Freshmen step in as Wyoming’s CB group undergoes facelift
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Actions speak louder than words.
So while Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl spoke last fall about the physical potential of cornerback C.J. Coldon, the biggest proof that the Cowboys’ coaching staff is confident in its group of young cornerbacks came this spring.
Wyoming returns only one cornerback from its 2017 defense, Tyler Hall. Nonetheless, the staff chose to move Hall to nickel back this spring.
“Oh yeah, they put a lot on us,” Coldon said. “But they wouldn’t do that if they didn’t feel like we could handle it.”
It’s no surprise that the Cowboys would be confident in Antonio Hull. Hull was a medical redshirt last season because of a rare thigh injury, but the junior has starting experience with the Cowboys from the 2016 season. But there’s more than one cornerback spot to fill, with Rico Gafford and Robert Priester gone to graduation.
Enter Coldon and Keyon Blankenbaker.
Coldon was on the fringe of playing as a true freshman last season. He redshirted but still dressed for games just in case of a cornerback injury — making him all the more eager to actually get on the field this year.
“Yeah, but it also taught me a lot of patience,” the three-star Illinois recruit told the Casper Star-Tribune. “And it helped me prepare for the moment I’m in right now.”
On the flip side, Blankenbaker could take motivation from the fact that it wasn’t him in that role as he also redshirted last year.
“A little bit, toward the beginning,” Blankenbaker said, “but toward the end, I was like, ‘OK, yeah. It’s just how it is.’ I’m definitely motivated, so it got me working harder, for sure.”
The 6-foot-1 Coldon and 5-foot-10 Blankenbaker bring varying elements to the cornerback position.
“Keyon’s extremely strong,” cornerbacks coach John Richardson said. “So, when he’s in press man and he gets his hands on you, it’s really impressive. But Keyon’s a sharp kid. He competes. C.J. is like the real pretty, tall, long corner who can run and everything. Keyon’s more like the dark horse. Don’t say a whole lot, but he’ll get the job done.
“So they both have their own intangibles about them. But Keyon, man, he can run. He can cover. He’s smart. He’s what we’re going to bring along, and hopefully both of those guys can become dynamic.”
Sidney “Prince” Washington Jr. is also in the mix after appearing in two games as a redshirt freshman in 2017. Early enrollee Miles Williams could also potentially factor in.
“Miles, man, he’s taller than C.J.,” Richardson said. “So when he came into the room, all the older guys were like, ‘Whoa.’”
Said the 5-foot-10 Hull with a laugh: “They’re trying to get all the short guys out. He’s smart. Miles is smart, man. Long. He’ll get his hands on you from 3 yards back.”
Richardson said it’s too early to tell whether Wyoming will want to redshirt Williams.
“You can tell he’s still a young kid developing,” he said. “He’s still like a baby colt out there, not really knowing how to control his body all the time. But he made a really good diving interception in the last practice. So his length is definitely something that’s going to benefit him.”
And even if he doesn’t play in 2018, his addition marks a shift toward longer cornerbacks on Wyoming’s roster.
“I think me and C.J. have similar playing styles,” Williams said. “We’re the longer corners J. Rich recruited. So that brings a whole other level to our defense, having big corners, versus the traditional 5-11, 6-foot corners.”
Together, they will likely make up Wyoming’s cornerback group in 2018. While the coaches have said Hall could move back if needed, all indications are that that move is going perfectly well.
Gafford-Hall-Priester to Hull-Coldon-Blankenbaker is certainly a big change. But, it’s not an entirely unexpected one.
“I wasn’t surprised, because (Richardson) always said, ‘Somebody’s going to move inside. Y’all better be ready next year,’” Blankenbaker said. “No, I wasn’t surprised, but it definitely shows how confident they are in me and C.J. and Prince. It’s a good deal.”
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com