Nevada football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Wolf Pack, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About Nevada’s Offense
The Wolf Pack ground game worked last season, but the passing game wasn’t consistent or efficient enough to balance out the attack. This time around, the Pistol offense will still get the running game moving without a problem. There should also be more of a passing game, with all the top targets returning along with quarterback Tyler Stewart working behind a line that gets four starters back. For all intents and purposes, ten starters return to what should be a far more dangerous and far better offense overall.
Key To The Nevada Offense
The passing game needs to be more consistent. The ground attack will be just fine, but the Wolf Pack only managed 200 yards or more through the air five times, and the production was sporadic. Tyler Stewart did a nice job overall for what the offense needed him to do, but now he has to use his size, his arm, his experience, and his veteran receivers to be more explosive. All the top receivers are back, almost everyone returns up front, and all the pieces are there to be better. Now the production has to follow.
What You Need To Know About Nevada’s Defense
Compared to recent years, the defense was powerhouse doing a nice job against the good passing teams and not coming up with a totally miserable season against the run. This season the 4-3 needs seven new starters, especially up front especially on the outside to generate a pass rush to replace Ian Seau and Lenny Jones. The secondary gets back four starters from a good group that didn’t allow a passing touchdown in the final three games and held up well. Again, though, it’s all about the front seven and finding new steady starters.
Key To The Nevada Defense
Where’s the pass rush going to come from? All seven starters are gone from the defensive front seven that was just okay at getting into the backfield, but not great. Ten sacks and 18.5 of the team’s 71 tackles for loss came from Ian Seau, but it’s more than that. Just three of Nevada’s 25 sacks return and it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of creativity to match last year’s relative success. With the offense Nevada should crank up, the defense doesn’t have to be amazing; it just has to be okay.
Nevada Football Will Be Far Better If …
The running game always works. Yes, yes, yes, the Nevada passing game needs to be more consistent and has to start hitting more big plays considering all the talent and experience returning, but Nevada wins when it’s dominating on the ground. Nevada threw for over 200 yards just five times last year, but that was when it had to – losing four of those games because the rushing attack was slowed down, or the game was getting out of hand and the offense had to throw to keep up. Run the ball, control the clock, keep the defense off the field – that’s what the Wolf Pack have to do.
Best Offensive Player
RB James Butler – Nevada will always split the carries among the running backs, but this year it’ll be Butler who does most of the heavy lifting with Don Jackson done. Butler was the more explosive of the two, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, and he has the quickness and flash to be exactly what the offense needs. Quarterback Tyler Stewart needs to be the offense’s biggest star, but Butler will be the main man.
Best Defensive Player
S Dameon Baber – The secondary will have to shine right out of the gate with all the new starters in the defensive front seven, and it has a star in Baber to work around. Not only is he a strong hitter and sure tackler – making 65 stops in his freshman campaign – but he was the right free safety for the system picking off six passes. He’s got decent size, excellent speed, and great athleticism – he’s a do-it-all defender who does a little of everything right.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DE Malik Reed – Or someone, anyone to step in and dominate from one of the end spots. Reed spent most of last year as the key backup behind Ian Seau, and he saw a little bit of starting time finishing with 18 tackles with a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss. The 6-1, 245-pound Alabama native is built more like an inside linebacker, but he’s quick off the ball and has the upside to be a top pass rusher. At least that’s what Nevada needs.
The Season Will Be A Success If …
The Wolf Pack win eight games. For a program stuck in the land of 7-6 for four of the last five years, winning eight would be terrific. They’re probably not going to be strong enough to win the Mountain West title, but they can beat Cal Poly, Buffalo, Hawaii, Fresno State, San Jose State, Wyoming and UNLV – that’s seven wins right there. Even if they lose one of those, they can beat a Utah State, a Purdue, or come up with an upset over San Diego State at home. The schedule isn’t that bad.
Nov. 12 vs. San Diego State. There’s no Boise State on the schedule. There’s no Air Force or Colorado State from the Mountain division, either. With a manageable overall slate, if the Wolf Pack can just win the games they’re supposed to, the home date with San Diego State could be for the West title. With losses in three of the last four years in the series, a win over the Aztecs would buck the trend.
Fun Stats From 2015
– Penalties: Opponents 81 for 720 yards – Nevada 68 for 608 yards
– Onside Kicks: Nevada 2-for-3 – Opponents 0-for-1
– Fourth Down Conversions: Opponents 10-of-16 (62%) – Nevada 9-of-20 (45%)