Nevada has plenty of questions on defense, but there is certainly some talent there as well.
Much of what the Wolfpack tries to do defensively stems from senior leader Ian Seau. The stout defensive end is arguably Nevada's best returning player and somebody that the UA offense figures to key on.
Big things are expected from the Wolfpack's other pass rusher, Lenny Jones. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound end had a nice season last year, accumulating 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. The Wolfpack would like to see him double those numbers and with 38 career games, he is one of the more experienced players in the Mountain West.
Senior Rykeem Yates is another player that is considered one of the better ones at his position in the conference. He had one tackle for loss against UC Davis and is generally a consistent player.
Junior defensive tackle Salesa Faraimo doesn’t have a reputation as a guy who pushes the pocket, but he did just that against UC-Davis and picked up a sack.
The strenght of Nevada's defense is on the line, but the linebackers are decent as well.
Senior linebacker Jordan Dobrich brings a wealth of experience to the Nevada defense and is also one of the team’ leading run stoppers.
Nevada will bring him off the edge in certain situations and it is hard to imagine the Wolf Pack playing well if Dobrich doesn't put together a strong game.
Matthew Lyons is one of the Wolfpack's leading returning tacklers and a player who has been quite consistent. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior has 169 tackles in 24 games played.
Not the player that Dobrich and Lyons are, Brian Lane Jr. is nonetheless a player who gives the Wolfpack an angular jack of all trades playmaker. A converted defensive back, Lane will be counted on in coverage from time to time.
To put in mildly, the Nevada secondary doesn’t match up well with the Arizona passing game.
Akhi Muhammad is a 5-foot-9 redshirt freshman who missed last season with an injury. Muhammad has talent, but he isn't big enough to cover Cayleb Jones and that poses a problem for Nevada.
Lining up opposite Muhammad is 5-8 junior Elijah Mitchell. Mitchell is very fast, but hasn’t really established himself as a competent corner. Much of his impact comes on special teams where he is one of the best kick returners in the country.
Freshman strong safety Asauni Rufus was a pleasant surprise in the first game of his career, leading Nevada with 12 tackles.
That's not necessarily a good thing, but the Wolf Pack brought Rufus in the box to stop the run and could do the same against Arizona.
Converted cornerback Kendall Johnson rounds out the secondary. He played corner last year and has yet to really make much of an impact.
Nevada's defensive line is likely going to play well, but the concern is the secondary. If Anu Solomon gets any kind of time in the pocket, Nevada is going to struggle stopping the passing game.
Keys to the Game
Stop the run: Nevada always has a solid running game, which takes a lot of pressure off quarterback Tyler Stewart. Stewart is unlikely to beat Arizona through the air, so making Nevada one dimensional is huge.
Turn over Stewart: One of the most overlooked losses from last year’s team was turnover creator Tra’Mayne Bondurant. Absent a run stuffing line or a dynamic pass rush, it will be incumbent upon the Arizona defensive backs to make a few big plays.
Run the Ball: The one constant of a Rodriguez offense is the running game. When Nick Wilson isn’t getting the ball, some of Anu’s deficiencies come into play. The difference from the first to second half of the UTSA game was the running of Nick Wilson and the push provided by the offensive line.
Players to Watch
#8, DE Ian Seau: One of the best and most overlooked players in the country, Seau is a load in the trenches and figures to have the total attention of the Arizona offensive line.
#2, SS Asauni Rufus: He was the Wolfpack’s leading tackler in the first game and a main reason UC Davis was unable to get anything going on the ground.
#94, DE Lenny Jones: Nevada expects big things out of Jones this season. One of the leading returning pass rushers on the team, Jones has the look of a player who could push for double digit sacks.