For a program that likes to stick to its guns, the University of Wyoming football team had to adapt like the rest of us in 2020.
UW signed 17 players so far on the first day of the national signing period, which runs through Friday. The Cowboys have inked one running back, one tight end, two offensive linemen, two linebackers, four defensive linemen and six defensive backs. Schools are allowed to sign a maximum of 25 players in a class.
Recruiting looked different than it has in pretty much any other possible year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, campus tours were replaced with virtual visits. In-person meetings were substituted with phone calls, FaceTime and Zoom.
For UW head coach Craig Bohl, it’s certainly not preferable. He likes to sell his program “the old-fashioned way”; the best way you learn about the Cowboys and all they have to offer is by seeing the Laramie in-person.
That wasn’t possible this year, and it certainly threw a wrench in plans. But all things considered, Bohl is pleased with the outcome.
“I thought we really did a great job of at least showing what we’re about. And we were very transparent. I really thought, while it is not as good as a real deal, I think it was as close as what it could have been,” Bohl said. “We were given a situation … (recruiting director Ian McGrew) and that group and the assistant coaches had done a phenomenal job bringing out the best with the pictures and walking around. I’m not an IT savvy guy, even I got involved in some as well. I thought they did a nice job of bringing those things through. Is it the same as what it would have been here? No. But I thought (it was) the next best thing.”
One of the interesting facets of this recruiting cycle was how UW staff evaluated game tape. The Cowboys are traditionally a program that focuses on senior year film; that was made difficult this year, however, as several states across the country did not play football this fall due to the pandemic.
For the most part, UW signed players who were able to play this fall, with the exceptions being players from Illinois and one from California. Wyoming signed players from eight different states, led by six players from Texas; six of those states had fall 2020 seasons.
“The footprint of recruiting looks a little different,” Bohl said. “We looked at areas of the country where they were playing high school football, and then we were able to evaluate that and evaluate that tape. … A lot of it had to do with the fact that they were playing high school football. We could evaluate that area.”
College football programs will be able to carry additional scholarship players on their rosters this season due to the additional year of eligibility granted to all current players by the NCAA because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, teams can carry a maximum of 85 scholarship players. In 2021, seniors will not count toward that 85-player maximum.
There is an additional signing period for recruits in February, and Bohl said there might be a few areas of need going forward, though he doesn’t expect to fill the whole 25 scholarship slots.
“We feel like we addressed a lot of our needs, (and) we still have maybe a couple more spots we’re going to save that for the second signing date,” Bohl said.
Among the most important hauls was keeping safety Andrew Johnson of Cheyenne Central in the state. Bohl has made it a point of emphasis to keep Wyoming’s best players in-state, and he was able to do just that with Johnson, who was a two-time All-State 4A selection.
“It was critical. When we first got here, that’s what we said we were going to do, Wyoming was going to be the very first place that we look for players,” Bohl said. “We were really excited about offering him a scholarship, and it didn’t take him too long to give us a verbal commitment. He’s always wanted to play at the University of Wyoming.”
Below is information about each signee and comment from McGrew.
Caden Barnett, 6-foot-5, 305 pounds, offensive line, Northwest High, Texas
Barnett is ranked as a two-star recruit by Rivals and a three-star by 247Sports. He was named first team All-District Class 5A Division II.
“He got progressively better each and every single game. Again, tough, physical, aggressive, all those things you’d like to say. He’s got great size, brings a lot of value this year in the year where you have limited numbers. He’s going to be able to play offensive tackle … if numbers get in a pinch, he can play some offensive guard as well. So he has the versatility to him, which is which is pretty impactful in this year.”
Wrook Brown, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, safety, Salado High, Texas
Brown is ranked as a two-star recruit by Rivals and is not ranked by 247Sports. He helped lead Salado High to an 11-2 record this season and was named MVP of Texas District 9 of Class 4A Division II.
“A lot of his junior stuff was at running back. So he’s a little bit like Andrew Wingard in that regard, played much more safety is his senior year. And he kind of plays it the way I think a Wyoming Cowboy (should). I mean, he’s aggressive, he pursues heavily. When he tries to hit you and tackle you, he tries to run through you.”
