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UW FOOTBALL

Wyoming Cowboys defense has strong anchors in Cole Godbout, Jordan Bertagnole

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LARAMIE – Craig Bohl had mixed emotions watching the spring game from the press box level at War Memorial Stadium.

Wyoming’s head coach enjoyed the dominating performance at the line of scrimmage by nose guard Cole Godbout and defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole.

But that meant they were pushing around the interior of the Cowboys’ offensive line, which lost longtime starters Keegan Cryder and Logan Harris to graduation.

“I told myself coming down here the glass was going to be half full,” Bohl said Saturday. “So I was going to feel good about being half full.”

Godbout and Bertagnole, along with middle linebacker Easton Gibbs, will anchor UW’s defense this season with Garrett Crall and Chad Muma moving on to the NFL and four other starters transferring since the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

“Those guys understand that we’re young, they understand we still have stuff to work on and stuff we need to be taught,” sophomore defensive end Sabastian Harsh said. “I think they’re doing a really good job of stepping up to the plate and being more of leaders even than they were last year.”

Godbout finished third on the team with 70 tackles last season. He tallied 7.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, five pass breakups and five quarterback hurries.

During the winter the 6-foot-4, 285-pound junior focused on targeted strength training to become even more explosive off the ball.

“It’s pretty crazy how fast time has gone by. I’ve been around all the older guys, I’ve had some great mentors on this team and I really am ready for the role,” Godbout said of leading the defense this fall. “I feel like I know how to reach out to the younger guys, get them motivated, and I’m experienced enough where I can coach them, too, which is nice.”

Bertagnole added 38 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 2021. During the spring game the Natrona County High graduate had 2.0 tackles for loss and broke up a pass.

The former walk-on has developed into one of the best defensive tackles in the Mountain West since getting thrown into the fire during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

“Two years ago I was a dude where they were like, ‘Hey, we need you to play.’ Then I started playing and realized, shoot, I can actually do this,” Bertagnole said. “That was definitely a good feeling and made me realize I can be that guy when they need me.

“This year I feel like they need me and they really need Cole and Easton. I feel like we’re all stepping up to the plate.”

Godbout and Bertagnole are expected to consistently create problems for MW offensive lines this season, not just their own.

The duo will still do most of the heavy lifting for the unit, but defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel is hopeful sophomores Caleb Robinson and Gavin Meyer will provide some reliable depth.

During the Pokes’ 44-17 romp over eventual MW champion Utah State last season, Godbout and Bertagnole combined for nine tackles, three pass breakups, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble. It was one of several games in which they both played every defensive snap.

“We can’t be effective to the level we want to be with defensive tackles playing 70-plus plays a game,” Sawvel said. “So Caleb Robinson has got to come along, Gavin Meyer has got to come along and all the other guys that are inside have to come along because we have to be able to roll people and keep a freshness to it.

“They’ve all had a good offseason, they’ve all been working for that, but that was a major emphasis, like, ‘OK, Caleb, it’s your time. This young player stuff doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s your time.’”

Ravontae Holt, who is seeking a transfer, had 2.5 sacks before suffering the third torn ACL of his career six games into the season.

Robinson contributed 17 tackles in 10 appearances last year. Redshirt freshman Ben Florentine and sophomore Ethan Drewes took a step forward during the spring under new defensive tackles coach Oscar Giles.

Now they will follow the lead of Godbout and Bertagnole.

“We’ve kind of got to step up because we lost Chad and we lost Garrett,” Bertagnole said. “Stepping up in those leadership roles and bringing the energy every practice is definitely new to us because it was always Garrett and Chad that were bringing that energy. It’s definitely a good feeling to do that. We’re all super close and we talk about it.”

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn

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