RB Harrison Waylee building off strong first season at UW

Apr. 10—LARAMIE — Harrison Waylee spent nearly an hour running a hands-on seminar teaching youngsters how to celebrate after a touchdown during last weekend's University of Wyoming youth clinic.

The 5-foot-10, 203-pound running back has had plenty of experience celebrating after a score. Waylee has 15 rushing touchdowns in his college career, including five in his first season in Laramie after transferring from Northern Illinois.

The Cowboys' youth clinic inside the Indoor Practice Facility gave Waylee an opportunity to perfect his dance moves without the fear of getting benched.

"I really want to do my own touchdown celebration, but coach is always watching, and I don't want to get benched the whole game," Waylee told WyoSports with a smile Saturday. "But maybe one day I'll pop my little touchdown celebration.

"I was just giving the little kids a little sneak peek while having them show me what they can do."

Waylee led the Cowboys with 947 yards on 164 carries last year for an average of 5.8 yards per carry. The rising senior would have easily eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark if it wasn't for a handful of nagging lower leg injuries.

Waylee went into his first year at UW coming off offseason surgery on his right knee, forcing him to miss the first two games of the season. He made his much-anticipated debut for the Cowboys in front of more than 100,000 fans at Texas, flashing his speed on a 62-yard touchdown run on their opening drive.

Waylee finished with 110 yards on 18 carries against the Longhorns, setting the tone for the rest of the season. He missed a road loss to Air Force one month later after suffering a right ankle injury in a win over Fresno State.

Waylee never fully got back to 100% during UW's 9-4 campaign last fall, but he's used this offseason to bulk up in the weight room to avoid injuries in the future.

"My body feels great compared to last year," Waylee said. "I'm definitely way heavier than last year. I was like 193 (pounds) last year. This year, I'm 204 and the healthiest I've been in a while. I definitely feel real good.

"... I've been maintaining and actually gaining even more weight all throughout spring ball so far. That's our main goal is to put on body armor for me so I can avoid any nicks and bruises that might come my way."

Dawaiian McNeely was set to be UW's No. 1 running back last fall while Waylee worked his way back from knee surgery, but McNeely went down with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament. On top of McNeely returning to the lineup this season, the Cowboys added North Carolina transfer D.J. Jones to accompany Sam Scott and Jamari Ferrell in the backfield. They combined for 101 carries last season.

First-year head coach Jay Sawvel and running backs coach Gordie Haug have both been impressed with Waylee's spring performance thus far. Both coaches believe this spring is the best Waylee has looked in a Cowboys uniform.

"I kind of joke with him when he rips off a big run. I'm like, 'Is old Harrison back?'" Haug said with a laugh. "He's moving around pretty dang good. He's a sponge, and very similar to D.J., he's competitive, and he wants to get better every time he steps out on the field. It's an exciting group to be coaching right now."

Added Sawvel: "Harrison is super happy with how he feels right now, and Harrison has had a great offseason. His speeds have been really good, and Harrison's just in a really good spot."

Waylee's bulkier appearance stems from his determination to make the most of the resources surrounding him.

"It's his goal just to be the best that he can be," Haug said. "So, when you strive to get into a program like Wyoming where we have resources to really develop you, he's taken advantage of that stuff."

Waylee feels comfortable in first-year offensive coordinator Jay Johnson's new system. The former Michigan State coach has implemented a higher tempo in the playbook, something that brings Waylee back to his days with the Huskies in the Mid-American Conference.

"I feel really comfortable," Waylee said. "I'm used to more of a signal-based offense with a fast tempo, and coming from NIU, that's what we did. When coach Johnson came in here and implemented that, I was really excited about that."

Waylee ranked third in the conference in Mountain West games last fall at 122.3 yards per game. While a depth chart won't be created until the fall, Waylee feels confident in UW's ability to continue to punish opposing defenses on the ground.

"I feel great," Waylee said. "Something big is going to come up, whether it's me or somebody else in the running back room. Something big is going to come out this year for this team."

Alex Taylor is the assistant editor for WyoSports and covers University of Wyoming athletics. He can be reached at Follow him on X at @alex_m_taylor22.