Intuition Leads Arizona Transfer Azizi Hearn to Wyoming
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Azizi Hearn is big on intuition.
So when Hearn visited Wyoming this spring, he made sure to pay attention to the vibe he got from head coach Craig Bohl and his potential position coach, John Richardson, as much as what he heard from both of them Hearn, who played last season at Arizona, had a few other options once he entered the NCAA’s transfer portal in May, but he liked what he heard, saw and felt once he finished his visit to Wyoming’s campus later that month.
“I just liked the energy really,” Hearn said. “It felt everything that was being said, the way everybody was acting, it was good and it felt genuine. It wasn’t just good. It felt authentic.”
Hearn is the latest addition to Wyoming’s roster after quietly making the move to Laramie from Tucson this summer. The sophomore cornerback didn’t publicize his decision to transfer on social media, and though the transfer portal allows other schools to make contact with the players in it, Wyoming was unaware of Hearn’s decision until Hearn reached out to the Cowboys’ coaching staff — one he was already familiar with having been recruited by Wyoming two years ago coming out of Oceanside High (California).
“Coach Rich, (assistant) coach (A.J.) Cooper and (running backs coach) Gordie (Haug), I reached out to them and we got the ball rolling,” Hearn told the Casper Star-Tribune. “It worked out for everybody.”
Richardson, who’s entering his sixth season as Wyoming’s cornerbacks coach, said he was somewhat surprised when Hearn contacted him about the possibility of transferring to Wyoming given that Hearn had played in all 12 games for Arizona last season and started the last three. But Hearn said grades forced him to walk on for the Wildcats in 2017 — a financial burden he couldn’t afford to carry anymore.
“Scholarships were open (at Wyoming), so I had to make a move and do what was best for me,” Hearn said. “I couldn’t keep doing it financially. I had film and things of that sort, so it wasn’t a problem for me. I had a 3.0 (GPA) last semester, so it was all good.”
Now receiving financial aid, Hearn has three years of eligibility left. And thanks to the NCAA’s recently modified transfer rules, that clock will start immediately. Since unrecruited walk-ons aren’t required to sit out a year at their new school, Hearn will be eligible this season.
He’s a big addition to a cornerback position that may very well be the deepest and most experienced in the Mountain West.
“Any time you can get a 6-foot-2 guy that can run and cover, it’s like Christmas,” Richardson said.
Hearn is joining a rotation that includes veterans Antonio Hull and Tyler Hall and redshirt freshman C.J. Coldon, who started the first three games for the Cowboys last season before an injury sidelined him for good. The trio has 50 career starts among them, but at 6-1, Coldon is the only one that comes close to matching Hearn’s size and length on the outside.
Pushing 6-2 and 195 pounds, Hearn “can touch a guy two yards away,” Richardson said. Hearn’s reach is so long that sometimes he can get too reliant on using his hands to slow down receivers, part of his technique that he admitted needs some fine-tuning, but Hearn’s combination of range and physicality is unique among the group.
“It’s different,” said receiver Austin Conway, who’s lined up against Hearn during fall camp. “He’s one of the more physical corners I’ve seen.”
Said Richardson, “He brings another added dimension to the group. He’s a different type of corner than we’ve had.”
Hearn could even slide inside to nickel depending on how things go there with sophomore Keyon Blankenbaker, who’s in line for his first season as the full-time starter at the position. With the numbers Wyoming has at corner, Hearn could find himself there anyway in certain packages.
For now, he’s working exclusively at corner, though Hearn doesn’t have a preference with the team he had a good feeling about from the start.
“I’ll play any position they want me to play. Even if they want me to kick the ball,” Hearn said. “Whatever I can do to help this team win.
“You can go anywhere and play, but are you going to be happy? Are you going to be comfortable? Or are you going to wake up every day and be like, ‘Aw, man, I’ve got to go up here and do this.’ But it wasn’t that feeling here, and I feel like it’s never going to be that feeling here.”