LARAMIE — Wyoming is having to tap into its cornerback depth early this season.
C.J. Coldon finds himself back at the top of the depth chart with veteran Antonio Hull away from the team. Wyoming coach Craig Bohl announced last week that Hull was back home in California dealing with what he called a personal matter.
Bohl declined to comment further on the fifth-year senior’s situation but said Monday that Hull has yet to rejoin the team. The Cowboys are preparing as if they won’t have Hull for the third straight game Saturday when they host Football Championship Subdivision member Idaho, though Bohl said he’s “hopeful” to have Hull back in the fold soon.
In the meantime, Wyoming is turning to Coldon, who’s been here before. A third-year sophomore, Coldon started the first three games last season, but he took a hit against Missouri that aggravated a nerve injury he sustained earlier in the season, zapped the strength in his left arm and ultimately ended his season.
Coldon used the offseason to heal and was fully cleared for contact again during spring practice. He was always going to be part of the rotation at a position that became four-deep when Arizona transfer Azizi Hearn joined the team this summer. Hull, fellow senior Tyler Hall, Coldon and Hearn have all started multiple games in college.
The only thing that’s changed for Coldon is how soon he gets on the field.
“I’m just going to play my part and control what I can control,” Coldon said. “That’s all it is. Just go in there, stepping up and try to make plays for the team.”
Coldon said he and Hull are close off the field. Coldon said he knew Hull was still back in California and that he planned to call his secondary mate soon to check in.
“I talked to him a little bit last week,” Coldon said. “I’ve got to get on the phone with him though and see how he’s doing.”
But Coldon also knows he has a job to do with Hull not around — one everybody on the back end of Wyoming’s defense needs to improve on. The Cowboys yielded 423 passing yards to Missouri in their opening win before giving up 394 more to Texas State last week. That averages out to 408.5 per game, which is the third-most allowed in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Wyoming ramped up its pass rush to help the back end hold the Bobcats to 182 total yards in the second half. The Cowboys shut out Texas State in the final two quarters and got a pick-six from Hall to help them rally for a 23-14 win. Still, Coldon said there are things the secondary needs to clean up in coverage so that the rest of Wyoming’s opponents don’t make it look as easy as Missouri and Texas State did through the air.
“We’re not satisfied at all,” Coldon said. “We let (Mizzou quarterback) Kelly Bryant throw for like 400-plus. (Last) week, they shouldn’t have thrown for that much. So this week, we’re going to prepare on covering the whole field on the back end. No blame on the d-line or anything. That’s on us.”
Coldon’s size makes him a different kind of player than Hull and just about every other cornerback on Wyoming’s roster. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has length and range that help him stick more closely with receivers and quickly recover when he does get beat in coverage.
Sharper technique has also made Coldon one of the defense’s most improved players from a season ago, defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said. It’s a skill set the Cowboys plan to lean on even more now that Wyoming’s experience at the position has taken a hit in Hull’s absence. True freshman Jordan Murry has taken over as the fourth corner and may get some limited reps, but Dickert said the Cowboys will primarily stick with a three-man rotation among their veterans.
“We’re going to rely on him,” Dickert said. “We always knew even as a No. 3 that he had starter talent. I think we’re going to ride him as much as possible and ride (he and Hall), and Azizi’s going to come in, rotate and keep those guys fresh.”
Coldon had a career-high eight tackles against Texas State to give him 13 for the season. He’s also got two pass breakups and a fumble recovery he returned for Wyoming’s first touchdown of the season against Missouri.
He’s comfortable serving in a role that’s familiar to him as long as necessary.
“I’m confident in what I can do,” Coldon said. “(Cornerbacks) coach (John) Rich(ardson), he has us ready week in and week out with the film. I’m going to just prepared for everything that comes my way.”
Weber, Valladay don’t practice
Safety Rome Weber (concussion) and running back Xazavian Valladay (ankle) were both in street clothes during the open viewing period of Tuesday’s practice. Valladay’s right ankle was taped.
Defensive tackle Javaree Jackson was getting looked at by trainers at one point.