HENDERSON, Nev. — C.J. Johnson’s career at Wyoming is over.
The Cowboys’ receiver has decided not to play his senior season, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said Wednesday at Mountain West Media Days. Johnson will remain in school but is in the process of seeking a medical disqualification. Should he get it, he wouldn’t count against Wyoming’s scholarship numbers.
“You’ve got a significant playmaker that’s no longer out there,” Bohl said. “We want to wish C.J. the best. I had a really good conversation in my office, and we’re going to move forward with the guys we have.”
Johnson led the Cowboys with seven touchdown receptions in 2017 before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in Wyoming’s Potato Bowl win over Central Michigan that season. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder missed most of last season but took part in spring practice as the Cowboys eased him back in to team activities.
Bohl said Johnson didn’t have a physical setback during the spring but rather didn’t make as much progress as he would’ve liked.
“He just wasn’t able to come out of his break,” Bohl said. “We limited a lot of the things he did. However, he played in the spring game. Some of the things we were going to ask him to do, I don’t think he felt like he could do.”
Johnson was a big-play threat, averaging 16.4 yards per catch while 10 of his 51 career receptions went for touchdowns. He was listed as a co-starter with fellow senior Rocket Ismail Jr. following the spring, and the Cowboys will need their other two senior receivers, Austin Conway and John Okwoli, as well as their tight ends to help pick up the slack.
“We’ve got some weapons there, and we’re just going to need to utilize those weapons at tight end,” Bohl said.
Joining the fold
Bohl confirmed the addition of former Arizona cornerback Azizi Hearn, who transferred into the program earlier this month.
Hearn, whose addition was first reported by WyoSports.net, was a walk-on for the Wildcats and started the final three games last season, finishing the year with 26 tackles and a pass breakup. Hearn, a junior, will be on scholarship at Wyoming and is immediately eligible, Bohl said.
He joins a secondary that’s deep at cornerback with returning starters Tyler Hall and Antonio Hull as well as sophomore C.J. Coldon back from injury. Hearn could compete for playing time there, though Bohl said the 6-1, 193-pounder is versatile enough to also play inside at nickel.
“He can maybe do both,” Bohl said. “I’m just excited to see what he does when we get him out there.”
No. 1 runner
Even with the addition of a Power Five transfer to the backfield, Xazavian Valladay will start fall camp as Wyoming’s No. 1 running back.
Yet while that’s the case, Bohl said he’d like a second back to establish himself as part of a rotation. That will likely be Louisville graduate transfer Trey Smith, who’s got one year of eligibility left, but true freshmen Titus Swen, Dawaiian McNeely and Alphonzo Andrews Jr. will all join the competition in preseason camp while at least one of them will likely end up contributing this season, Bohl said.
“I would say (Valladay) is No. 1, but when we’re really good, we’re playing two,” he said.
Valladay averaged 5.6 yards per carry as a freshman backup last season. A bigger back at 6-0 and 218 pounds, Smith played in seven games last season as a reserve for the Cardinals and averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
Still on the mend
Tim Zaleski continues to work his way back from the torn ACL he sustained in Wyoming’s fifth game of last season. Bohl said Zaleski suffered a minor setback while punting at a camp recently, but the Cowboys are counting on him to be their primary punter this fall.
“I just talked to our sports medicine staff today,” Bohl said. “We feel like he’s making good progress, but he’s not quite 100 percent.”
Conway (hamstring) still hasn’t been fully cleared medically but is expected to be at some point during camp, Bohl said. Nickel back Keyon Blankenbaker (hamstring) is at full strength.