Will Evans, 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, defensive tackle, C.E. King High, Texas
Evans is ranked as a two-star recruit by Rivals and a three-star recruit by 247Sports. He had three sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and 17 quarterback hurries in 2020.
“He added I believe between 25-30 pounds to his frame. Really liked how he played this year. He’s athletic, he’s got good quickness, change of direction. He’s tough, physical. There was actually a game that he played with food poisoning, and he was vomiting essentially every other play. So I think that says something about the young man.”
John Michael Gyllenborg, 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, tight end, Rockhurst High, Missouri
Gyllenborg is ranked as a two-star recruit by rivals and a three-star recruit by 247Sports. Despite playing just one year of high school football (he grew up playing basketball), UW’s staff saw enough to extend an offer. He was the No. 27 recruit in Missouri.
“He’s a little bit of a different story. He’s a multi-sport athlete. This was his first year playing football and you’re going to have limited film on him. Unfortunately, he got hurt a few games in and then missed the rest of the senior year. But we saw enough we liked, what we saw with his athleticism, length, and his size, ability to run and ball skills in a limited sample size.”
Zaire Jackson, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, cornerback, Valor Christian, Colorado
Jackson is ranked as a two-star recruit by rivals and a three-star recruit by 247Sports. He was ranked as the No. 25 prospect in Colorado. He intercepted two passes and had 30 tackles in eight games this season.
“He was aggressive, very athletic, he’s explosive. And he was a guy that doesn’t just stand outside the pile. He gets in there, even if the play’s dead. He wants to be in that pile.”
Andrew Johnson, 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, safety, Cheyenne Central
Johnson is ranked as a two-star recruit by rivals and a three-star recruit by 247Sports. A homegrown product, Johnson starred on both sides of the ball for Central and was a two-time Class 4A All-State pick in Wyoming. He racked up 106 tackles and 10 interceptions in his career and added 1,833 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns as a receiver. He also played baseball, ran track and was a star wrestler as well.
“He impressed. He was really athletic, competitive, played both sides of the ball. He’s got good ball skills when you see him play receiver. He does a lot of the things we want. … I know we look forward to getting Andrew here and seeing what he’s about in this fall.”
Jovan Marsh, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, defensive back, Marist High, Illinois
Marsh is ranked as a two-star recruit by rivals and a three-star recruit by 247Sports. He was unable to play his senior season, as Illinois did not have a fall high school football season due to the pandemic. As a junior, Marsh had 40 tackles, a sack and an interception while also playing a bit of wide receiver.
“Jovan was the first commitment to this class, so he kind of kicked it off for us. … (he) has legit speed, he’s a 10.7 100-meter track time. And once you kind of start dipping below 11, you’re really moving at that point. Again, we relied heavily on his junior film and kind of the character vetting process early on since he has not been able to play, and we look forward to seeing him out there.”
Tommy McEvoy, 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, linebacker, Clarkson Leigh High, Nebraska
McEvoy is ranked as a two-star recruit by rivals and is not ranked by 247Sports. He will come to UW as a preferred walk-on linebacker. He starred as a running back in the state’s Division II classification, running for 1,708 yards and 30 touchdowns as a junior (11.3 yards per carry).
“He’s just run into some tough luck here. He missed his junior year due to an injury, got to play a few games his senior year and then he missed the rest of his senior year due to an injury. But when you look at the video that’s out there, it’s really impressive. He’s athletic, he’s a competitive kid, he’s aggressive. Again, all the things you’d like to see in that traditionally fit well with our program.”
Jaylen Sargent, 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, wide receiver, Logan High, Utah
Sargent is ranked as a two-star recruit by rivals and a three-star recruit by 247Sports. He caught 44 passes for 695 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior at Logan High School.
“His coach actually reached out to us after his junior year and told us this is a guy we need to look at … Every game, he got better and better and better. He played both sides of the ball. He was an aggressive, fast, explosive guy, good ball skills … somebody we really wanted as the season went on.”
