Wyoming Cowboys defense adapts to staff, begins roster changes for Potato Bowl | national

LARAMIE – The coach carousel has been particularly dizzying in 2021.

Big brands like Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Oregon have had seated head coaches poached by other Power 5 programs. Other schools have locked up their coaches with lucrative 10-year contracts that look like contracts. of Major League Baseball.

The NCAA transfer portal is also buzzing and overcrowded with more players looking for a second chance than scholarships available.

These issues impacted Wyoming, but to a much lesser extent.

The Cowboys will be without a defensive line coach and defensive starter when they face Kent State in the famous Idaho Potato Bowl on December 21 at Albertson Stadium (1:30 p.m. ESPN).

The departure of beloved assistant Pete Kaligis in Washington state and Keyon Blankenbaker’s nickel return to the portal were greeted with hugs and handshakes inside the High Altitude Performance Center.

“He’s done an incredible job for us,” said UW head coach Craig Bohl of Kaligis, who will be associate head coach for Washington State after a 13-year stint at Laramie dating back to the Dave Christensen era. “I want to wish him and his family good luck.”

Moments after Kaligis texted players informing them that he was joining former UW defensive coordinator and new Washington State head coach Jake Dickert in Pullman, senior defensive end Garrett Crall ran from the workout room to his office to say goodbye.

“It’s not just what he represented for the D line, it’s what he represented for the whole team. Coach Kaligis is in many ways the backbone of this team, ”said Crall. “I think the best things he did here weren’t the X’s and O’s of football on the pitch. These are the relationships he built with the guys in the locker room on the offensive side of the ball, on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive end coach Marty English, a university assistant since 1989, will take over from Kaligis during bowl practices. Bohl wants to take his time to hire a replacement at the end of the season.

“He obviously knows defense better than any of us. I’m excited for him because he’s a really fun guy to play for, ”Crall said of English. “He has a standard for you, and everyone knows the standard every day. It’s just a yes-sir thing. We’re going to come out here and dominate the practice. This is exactly what we are doing.

Blankenbaker, who graduated from UW in 2020, met Bohl before deciding to retire from the Potato Bowl and jump on the portal as a graduate transfer.

The fifth-year senior from Oak Park, Ill., Made 33 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown against Ball State this season. Blankenbaker is the only player on the roster to request a transfer at this point.

“Keyon and I had some great conversations,” Bohl said. “I think he’s just watching the next chapter of his life. He was pleasant in my office. We really appreciate his presence here.

Keonte Glinton, a sophomore with 10 tackles, three stoppages and one interception in 10 games this season, is expected to start nickel for the Cowboys against Kent State’s prolific offense.

“I think we’re in good shape there,” Bohl said. “But I want to wish Keyon the best.”

Another national trend in recent years has been that early-round NFL prospects are pulling out of bowl games and starting to focus on their draft preparations.

Chad Muma, a Butkus Award finalist, will be on the blue court and play for the Cowboys in the Potato Bowl.

Muma, an All-Mountain first team selection, follows in the footsteps of current Buffalo Bills franchise quarterback Josh Allen, who played in the 2017 Potato Bowl, and current Bengals linebacker from Cincinnati, Logan Wilson, who played in the 2019 Arizona Bowl.

“I never really thought about whether or not I was going to play a game of bowls,” Muma said. “Logan is like me thinking we’re playing for Wyoming so we’re going to play our last game. Of course, I will be playing in a game of bowls.

Muma ranks second in the FBS for solo tackles (6.7 per game) and fourth for total tackles (10.8 per game). He also returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns during the regular season.

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn

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