The continued emergence of Hassan HendersonHassan Henderson is poised for break out season. The 6-5 sophomore came on strong at the end of the 2013 season, catching 23 passes over the final 4 games. He is a BIG target with great athleticism and hands. He’s the Wolf Pack’s 2nd leading returning receiver behind Senior Richy Turner. Henderson has quickly become a favorite target of Fajardo in the gold zone on jump curl and fade routes.
Left tackle Austin Corbett making his first startLeft tackle is often called the second most important position in football behind quarterback. The left tackle is responsible for safe guarding the QB’s blindside (they made a movie about it). Last season it was held down by Joel Bitonio, who was drafted in the second round by the Cleveland Browns. This season, they are handing the reigns to red-shirt freshman local product Austin Corbett who put on substantial weight and strength in the off-season. Coach Brian Polian has had high praise for Corbett since last Spring and has said he’s handled himself well, blocking Brock Hekking every down in practice. Keep an eye on how well #73 handles his man in keeping pressure off of quarterback Cody Fajardo.
Even more up-tempo with new play calling systemIt’s doubtful the Wolf Pack will open up their playbook much, so as not to reveal too much to upcoming opponents Washington St. and Arizona. However, the team has been using a new system for communicating play calls from the sideline to increase the tempo of the offense. You’ll likely see a few poster boards being held up with various photos, words or symbols. It’s a system borrowed from former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly and allows the offensive players to quickly look over at the sidelines to get the play call, taking a few precious seconds off the time it takes to run a play.
Pass rush and run defenseOn paper, Nevada has one of the more talented and experienced defensive line units in the country. In practice, the Wolf Pack had one of the worst run defenses in the nation last season and failed to get meaningful pressure on the quarterback in key situations. The linebackers and safeties also often struggled with gap assignment leading to big gains on the ground. Nevada’s new defensive coordinator, Scott Boone, has a reputation for being aggressive, dialing up a blitz here and there. If Nevada is to up their win total in 2014 the biggest improvement must be made against the run.
The search for the next Nevada backDon Jackson has the physical tools to be an every down back for Nevada, the question is can he stay healthy. The staff has a solid running back in Jackson but if he is to be a weapon in the Pistol offense he’ll need to stay healthy and improve on his 4.0 yards per carry average. The staff felt comfortable enough with him and true freshman James Butler that they moved last year’s leading rusher Kendall Brock to backup wide receiver.
What are you looking forward to seeing?
Neil Henderson can be reached via Twitter.