Wyatt Wieland’s confidence growing with each grab
LARAMIE -- Wyatt Wieland is a polite, straight-forward guy.
Nearly every answer features the word "sir" and he's quick to dish credit to his teammates and coaches. He looks you in the eye.
Don't mistake that gentlemanly demeanor for a meek football player, though. The junior receiver, believe it or not, can get a tad emotional between the white lines.
"Depends on the day," Wieland said with a grin when asked if he ever engages in smack talk on the field. "You got to let them know when you make something good happen, but the majority of the time we let our play do the talking."
You saw that intensity on display after he hauled in a 14-yard pass on a 3rd-and-4 against Hawaii last November. Wieland quickly popped up and emphatically let everyone inside War Memorial Stadium know it was indeed a first down and that the Cowboys' opening drive of the game was just extended.
It exhibited outward passion. But, in reality, it showed confidence was beginning to blossom in the former walk-on.
During his first three seasons on campus, the Colorado Springs product didn't catch a single ball. After appearing in 11 games as a redshirt freshman, Wieland never saw the field during Wyoming's COVID-19 shortened 2020 campaign.
Nine games into last year's schedule, his name, again, was nowhere to be found on the stat sheet.
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That all changed on a chilly early November night on the blue turf in Boise when Levi Williams delivered a strike to Wieland on a 3rd-and-7 late in the first quarter. The play went for 15 yards. The drive was extended.
But in reality, the catch meant so much more than that.
"Even though that wasn't really on my mind, it was definitely kind of like the elephant in the room," Wieland said. "Because, you know, whether or not I'm catching balls, I want to contribute in any way that I can. If I can get those catches on third down -- whatever keep us on the field -- then I'd love to do that. (Offensive coordinator Tim) Polasek preaches every day to just get the next first down, because that guarantees us three more plays. So that's all we can ask for."
The following week, Wieland caught another pass. This time he reeled in a 23-yard gain in a 44-17 upset win over eventual Mountain West champion, Utah State. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder added two more seven days later in that home loss to the Rainbow Warriors.
When all was said and done, Wieland caught just four passes for 60 yards.
Earth shattering? Hardly. Impactful? Absolutely.
"He's going to need to," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said when asked if the staff expects Wieland to take another big step forward this fall. "We chart a lot. A lot of times, you want to eliminate the drops, but can you have a guy that can make a contested catch? He's shown that he's been able to do that."
UW wide receivers coach Mike Grant said "It's their time," referring to wide outs Alex Brown and Joshua Cobbs. Wieland is in that group, too. He embraces the challenge. The guys in the huddle are also relying on him.
"This summer we had a player vote on offseason leaders, and I was honored to be voted as one of those guys," Wieland said. "So that means a lot coming from my teammates, because those are the guys that I care about their opinions. If that's how I'm seen in their eyes, then it's definitely time to step up."
Like Brown, Wieland is also fully healthy for the first time in years.
A severe groin injury slowed Wieland down in 2019. The following season, after the pandemic initially canceled the season, he flew to Philadelphia to see a specialist. Turns out it was a pair of torn ab muscles and two ripped adductors in his inner thighs.
Wieland said that was just the first time he went through that pain. He re-injured himself in practice a few months later.
"It's just an amazing feeling to not be rehabbing, but instead, actually getting better," he said.
Teammates and staff believe Wieland's trajectory is apparent, but what about this young receiving corps in general?
32 catches, 338 yards, touchdown.
That's the production that returns this fall for the Cowboys. Twenty-five of those grabs and 245 of those yards belong to Cobbs alone. Isaiah Neyor took his team-leading 44 catches, 878 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns to Austin, Texas, with him in the transfer portal. Ayden Eberhardt, who hauled in 21 balls for 298 yards, graduated.
Late last week, Gunner Gentry was lost for the year after suffering a non-contact season-ending knee injury.
Why should anyone believe in this group?
"I'd say, you know, they don't come to our practices," Wieland said of the doubters. "They don't see us out there everyday. They don't see us in the film room. It's definitely not going to be how it was last year with kind of a one-man show. I think we're a receiver group by committee this year. We've got a ton of dudes that are capable and will perform this year.
"So, I say wait until the season. If we underperform, then go ahead and call us out because we need to be, but wait until week one."
That will come in six short days when the Cowboys open the season Aug. 27 at Illinois.