Alright, I’m coming out. Any man I see out there, I’m gonna shoot him. Any sumbitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only gonna kill him, but I’m gonna kill his wife, all his friends, and burn his damn house down.

– Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven (1992)


Unforgiven” is a classic Western film directed by Clint Eastwood, released in 1992. Set in the American West during the late 19th century, the movie follows William Munny, a retired outlaw and widower struggling to make ends meet as a farmer in Kansas. When a bounty is offered for two cowboys who disfigured a prostitute in the town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming, Munny decides to take up his guns one last time in hopes of earning the reward money to provide for his children.

Our main character today, like Eastwood’s in Unforgiven, found himself struggling in the American Midwest not so long ago. Just as Eastwood later did in his story, former NIU RB Harrison Waylee was lured to Wyoming in hopes of capturing a lucrative bounty—Craig Bohl’s RB1 position. Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly go to plan (they never do in the American West), and Wyoming HC Craig Bohl announced his retirement at the end of the 2023 season. A once promising volume pig in the Mountain West Conference (MWC) evaporated before our very eyes—a sad day indeed.

However, just as the CFF gods taketh away, they also have the power to giveth new life. Bohl’s absence cleared the way for a new OC to come into town. One who not only wields a sawed off shot gun with ease, but who also brings a strong track record of pig farming at the RB position—a truly deadly combination.


A Doak Walker Winning Pig Farmer on Staff

Former Wyoming DC Jay Sawvel was promoted to head coach from Craig Bohl. Jay Johnson, who comes over from Michigan State, will be his offensive coordinator. 

Johnson’s background is intriguing. During his time with the Spartans, Johnson’s offense produced a massive season in 2021 for Kenneth Walker, who rushed 263 times for 1636 yards and 18 TDs. This past season, UConn transfer Nathan Carter led the pack with 185 carries for 792 yards and four scores. 

The aggregate numbers aren’t great, but Carter did average 18.5 carries per game over the first seven outings. The Spartans struggled a lot this season, and that tends to negatively impact the RB production the most. In the team’s first two games of the season vs. inferior competition, Carter scored 20 and 32 points, with 18 and 19 carries in each.

Before Michigan State, Johnson served as the OC at Colorado (2019), an offensive analyst at UGA (2017-18), OC at Minnesota (2016), and Louisiana (2011-2015).

His Colorado offense didn’t produce a notable stat line in 2019. With the Minnesota Gophers, Johnson’s lead back, Rodney Smith, rushed 240 times for 1,158 yards and 16 TDs. His time at Louisiana Lafayette produced two 1,000-yard rushing seasons, with Elijah McGuire rushing 210 times for 1,158 yards and 16 scores in 2015 and rushing 166 times for 1,264 yards and 14 scores in 2014.

As far as what the plan is for 2024 at Wyoming, here are a few quotes from the head coach and OC from a recent Wyoming beat report:

What Jay does that I’m most excited about is he’s always been a coach that’s emphasized balance,” Sawvel said. “The year that he was a Broyles finalist, yeah, they had a back rush for 1,700 yards. They (also) threw it for 250 a game. That is balance. That’s why they won 11 games because you have the ability to do multiple things, and if one thing doesn’t work the whole train doesn’t come off the track. That’s what we have to be really good with”. 

“There’s a lot that goes into that philosophy. One, what is the makeup of your team? I don’t really know because I haven’t been with them on the field yet,” Johnson said. 

“This day and age, philosophically for me, you’ve got to be able to run it and you have to be able to throw it. And you probably have to be able to do both those things when everyone in War Memorial Stadium knows what you’re going to do.”

There’s a lot of intriguing nuggets in there. Certainly, it would appear that balance will be the focal point of the approach in 2024. The reference to the 2021 MSU team as an example to emulate is a good sign in my mind. The Cowboys have an RB who could be their version of Kenneth Walker, and running the football effectively is presumably part of the balance they are referring to. It could also be a rotation where the team as a whole runs the ball effectively. That would be less than ideal.


Harrison Waylee — 5’10″, 200

2023 STATS: 164-947-5 — PPG: 14.3

A C/O 2020 prospect, Waylee began his CFB career with the NIU Huskies in the MAC. The Iowa native had a productive first season, finishing with 107 carries for 456 yards and a score in six games (~12 PPG). Not bad for a true freshman. 

He found himself on the radars of CFF players during the 2021 season. Waylee took 101 carries for 574 yards and four scores in only five games (16.7 PPG). In 2022, he finally finished a season healthy, carrying the rock 165 times for 899 yards and five scores in 11 games (13.7 PPG). This average is propped up by a three-week streak of 42, 24, and 23 points in October of that season. Outside of those games, his numbers are fairly forgettable. 

That was sort of a theme with Waylee’s time at NIU—he was good in moments but not consistently enough to be considered a pig. The head coach at NIU typically runs a run-heavy (no pun intended) offense, but he cycles different backs week in and week out, which is not ideal.

So, when Waylee announced he’d be headed to Big Sky country, joining the Mountain West conference via the Wyoming Cowboys last offseason, I (among others) was very excited. Unfortunately, he didn’t start the season. I believe this was due to a health issue once again. However, once he started, he hit the ground running.

In his first four games, he carried the pig 18, 17, 18, and 22 times, scoring 17, 23, 25, and 11.7 points (that 17-point performance came against Texas, by the way). He went over 100 yards in three of those four games. 

The second half of the season wasn’t as lucrative for Waylee, whose single-game high was 15 points after Wyoming’s BYE week. Of note, he did have a pig-gasmic 30 touch game vs. Colorado State during the second half of the year, he just failed to score a TD, resulting in only a 15 point output.

Overall, the same problem that has plagued Waylee since year one has persisted: his health. However, if he can just stay healthy, you’re looking at a potentially nuclear pig with the new OC in town.


Closing

Despite the health concern, I’m bullish on the potential for Waylee in 2024. There are a lot of ingredients here that I typically like to latch onto for my later round-type RBs. Waylee’s a potential volume-vacuum this fall, and so long as he can withstand the punishment that comes with that, he should be very productive. 

Wyoming returns about 80% of the snaps from a year ago on the OL, and their toughest OOC opponent this year is probably going to be Arizona State. I have respect for the Devils, but I don’t know that that’s a game where you have to bench Waylee. The other tough games are BYU, Air Force, and Washington State. I’m not too worried about the schedule. 

There are a lot of RBs on the roster, however, so I don’t want the reader to confuse what I’m saying as a guarantee that Waylee will be a volume pig. But, my inclination is that he’s the most likely to be ‘the guy’ if there’s going to be one, and the OC’s background suggests that there probably is going to be a guy in this backfield who gets most of the reps.


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