Breakout candidates for the Pokes

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Less than 100 days remain between now and the start of college football season in Laramie. The University of Wyoming will have to fill some holes for the 2019 season, and here’s a list of the potential breakout candidates.

Garrett Crall

The junior defensive end led the team in sacks last year with 4.5. After joining the Pokes as a preferred walk-on from Hicksville, Ohio, he earned a scholarship before the start of last season.

Wyoming needs some players to emerge on the defensive front and carry the torch left behind by Carl Granderson and Youhanna Ghaifan. I think Crall will make a similar jump to that of Granderson. Granderson’s increased his sack total 4 to 9.5 from his sophomore to his junior year.

 

Raghib “Rocket” Ismail Jr.

The former junior college wide receiver was third on the team last season in receiving in his first year at the four-year level. He showed tremendous quickness and good hands when the quarterback put it in Rocket’s vicinity.

Wyoming didn’t throw the ball all that great last season, accumulating just 1,576 yards through the air, and part of Rocket’s breakout ability will come down to the development of quarterback Sean Chambers as a passer. I think Chambers has the tools to become a good passing quarterback, and with last year’s two leading wide receivers having graduated, I think Rocket assumes the role of Chamber’s go-to target.

 

Xazavian Valladay

The redshirt sophomore running back gained 396 yards on 71 carries last season. He was the starter in the regular-season finale where he gained 192 yards, and I think that’s a precursor to what Wyoming fans will see this season.

Nico Evans leaves a gaping hole at running back — probably the most glaring UW must fill this season — and Valladay is the man to for the job. He’s already put on good weight this offseason, and after the departure of Jevan Bigalow — the third-string running back — the backfield is Valladay’s to own.

 

Alonzo Velazquez

The junior right tackle isn’t the prototypical breakout candidate. He’s been a stud ever since he walked on campus, but health has been his greatest hurdle.

If Velazquez can stay healthy, he’s poised for a big year. There’s inexperience and youth on the offensive line, especially at the tackle position, so Velazquez’s play is essential for Chambers to feel comfortable and for the running game to be effective.

 

Tim Zaleski

The junior punter had a rough go of it last season. He averaged just 38.8 yards per punt before tearing up his knee in a game against Boise State. Zaleski is on scholarship, which for a punter, is becoming more and more rare these days, but Head Coach Craig Bohl values punters as most coaches should. On average, more yards are gained or lost, whichever way you want to look at it, during a punt. I think Zaleski is due for a breakout season.

 

Pokes Notes

University of Wyoming track and field athletes competed in the West Preliminary in Sacramento, which started Thursday. The Pokes sent 11, and the meet will conclude Saturday.

Willie Mack Garza will join UW as the new safeties coach.

Matt Wise returns to Laramie, after a one-year hiatus in Little Rock, as an assistant men’s basketball coach.

By |May. 24, 2019|

About the Author:

Bud Denega joined The Sheridan Press in November 2017 as the primary sports reporter. He is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from the University of Wyoming. Prior to working in Sheridan, Bud spent time as a sports reporter for the Minot Daily News in Minot, North Dakota, before being a sports reporter for the Laredo Morning Times in Laredo, Texas. Email Bud at: bud.denega@thesheridanpress.com

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