entitlement, and he wants to contribute for the Cowboys.”
Hoyland made field goals of 27 and 32 yards during the Brown and Gold game. He is currently the only placekicker on the roster with Luke Glassock of Buffalo graduating this month and moving on.
Carson York is the starting long snapper after taking over the duties as a true freshman last season. Read Sunn is the backup but primarily focused on playing linebacker.
Clayton Stewart returns to hold for Hoyland and is competing with Ralph Fawaz at punter.
During the 2021 season, Fawaz averaged 42.5 yards per punt after winning the job. Last season, Stewart emerged as the starter after a fall camp battle and averaged 43.8 yards per punt.
In the spring game, Fawaz averaged 48.5 yards on two punts with a long of 56 yards, and Stewart averaged 46.7 yards on three punts with a long of 54 yards.
“I would say Clayton has got the edge right now,” Bohl said in the middle of spring practice. “It’s great to have Ralph back.”
The Pokes will likely have to add a walk-on placekicker this summer to back up Hoyland, but otherwise the kicking game is in great shape.
Wyatt Wieland handled the punt return duties after Caleb Cooley went down with an injury last season. Both sure-handed wide receivers are back.
UW must replace Cam Stone, the team’s top kickoff returner last season, who transferred to Hawaii. Wieland averaged 24.2 yards on six kickoff returns last season.
Cornerback Tyrecus Davis, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the spring game, has experience returning punts and kickoffs at Navarro College.
Incoming wide receiver transfer Ayir Asante also has experience returning punts and kickoffs at Holy Cross.
UW special teams standout Ryan Marquez, an outstanding gunner on kickoff coverage, returns after turning the tide in the double-overtime win over Tulsa by blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown.
Bohl had a surprise for the former walk-on quarterback turned receiver from Arvada, Colorado, entering his senior season.
“We’re putting him on scholarship,” Bohl said. “It’s one of the neatest things that I have an opportunity to do is pull a guy over and say, you know what, you’ve earned this and to acknowledge this. I think sometimes there’s a tendency to want to reach out and go for somebody else, and you’ve got a guy here that has done the right things and shown they have the ability to make plays and win for us.
“While he was going to be loyal and stay on our team no matter what, to do the next right thing is to put him on scholarship. That’s all part of building this locker room.”