HENDERSON, Nev. – Fall camp starts in eight days for the University of Wyoming football team, and it already will be without one of its more productive offensive players.
Senior wide receiver C.J. Johnson, who missed all of last season due to a knee injury suffered in UW’s 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory over Central Michigan, won’t be on the 2019 roster due to lingering effects from that injury. Sixth-year UW coach Craig Bohl said Wednesday during Mountain West football media days at Green Valley Ranch Resort that UW will try to get a medical disqualification for Johnson, which means he would remain on scholarship while he finishes school, but his scholarship won’t count against the Cowboys’ limit.
Ten of Johnson’s 51 career catches went for touchdowns, and he averaged 16.4 yards per catch. In 2017, Johnson caught 30 passes for 531 yards (17.7 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns.
Johnson participated in spring drills during March and April.
“Through the spring we were expecting him to make more progress,” Bohl said. “He wasn’t able to come out of his break, and some of the things we asked him to do he didn’t feel like he could do.
“It is a loss, and he went through a long process to come back. We’re going to move forward with the guys that we have.”
UW has three senior wide receivers in Austin Conway, John Okwoli and Raghib Ismail Jr. Conway has 105 catches for 906 yards and four touchdowns in his first three seasons. Conway injured a knee late in spring drills, and Bohl said he may not be 100% when fall camp starts Aug. 2. But the coach expects Conway to be ready when UW opens the season Aug. 31 at home against Missouri.
Ismail, a junior college transfer whose first season at UW was in 2018, caught 24 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns. Okwoli enters his fourth year at UW, but has just 15 catches for 168 yards.
“You usually hope your senior year is your best, and that’s what we are hoping from those guys,” Bohl said.
Bohl also hopes to utilize the weapons at tight end, which include senior Josh Harshman of Casper, sophomore Nate Weinman and redshirt freshman Jackson Marcotte.
Back on the list
Senior kicker Cooper Rothe was a finalist for last year’s Lou Groza Award, given to college football’s best kicker. Wednesday, Rothe was one of 30 players named the watch list for the 2019 award.
Also on the list were last year’s winner, Syracuse sophomore Andre Szmyt, and the other semifinalist, Utah State senior Dominik Eberle.
Cooper was the 2018 MW special teams player of the year, and earned the preseason honor by the media which was announced Tuesday.
“I’m thankful for it, and it is motivation go back and win it again,” Rothe said. “(The preseason voting) is based on past success and something I know I am capable of doing, but it motivates me to work for it and go get it again.”
Bohl said sophomore nickel Keyon Blankenbaker, who missed a lot of time in the spring, will be ready for fall camp.
Junior punter Tim Zaleski was limited in spring with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee suffered in the middle of last season, but Bohl said he is counting on Zaleski to be the punter this season.
UW was picked to finish fourth in the six-team Mountain Division by the media. Senior middle linebacker Logan Wilson, who has 316 career tackles and 26½ tackles for loss, was not named to the preseason All-MW team.
“To say you don’t think about that would be a lie, but to say that affects me personally, it doesn’t,” Wilson said.
“That’s how my whole career has gone. I’ve been kind of the underdog all the time, and I like that. What motivates me is not proving the doubters wrong, but proving the people right that have always believed in me.”
Bohl didn’t mention any of the 23 true freshmen newcomers, but said UW will take a look at some during fall camp, in particular at running back and nickel, and possibly at wide receiver.
Bohl became a grandfather for the first time Tuesday morning when his son, Aaron’s wife, Anna, gave birth of their first child, Brynnlei Mae.
Aaron is a defensive graduate assistant coach for UW.