There Was A Celebration and Now There Are Concerns For Cowboys on Defense

© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tracy Ringolsby

Wyoming and LSU were the only two teams that had two linebackers selected in last weekend's NFL draft. 

Logan Wilson

Now, comes the challenge -- replacing Logan Wilson and Caash Maluia.

Wilson was a third-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Bengals and a four-year starter at linebacker for the Cowboys. Maluia went to New England in the sixth round of the draft. 

Wilson, whose 421 tackles ranked fourth all-time for Wyoming and also in the Mountain West Conference, was a first-team All-Mountain West selection, after earning honorable mention a year ago, second team as a sophomore. He was the league's freshman of the year in 2016. Maluia was an honorable mention Mountain West selection after a season in which he had 61 tackles, third on the Cowboys behind Wilson (105) and Alijah Halliburton (130).

That's the good news.

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Cassh Maluia

But. ...

"We will be very lean in experience at linebacker next year," coach Craig Bohl said in a conference call with the media on Monday.

How lean?

Well, Chad Muma, who lettered as a sophomore, will move into the middle spot, and the other two slots will come from a hand full of inexperienced underclassmen, who Bohl did not want to specify.

Tyler Hall

"It's going to be a challenge, particularly when we didn't have spring football," he said. "That's a position we were going to focus on in spring practice. We run an NFL system and it's complicated. The young players are going to have to grow up in a hurry."

In addition to Wilson and Maluia being draft, Cowboy cornerback Tyler Hall, a three-time Mountain West honorable mention as a cornerback and kick returner, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons.

A bit of a puzzle, however, is that both safety Alijah Halliburton, who led the Cowboys in tackles with 130 and tackles for a loss with 11, and placekicker Cooper Rothe remained unsigned as of Monday. 

"Both had great years," Bohl said. "The pursuit of undrafted players, however, may not have been as intense initially this year because of the uncertainty of what lies ahead this season because of the coronavirus. 

Alijah Halliburton

Typically, teams open spring camps shortly after the draft, but all of that has been put on hold, which will leave the free agent market a bit in limbo.

"I do think both had really good years and both received a lot of interest," Bohl said. "I'm hope they will pick up an NFL contract that will be announced shortly."

Cooper Rothe

There was no doubt going into the draft that Wilson would be drafted in a decent position -- which turned out to be as the first player in the third round. After that, the Cowboys had hopes but no sure things.

Bohl said he felt Maluia got attention because he had a solid season, and "with his performance on Pro Day (at War Memorial Stadium) he really helped himself. His 40-yard dash time, some of his movements, (the scouts) were able to talk to him a little bit.

"So the Pro Day certainly helped. It is another indicator to guys who train here that we have a good setup and we had good representation from different NFL clubs. New England has always been one of the more thorough clubs. (The Patriots) do their homework and many times they will select guys other people may or may not have interest in."

Photos by © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports