#73 Nevada Football Preview

 Nevada Wolf Pack

Overall Rank: #73
#1 WAC

 Nevada Logo 

Nevada Team Page

2010 Record: (13-1, 7-1)
2010 Bowl: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl vs. Boston College (W 20-13)
Coach: Chris Ault (81-44 at Nevada, 81-44 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Dave Baldwin
Defensive Coordinator: Gary Andersen

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Lampford Mark, RB, 413 yards
Passing: Tyler Lantrip, QB, 155 yards
Receiving: Rishard Matthews, WR, 879 yards
Tackles: James-Michael Johnson, LB, 88
Sacks: Brett Roy, DT, 8.0
Interceptions: Marlon Johnson, S, 2; Brandon Marshall, LB, 2; Duke Williams, S, 2; Khalid Wooten, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: RB Mike Ball, G Chris Barker, CB Isaiah Frey, DT Zack Madonick, C Jeff Meads, OT Jeff Nady, WR Tray Session

Key Losses: OT Jose Acuna, G John Bender, DE Ryan Coulson, TE Virgil Green, LB Kevin Grimes, QB Colin Kaepernick, CB Doyle Miller, DE Dontay Moch, RB Vai Taua

Nevada’s pistol offense is not going to be the same without quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Tyler Lantrip, a 6-4 senior, is the likely replacement for Kaepernick, although the Wolf Pack did add junior college transfer Devin Combs to provide a little competition in the fall. However, this is Lantrip’s job to lose. He has been waiting for it for a long time. Without the mobility of Kaepernick, Coach Chris Ault should allow Lantrip to air it out a little more than they did last season.

The offensive stars often stole the spotlight, but this defense deserves a ton of credit for Nevada’s memorable 13-1 campaign. And the defense returns a lot of talent. Yet, there could be a large drop off in production if the line cannot find a way to replace ends Dontay Moch and Ryan Coulson. Moch made a big name for himself at the NFL Combine, but before that he tallied 8.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles-for-loss for the Wolf Pack during his senior season. Junior Albert Rosette should step into one of the end spots, but it is likely a freshman may get the nod on the other end. With Brett Roy and Zack Madonick manning the middle of the line, it will help the new starters, but at least one end needs to provide some consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. The linebackers are in great shape with James-Michael Johnson and Brandon Marshall leading the way. Isaiah Frey is one of the best corners in the conference and Duke Williams has emerged as dominating strong safety.

Losing Kaepernick hurts enough, but Nevada also lost running back Vai Taua. Those two combined to rush for 2,816 yards and 39 touchdowns. Mike Ball and Lampford Mark will have to pick up the slack for the ground game. Incoming freshman Anthony Knight is a quality recruit and a big bodied back who could earn some carries this year as well. Ball and Mark will not replicate Taua’s numbers, but they are good enough to keep the chains moving. Losing lineman John Bender will not help, but Chris Barker and Jeff Meads are a couple quality linemen to build around and Coach Ault does have experienced players ready to fill in the gaps. The departure of tight end Virgil Green and the unfortunate shooting of Brandon Wimberly will limit the new quarterback’s passing options. Wimberly is expected to recover from his injuries, but it appears unlikely that he will play football any time soon. That pretty much leaves Rishard Matthews and Tray Session. Matthews is a superb talent and a big time playmaker. With the Wolf Pack expected to stretch the field and throw the ball more often this year, do not be surprised if Matthews drastically improves on his 879 yard and five touchdown effort of a year ago.

The Bottom Line:
On paper it looks like there are four teams vying for the Western Athletic Conference title. Hawaii, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech join Nevada on that list. While they all have some major holes to fill, Nevada has a quality defense and enough offensive weapons to win the league crown. Even if the offense struggles a little bit, the defense can win games for the Wolf Pack as long as the new ends can occasionally get to the quarterback.

Projected Bowl: Poinsettia Bowl

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 292.21 (3rd in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 226.93 (55, 5)
Total Offense: 519.14 (4, 2)
Scoring Offense: 41.00 (8, 2)
Rushing Defense: 120.29 (18, 2)
Pass Defense: 243.29 (98, 5)
Total Defense: 363.57 (54, 3)
Scoring Defense: 21.43 (31, 2)
Turnover Margin: .36 (33, 3)
Sacks: 2.50 (24, 3)
Sacks Allowed: .86 (12, 2)

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