The Pack is Back!

Thanks to the talented offense of Nevada in recent years, the Wolf Pack have become a contender in the WAC. Can they take the next step and beat teams outside the WAC--Ahh, that is the question.

Head coach Chris Ault has built "the Pistol" that he invented into an art form.  Last year, Nevada led the nation in rushing and #2 wasn't close.  The Pack tore into defenses for 4,484 yards and 48 touchdowns, averaging 7.39 yards per carry.  Georgia Tech was a distant #2, nearly 50 yards per game shy of Nevada .  Along the way, Nevada set an NCAA record with three 1,000-yard rushers in the same season.  

But you can't lose to Notre Dame 35-0 or to SMU 45-10 and hope to get any respect.  Winning in the Western Athletic Conference is one thing; beating quality teams outside the WAC is another.  Until Nevada can do that and do it consistently, the Pack will be mired in quicksand.  

Nine starters return from the powerful Pack offense.  To grow to the next level, this group must get it done against Colorado State , against Cal and against BYU.  And the passing game has to become more of a threat for the running attack to work against the quality teams.

Senior Colin Kaepernick (6-6, 220) could finish his career as one of the best dual-threat QB's to ever play the game.  He has 7,076 yards passing and 61 touchdown passes in his career vs. just 16 interceptions and has run for 2,906 yards and 39 TD's.  Last year, "Kaep" had 1,183 yards rushing and hit 166-282 for 2,052 yards and 20 touchdowns.  

The knock on him, though, is he can't beat the big teams.  If he can lead his team to victories over both California and BYU, he will silence the critics.   

Kaepernick is deadly on the move, with a stride that leaves opponents in his wake after two seconds.  He also has a live arm and can keep most defenses honest with his throwing ability.  

There's a big drop-off to the backup though.  Junior Tyler Lantrip (6-4, 220) throws a better deep ball and has good speed but only hit 3-9 passes last year.  Freshman Mason Magleby is an exciting prospect who several schools wanted as both a football and baseball player.  Magleby (6-2, 195) is a great runner with a strong arm and will challenge Lantrip for the starting role next year.  

Vai Taua ran for 1,345 yards on just 172 carries (7.8 average) with 10 trips to the end zone despite missing three games with injury.  Taua (5-10, 220, Sr.) is explosive to the hole and has surprising speed.  The star back had 10 games of over 100 yards rushing.  Look for him to be used out of the backfield as a receiver more this fall.  

With the graduation of Luke Lippincott, it is Mike Ball's turn.  All Ball (5-10, 225, So.) did was rip through UNLV for 184 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the 63-28 slaughter.  He has the speed and athletic ability to be the next 1,000-yard rusher for the Pack.  Senior Courtney Randall finished with 337 yards rushing last year, getting limited carries due to the powerhouse backfield.  Randall (5-10, 215) is tough to bring down and can fake defenders out of their shoes.     

Junior Lampford Mark (6-1, 200) was the fifth Nevada runner to top the 100-yard mark in a game as he churned out 114 against San Jose State and also gained 90 yards on 15 carries in the bowl debacle vs. SMU .  Mark has 10.7 speed but needs to use his ability against top defenses.   

Ault is looking for a receiver to stretch defenses.  Brandon Wimberly (6-3, 195) led the Pack with 53 catches for 733 yards and six scores as a freshman.  Senior Chris Wellington's season was interrupted by injury last year but junior college transfer Richard Mathews impressed during the spring.  Wellington (6-1, 190) finished with 42 catches for 632 yards and six scores and is the most sure-handed of the Nevada receivers.  Junior Tray Session (6-3, 175) had 30 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns from his Z position.  Session is a good target and shows speed.  

Tight end Virgil Green (6-5, 240) is a great fit for the Pistol.  The senior-to-be earned second-team All-WAC honors after catching 23 passes for 260 yards and five touchdowns.  Plus, he is a dead-on blocker, both for the running game and for other receivers.  

6-0, 195-pound L.J. Washington saw the field in six games as a freshman.  He was originally going to California but with his speed, he is a good recruit for Nevada and will likely work the "F" behind Wellington .  Moe Patterson (6-3, 200) is a JC transfer with 10.5 speed in the 100.  He will likely play a part in the rotation this fall.  

The Nevada offensive linemen call themselves "The Union".  Nevada has had the benefit of a solid union to make the Pistol run smooth.  With the departure of All-WAC performer Alonzo Durham, junior Steve Haley (6-5, 305) will need to step in at tackle.  Haley had the benefit of starting the final seven games and his experience there should help him this year.  Jeff Meads is projected to be the new Pack center.  Meads (6-3, 290, Jr.) came to Reno as a top recruit and has the versatility to also play guard if needed.  JC transfer Jordan Mudge (6-4, 300) will also battle hard for the starting center job.  The Bakersfield CC product is dependable and athletic.

Big bad John Bender (6-8, 325, Sr.) anchors the line at the strongside guard.  Bender presents an immovable wall in the middle of the Nevada line and is a postseason honors candidate.  Sophomore guard Chris Barker (6-4, 305) started every game as a redshirt freshman.  He is tough as nails and is the hope of the future on the Pack line.  Jose Acuna (6-6, 305, Sr.) is the heir-apparent at the other tackle position.  He is strong, tough and dependable.

Steve Werner (6-5, 310) has his sights set on being part of the mix at guard after his freshman season.  Werner is a quick learner that gives the Pack a solid run blocker. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Dontay Moch (6-1, 245) is as fine a pass rusher as they've seen in Reno and he returns for his senior year.  Moch was WAC Defensive Player of the Year after recording 61 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss.  Originally a linebacker, Moch has been able to utilize his quickness and athleticism to terrorize opposing backfield.  Senior Ryan Coulson will need to produce on the other side of the line to keep defenses honest.  He split time with Kevin Basped last year.  Coulson (6-3, 255) was credited with 26 tackles and 2.5 sacks in six starts last season.   

