In order for the Tampa 2 to really shine, what's needed is both speed rushing linemen who can get up the field in a hurry and big, physical defensive tackles who can draw more than one blocker, leaving the rest of the defensive linemen in one-on-one situations. Nevada has the pass rushing ends who can get up the field in Senior Brock Hekking as well as Juniors Ian Seau and Lenny Jones. What appears to have been missing are a few big bodies in the middle to eat up those extra blockers, or a few more of those big bodies for depth.
There were flashes of what the Wolf Pack's defense could be in the 1st half of games last year, but almost without fail, the defense imploded in the 2nd half. According to Football Outsider's efficiency stats, no other team in the nation showed a bigger difference in defensive efficiency between the 1st and 2nd halves last season. If you just looked at the first half of games, the Wolf Pack defense looked pretty good; but coming out of half time, it was a horror show.
Nevada won a lot of 1st halves last season; in order to improve that win total and have a prayer of competing for the MWC title, they are going to have to win the 2nd half as well, or at least hold their ground.
The question becomes, what's the cause of those 2nd half collapses? Is it an inexperienced head coach being out maneuvered coming out of the half? Perhaps; but if that's the case, one would have to give him credit for coming in with a game plan that had Nevada looking pretty good in the 1st halves of games as well.
It could be, and likely is, a combination of things, but it's very likely a result of a lack of size and depth on the defensive line.
The Tampa 2 defense, that Nevada's 2nd year defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton adheres to, relies on a ferocious pass rush to create havoc in the rushing game and mistakes in the passing game. In order to achieve that rush, it tends to rely on those smaller, quicker defensive ends who can get up field in a hurry. The problem with that, is smaller defensive linemen can be pushed around by big, physical offensive lines, especially in the running game, and as a game goes on, their speed can start to be negated by simple fatigue.
Nevada is tops in the Mountain West for returning starters at 18 and loses only 1 from the defensive side of the ball, DT Jack Reynoso. Standouts returning are defensive ends Brock Hekking, Ian Seau and Lenny Jones; as well as 2 very experienced defensive tackles in Jordan Hanson and Rykeem Yates.
Additonal players who could make an immediate impact are redshirt freshman Kevin Sundberg (6-2 279lb), who was the defensive scout team player of the year this past season. JC transfer Jeremy Miller (6-0 290lb) out of Tyler Junior College in Texas could also compete for immediate playing time on the interior of the line.
The 3 players Nevada has verbal commitments from and, if all goes as planned, will sign letters of intent on Feb. 5th, are two highly touted defensive ends Patrick Choudja (6-3 225) and Korey Rush (6-3 260lb). Choudja and Rush are a pass rushing tandum that could be making MWC QB's lives miserable for years to come. The last new recruit the Wolf Pack is hoping to sign is Hawaii's Kalei Meyer (6-2 265lb), a prototypical Tampa 2 defensive tackle who, if he plays as advertised, should provide a much needed lift to Nevada's run defense.
| Defensive Ends
|@ Beau Hershberger||DE||6-2||230||RS-FR||RS|
|# Patrick Choudja||DE||6-3||225||FR||HS|
|# Korey Rush||DE||6-3||260||FR||HS|
| Defensive Tackles
|@ Kevin Sundberg
|@ Jeremy Miller
|# Kalei Meyer
@ = Returning redshirt player or mid-year addition
# = Verbal commitment expected to sign
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