Sam Scott, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, linebacker, Skutt Catholic High, Nebraska
Scott is ranked as a two-star recruit by rivals and is not ranked by 247Sports. He racked up 31 tackles in six games this season and also had one tackle for loss.
“When we look at the tape, he’s all the things you want the linebacker. He’s physical, aggressive, he’s smart. And the fact that he also plays running back, and we really liked that.”
Kolbey Taylor, 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, safety, Pasadena Memorial High, Texas
Taylor is ranked as a two-star recruit by Rivals and is not ranked by 247Sports. He played in the 6A classification, the highest in Texas, and was named second team All-District 22-6A.
“When we set up a virtual visit with him, he was late actually hopping on the Zoom call because he was at the dentist, and he had he had hit somebody during a football game and chipped his front tooth because he didn’t have his mouth guard.”
J.J. Uphold, 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, defensive tackle, Garces Memorial, California
Uphold is ranked as a two-star recruit by rivals and a three-star recruit by 247Sports. He was unable to play this fall, as California did not have a fall football season in 2020. As a junior in 2019, he had 35 total tackles, five tackles for loss and one sack. Uphold was also a star basketball player.
“He’s long, he’s athletic. Plays on both sides of the ball. Movement skills for a guy with his length and size is really impressive. Again, he hasn’t been able to play his senior year unfortunately. I know we look forward to seeing him whenever that does happen.”
Jordon Vaughn, 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, running back Manvel High, Texas
Vaughn is ranked as a two-star recruit by rivals and a three-star recruit by 247Sports. Though he played in just five games as a senior, Vaughn rushed for 268 yards and three touchdowns while averaging better than 10 yards per carry. He ran for 556 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior for the Mavericks, who went a combined 20-2 the last two seasons in Texas’ 5A division one, the second-highest level of Texas high school football.
Vaughn is an excellent student as well, as he was recruited by several Ivy League programs.
“When you look at his film, obviously, you can see he’s got good size, big guy. (He’s) typically what we kind of look for in a running back, he’s physical; he runs very well for that size. And then he’s also got the contact-balance and the elusiveness to break tackles and force people to miss.”
Jack Walsh, 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, offensive line, Fremd High, Illinois
Walsh is ranked as a two-star recruit by rivals and a three-star recruit by 247Sports. He was the No. 65 recruit in Illinois. Walsh’s father played offensive line for the Cowboys in the 1980s. He did not play football this fall due to his living in Illinois, which did not have a season.
“What we’ve relied on was a lot of his junior video, and then also a workout video that he had put together. And then Coach (Bart) Miller had to evaluate and really came away impressed.”
Tyce Westland, 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, defensive end, Pleasanton High, Nebraska
Westland is ranked as a two-star recruit by Rivals and is not ranked by 247Sports. He played 8-man football at Pleasanton High and was the Kearney Hub 6/8-man Player of the Year. He had 843 receiving yards and 15 touchdown catches (21.6 yards per reception) in 2020 and added 127 total tackles, including 8.5 for loss.
Tommy Wroblewski, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, safety, Saint Paul High, Nebraska
Wroblewski is ranked as a two-star recruit by Rivals and is not ranked by 247Sports. He had 1,315 all-purpose yards in 2020 on offense and had 68 total tackles.
“He’s a ballplayer, and it was pretty apparent early on that he just wants to play ball. That’s what he cares about. We had kind of talked to him about, we’re going to recruit you as a safety, you might grow into a linebacker … he’s like, ‘I don’t care where you put me. I’m just here to play ball.’ You kind of like that mindset.”
Micah Young, 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, defensive end, Southside High, Texas
Young is ranked as a two-star recruit by Rivals and a three-star by 247Sports. He is the first Division I signee from Southside High since 1977, per the high school.
“There’s a lot to like about the way this guy plays. He plays with a lot of energy, a lot of passion for the game. He’s aggressive, pursues, he’s physical, explosive, all those good things you’d like to say in a defensive end. … He’s going to fit well into our program and really into that defensive end room to kind of keep the standard to play there that we’ve had the last several years.”