For Tyran Finley and the University of Wyoming, it was a case of better late than never.
Finley was among the last signees of UW’s recruiting class. He signed in May and arrived on campus in early June for voluntary workouts.
Now, the 5-foot-9, 177-pound junior-college transfer from California, by way of Alabama, will be a starting cornerback Saturday for the Cowboys in their season-opener at No. 18 Nebraska.
And he couldn’t stop smiling when talking about it Monday.
“From the minute I stepped on this campus, I put in my mind I wanted to be a starter,” Finley said. “I wanted to make a great impact and be a guy this team could count on. You have to have that mindset of being a starter, and also visualize making plays and being that guy. That’s what I tried to do.”
Finley may be small, but he has been clocked at 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash and has a 39-inch vertical leap.
“Tyran is an explosive athlete,” second-year defensive coordinator Chris Tormey said. “He can burst and make plays on the ball. He has a great attitude. We are excited about the extra juice that he brings to our team.”
Finley came to UW from Contra Costa Community College, where he was a cornerback and return specialist. Last season, he recorded 32 tackles, 20 pass breakups and nine interceptions.
He was involved in a lot of plays during fall camp the last few weeks and was not afraid to mix it up with some of the veteran receivers.
“He is one of those guys, regardless of who lines up across from him, who goes out and gives 100 percent all the time,” senior free safety Marqueston Huff said. “You know when you line up with Tyran you are going to get his best.”
Ironically, Huff moved from cornerback to safety this season, and Finley is the one replacing him at cornerback.
Finley figures to be in UW’s return game plans. He joins junior receiver Jalen Claiborne to form the Cowboys’ No. 1 kickoff return duo, and he backs up Claiborne as a punt returner. Finley was his region’s special-teams most valuable player last season in junior college.
“I am very happy where I am at there,” Finley said. “Everything happens for a reason. Jalen is an excellent returner, but when my number is called, I have to step up and take that role.”
Finley is one of eight first-year players slated to start for UW against Nebraska.
Depth chart notes
True freshman receiver Tanner Gentry will start at one of the four wide receiver spots.
Gentry quickly climbed up the depth chart from the start of fall camp among an already talented and deep receiving group. Gentry passed junior Trey Norman.
“Tanner trained a lot with (UW junior receiver) Dominic Rufran here this summer and (that) helped him a lot to understand the offense and the pace we want to practice at,” UW coach Dave Christensen said. “But more than anything, Tanner went out and made plays. He was productive in practice.
“It was pretty easy from my eyes. If you are a receiver and make catches – and tough catches – and don’t drop the football, you have a chance to be productive in this offense.”
Senior Spencer Bruce is listed as the starter at tight end. True freshman walk-on punter Ethan Wood is the starter for now, but the competition between him and junior kicker Stuart Williams will continue through the week.
Christensen said junior free safety Chad Reese probably won’t play, but he is listed as third on the depth chart.
Christensen also said junior tight end J.D. Krill should be available despite not being listed on the depth chart. Krill appeared to injure his foot last Saturday during practice in Cheyenne.
Early to rise
UW will practice in the mornings during the season. In the past, it practiced in the afternoon, but it also practiced in the morning during spring drills.
“We talked about it as a staff, and we liked how things went when we practiced in the morning because the kids came out focused, and we had their undivided attention,” Christensen said.
Christensen also said the team had one of its best grade-point averages during the spring semester when it practiced in the morning. Many of its winter conditioning workouts also were in the morning.
The team practices at 8 a.m. today.
Pelini on Smith
UW quarterback Brett Smith is one of four offensive players who started in the 2011 game with Nebraska in Laramie, which the Cowboys lost 38-14.
A true freshman then, Smith completed 17 of 33 passes for 166 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
“I came out of that game thinking he was far along for a true freshman,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said during his Monday news conference with the media. “He is really poised and has excellent feet. He’s elusive in the pocket, and he buys time. He’s a really good player.
“He’s a lot further along now as a player than he was then. He’s a good quarterback.”
UW will wear all-white uniforms Saturday, including the white helmet.
The uniform combination is on display outside the football offices at the Rochelle Athletics Center.
COWBOYS AT CORNHUSKERS
Game: Wyoming at No. 18 Nebraska
When: 6 p.m., Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network/1290 AM KOWB (Laramie); 1240 AM KFBC (Cheyenne)