LARAMIE — He was going to get game repetitions anyway. Now there’s going to be a lot more for the redshirt freshman.
Mario Mora had done enough over the last year to earn himself a rotation spot on the interior of Wyoming’s defensive line. With the Cowboys ideally wanting to rotate four players between its nose tackle and defensive tackle positions, Mora was set to join veterans Ravontae Holt and Javaree Jackson along with sophomore Victor Jones in that rotation.
But Holt will no longer be a part of it this fall.
The 6-foot-4, 272-pound Holt, a junior who was in line for his first season as a full-time starter after being part of the rotation the last two years, tore his ACL during a recent practice and will miss the entire season. That’s 21 games and seven starts worth of experience that’s no longer available.
Mora now finds himself at the top of the depth chart as Wyoming turns to him to help fill the void. Mora finished the spring behind Jackson at nose tackle, but he’s been taking a majority of the first-team reps alongside Jackson since Holt went down with the injury last week.
“It’s the next guy up, you know?” Mora said. “Football is a long season, and not everybody is going to be able to make it. It truly does suck losing Ravontae because me and Ravontae are really close and we’ve been working hard all summer. Just hearing that happen, that hurt me.
“It did change my mindset more that I am starting right away. Now I have to go and do this and I have to go and help out my team as best as I can.”
On the lighter side for an interior defensive lineman at this point in his young career, the 262-pound Mora may go about it a different way than Holt. There’s one attribute in particular that coaches start with when assessing Mora’s skill set.
“Man, he’s quick in there,” defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said. “When he gets on his movements, he’s really disruptive. There’s some times he’s got to anchor down on some double (teams) when you’ve got 700 pounds of dudes at you, but he’s quick, he’s got great hands, and he’s an amazing finisher. When you see a d-tackle down the field 30 yards every play, it’s pretty cool.”
Those are parts of his game Mora prides himself on.
“I’m a hard worker, and I don’t give up on a play at all,” Mora said. “That’s really it. I’m just going to go and do my best, do my job and execute it as well as I can. I’m a bit of a speedster guy, so I’m going to try to use my speed.”
Mora said he’s worked during fall camp to become even quicker off the ball by trying to shorten the time it takes to get his hand off the ground and into the offensive linemen once the ball is snapped. It’s also a way to generate more power, Mora said, in an attempt to get past his blockers.
“On my pass rush, it’s just my lateral quickness,” Mora said. “I’m able to stutter and make people miss essentially. And then at the same time, I can transition my speed straight into raw power.”
Wyoming coach Craig Bohl also noted Mora’s quickness, but added he’s a more complete interior defensive lineman than one might think.
“He’s got good leverage, and he’s got good strength,” Bohl said.
Mora signed with Wyoming out of Charter Oak (California) High last year. He drew offers from all over the Mountain West, including Fresno State, Nevada, Air Force and Colorado State. But Mora took a methodical approach to his recruiting that he said not every school liked, which essentially made the decision for him.
“The way Wyoming went about things, I never felt pressured during that whole recruiting process whereas my other offers, they were just kind of like, ‘Come here. Do this and that,’” said Mora, who combined for 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks his last two seasons in high school. “And at that time, I just really wanted to focus on the (high school) season. I told Wyoming that I’ll take my official visit after football season, and they honored that.”
Mora redshirted last season, but the time for practicing patience is over. Wyoming needs Mora more than it thought it would this season.
Not that it’s a problem for him.
“It’s everything I’ve been working for,” Mora said. “It happened right away, but if an opportunity presents itself, then I’ve got to go and make the most of it.”