Junior tackles Zack Madonick (6-1, 285) and Brett Roy (6-4, 260) are trusted with stopping runs up the middle.  Madonick is better at stopping the run and he uses his 6-1 frame to get the leverage to drive his man back.  He had 26 tackles with five of them for loss and 1.5 sacks last season.  Roy has moved around on the line and will have to use technique to make his mark.

Mike Andrews (6-2, 275, So.) is a transfer from
Arizona Western College whose playing time increased as the year went on.  He can play any position on the line for the Pack.  Andrews considered Cincinnati , UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico State so he's a good prize for Ault.  .  Sophomore Mark Avery (6-4, 270) is quick and expected to become a fierce pass rusher in the middle. 

Jack Reynoso (6-3,275, So.) makes the move from the offensive side to give the tackle position some beef.  Redshirt freshmen Sam Foster will have one of the best in the country to learn from in Moch.  Foster (6-4, 250) is quick off the ball and is the man
Nevada coaches are eyeing to replace Dontay next season.

Brandon Marshall (6-1, 235, Jr.) manned the "Wolf" linebacker position last year and responded with 61 tackles with 9.5 of those for loss. 
Marshall has great range and quickness and will make the transition to the strong side in 2010.

JUCO transfer DeAndre Boughton (6-1, 215) will slide into Marshall 's spot.  Coaches will turn Boughton loose where they hope he can rack up tackles behind the line.  He's fast, zeroing in on his target and popping them.  Boughton is a key to Nevada 's hope for defensive improvement.  

Junior James-Michael Johnson (6-2, 240) will play in the middle.  Johnson was on the outside last fall where he made 56 stops and 11.5 tackles for loss.  He should excel as a run-stopper in the middle and also has nice pass coverage skills (five pass breakups and an interception).  

Albert Rosette (four tackles and a blocked punt in limited duty last year) will back up Johnson.  The 6-2, 225-pound sophomore is quick and physical.  Kaelin Burnett (6-4, 205, Jr.) and senior Adam Liranzo (6-4, 230) will back up Marshall on the strong side.  Burnett posted 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks while Liranzo made 11 tackles and recovered two fumbles last season.  Kevin Grimes (6-0, 205, Sr.) is built like a safety but is physical and a dependable tackler.  Grimes gained 15 pounds after making the transition from a defensive back.  

Wolf Pack coaches are counting on strong safety Duke Williams (6-1, 185) for solid improvement this fall.  Williams, who piqued the interest of a few Pac-10 schools as well as BYU, made 29 tackles in 2009 but needs to improve his pass coverage. 
Jonathan Amaya led
Nevada with 89 tackles while roaming the field as a free safety.  Amaya's replacement is another question mark for Nevada .  Corbin Louks appears to be the heir apparent.  Louks (6-2, 200, Jr.) was a quarterback at Utah before transferring to Reno .  Coaches are hoping that Louks, with his intelligence and great athletic ability, is the answer.

Junior cornerback Isaiah Frey (6-0, 190) will be one of the constants in the Wolf Pack secondary.  Frey only made 29 tackles and one interception despite starting 12 games, far below his potential.  Doyle Miller will start on the other side.  The 5-11, 185-pound senior's improvement led to earning a starting role for the final five games last year.  Miller recorded 33 tackles with a sack and six pass breakups. 
Ahmad Wood (5-11, 185) and Thaddeus Brown (5-11, 175) got a little action as true freshmen last season.  Brown has great quickness and may see the field in passing situations this fall.  Wood played mostly on special teams and will back up Miller.   
Dean Faddis (6-1, 190, So.) is a JUCO recruit who will likely see the field in 2010 in some capacity.
Senior Ricky Drake (6-0, 190) is
Nevada 's placekicker.  He developed consistency but his range is in question with his longest field goal being 40 yards.  Punter Brad Langley (6-0, 200) is also a senior and can bail the Pack out of trouble with booming high kicks.  Langley averaged 41.1 yards last year and placed 15 inside the 20.   

Junior college transfer Rishard Matthews (6-2, 215, Jr.) was recruited to improve the punt return game, which averaged .4 yards per return last year.  Mike Ball (5-10, 225, So.) is back after averaging 24.8 yards per kickoff return.

Nevada has the luxury of opening with three out-of-conference opponents in Reno. Needless to say, for the Pack to have the kind of season they want, they need to win all of them. Coach Ault's team opens with Eastern Washington, followed by Colorado State (a good preview of how Nevada will do in the Mountain West Conference) and California. Then, the Pack gets to test if they are a national player or not by traveling to BYU. They come back for another meeting with a future MWC foe--UNLV.

In the WAC, Nevada gets San Jose State, Utah State, New Mexico State and Boise State at home. If the Wolf Pack hasn't beaten BYU and California by the time they meet the Broncos, a win there wouldn't be anything more than an upset. But they should win the other three conference home games. Nevada travels this year to Hawai'i, Idaho Fresno State and Louisiana Tech. Those are all tough road games and will test the mettle of this team. A bowl game seems like a cinch for this team, that has a chance for a high national ranking if they can take care of business early.  



2010 Schedule


Sept. 2 Eastern Wash
Sept. 11 Colorado St
Sept. 17 California
Sept. 25 at BYU
Oct. 2 at UNLV
Oct. 9 San Jose St
Oct. 16 at Hawaii
Oct. 30 Utah State
Nov. 6 at Idaho
Nov. 13 at Fresno State
Nov. 20 New Mexico State
Nov. 26 Boise State
Dec. 4 at Louisiana Tech

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