LARAMIE – In a way that only he could, University of Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl succinctly, yet perfectly, summed up one of the most feared players in college football.
Boise State pass rusher Curtis Weaver has been a monster off the edge since setting foot on campus. In less than three seasons, Weaver, who hails from Long Beach, California, has amassed 31 career sacks, already the most in Mountain West history. His 10½ sacks in 2019 ranks third in the country, trailing a potential No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in Ohio State’s Chase Young and Miami’s Gregory Rousseau.
Bohl, who has seen Weaver wreak havoc firsthand to the tune of three sacks in two career games against the Pokes, noted the junior’s size and explosive power as reasons for his success. Then, in just seven syllables, Bohl found the words he was looking for.
“He’s a big rascal out there,” Bohl said, without the faintest hint of a smile.
A big rascal indeed.
Weaver, a redshirt junior, is among the top players in college football, and is projected by some scouts to be a first round pick in the 2020 NFL draft should he choose to leave. With a key matchup between the Cowboys (6-2 overall, 3-1 MW) and No. 21-ranked Boise State (7-1, 4-0) looming this weekend on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium, containing Weaver will be key if UW wants to pick up its first win at Boise State and second overall in the series.
While the numbers might suggest UW game plan specifically for Weaver, the Pokes don’t plan on designing their strategy around stopping a single player. UW’s offensive line, among the best in the country by nearly every metric, is confident it can get the job done.
“He is a really good pass rusher, and he has got really good moves,” sophomore tackle Rudy Stofer said. “(But) it’s just another guy in a jersey. So we’re going to go out and compete as best we can.”
Weaver, listed at 6-foot-3, 265 pounds, has been named first team All-Mountain West his first two seasons in Boise and was a Bednarik Award semifinalist (top defensive player in the nation) last season. He has a plethora of moves to go with immense power.
“He can control the line of scrimmage, and he has great instincts,” Bohl said.
“And those are all elements to a great defensive player,” Bohl said.
Stofer, UW’s starting left tackle, has never personally faced Weaver, though he is bound to get a taste this weekend. Stofer did, however, say Weaver would likely be “one of the best (he has) ever played” against. That isn’t fear or intimidation; it’s respect. It’s also an opportunity for Stofer to prove himself.
“It’ll be really fun,” Stofer said. “Just really excited to compete with him.”
While some coaches might opt for constant double teams or max protection to help take care of Weaver, first-year offensive line coach Bart Miller doesn’t believe that will be a consistent theme Saturday. Sure, certain plays will call for such things. But when it comes down to it, Miller has faith in his group, which was recently named to the Joe Moore Midseason Honor Roll recognizing the best offensive lines in the nation.
Football is all about putting a hat on a hat. And Miller thinks he has the players to do it.
“There’s an awareness of where he is. … But we have not changed things because of one player,” Miller said. “He is a tremendous player, and we’re going to have our hands full. But we’re going to come out and attack it, too.
“Each guy has to be able to execute his block. And if he can’t, he shouldn’t be in there.”
Wyoming will be without the services of redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Chambers, who will miss the remainder of the season with a left knee injury. In steps redshirt sophomore Tyler Vander Waal, who started nine games a season ago. The team has full confidence in Vander Waal, who brings a different, yet effective, style of play to the table.
At their core, the Pokes are a running team; they aren’t going to change that. But with a backup under center in a pivotal game that could decide the Mountain Division, there is added pressure on the offensive line to perform.
Not really, Miller says.
There is always pressure to perform for the guys in the trenches. Boise State just happens to be the next game on the schedule. That mindset won’t change, even if a transcendent pass rusher is lining up on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
“Every week, there’s pressure. You could ask me that against New Mexico and Nevada, I would say the same thing,” Miller said with a laugh. “We are obviously trying to prepare for a great team, but we do that every week.”
Hall up for honor
Redshirt senior defensive end Josiah Hall was named one of 83 nominees for the Burlsworth Trophy, which honors the nation’s top walk-on.
Hall walked on at Wyoming in 2015 and has since earned a scholarship and played in 41 career games with 26 starts. His 4½ sacks this season are second on the team.
Former Cowboys safety Marcus Epps was a finalist for the award last season. Epps is now with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.