Preview 2017: Nevada Wolf Pack
Previewing and looking ahead at the Nevada Wolf Pack season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Nevada Offense
It’s going to to be high-powered and interesting – at least in theory.
The program that made the Pistol offense such a big deal for a while – at least in Nevada – will change things up under the new coaching staff from a run-first attack to bombing away with the Air Raid style under offensive coordinator Matt Mumme. If that name sounds familiar, it’s the son of Hal Mumme, who cranked up the O for Kentucky several years ago.
There’s a deep group of quarterbacks to work with, but it’s almost certainly going to be Alabama transfer David Cornwell taking over the reins. Last year’s starter Ty Gangi can play, too.
The biggest winners in the new offense are the receivers, with veterans Wyatt Demps and Andrew Celis leading a diverse group of targets. But one of the most dangerous receivers is RB James Butler, who’ll balance out the attack a little bit – it’s not all going to be about winging it around.
Just two starters are back up front, but tit’s still a veteran group with a few JUCO transfers playing a big role. The depth will be a problem – along with the change of style – but there’s size.
Biggest Key To The Nevada Offense
Really, how fast can the personnel adapt to the new attack? The Wolf Pack could throw a little bit last season, but it wasn’t a juggernaut, throwing for 208 yards per game but doing the best work when the ground game was rolling.
Cornwell is a good talent who’s finally getting his shot, and with Demps, Celis and Butler, there are playmakers. But there’s a total philosophical change happening – it’s not like flipping a switch.
What You Need To Know About The Nevada Defense
For good and bad, the Wolf Pack return loaded with experience. Five of the top six and 18 of the top 20 tacklers are back – that’s the good. The bad? They were awful last season.
New defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has to revamp the nation’s worst run defense, with Change One coming with a new 3-3-5 scheme.
All the starters return up front, and now with only three down linemen, there’s going to be a strong rotation around Malik Reed, the team’s best pass rusher.
Leading tackler Alex Bertrando is gone, but the rest of the linebackers are back. In this defense, the outside options have to attack, attack, attack. This group might not be a rock against the run, but it’ll be more aggressive.
The secondary didn’t got spared at times throughout last season – mainly because offenses spent so much time running the ball. Safeties Asauni Rufus and Dameon Baber are good ones who’ll make a whole slew of big tackles again – they finished second and fourth on the team in stops, respectively. However, there have to be more picks – the Wolf Pack came up with just five.
Biggest Key To The Nevada Defense
There have to be more plays behind the line. The run defense that got destroyed in game after game didn’t help its own cause – there wasn’t much happening in the backfield.
The Wolf Pack came up with a mere 55 tackles for loss and a pathetic 13 sacks – with seven of those coming in a two-game stretch against San Jose State and Wyoming. That should change with the new coaches and style.
Nevada Will Be Far Better If …
The new offensive style can start scoring. Even with all the returning experience, and even with the change in coaches and defense, the Nevada D will still be a wee bit lacking – the Pack will still have to win shootouts.
Last year, the Pack scored 17 points or fewer five times, and lost all five games. A stronger O would’ve been enough to beat San Jose State – at least – and there’s the sixth win, and there’s the bowl. Just score, and the wins will come.
Best Nevada Offensive Player
RB James Butler, Sr. – The star of the offense for the last few years, the 5-9, 210-pound veteran has always been a dangerous, slashing runner, but he turned into more of a receiver with 37 catches for 381 yards and three scores to go along with 1,336 rushing yards and 12 scores.
Great things happened when he got into a groove – Nevada went 5-1 when he ran for 100 yards or more. While his workload and role might change in the new offense, he’ll have a few massive games when he gets to rip through some wide open holes.
2. OT Austin Corbett, Sr.
3. QB David Cornwell, Jr.
4. WR Wyatt Demps, Sr.
5. C/G Sean Krepsz, Jr.
Best Nevada Defensive Player
DE Malik Reed, Jr. – One of the few positives from the woeful defensive front, the 6-1, 245-pound Reed earned All-Mountain West honors with a terrific year. He came up with 59 tackles with five sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss – there wasn’t much of anything happening in the backfield when he wasn’t making plays.
Short, but extremely quick and active, he’s always energized and he’s always working – but all five of his sacks came in a midseason four-game span. He’s an end, but in this defense he’ll be used at times as more of a hybrid on the outside.
2. S Asauni Rufus, Jr.
3. S Dameon Baber, Jr.
4. LB Gabe Sewell, Soph.
5. S Jaden Sawyer, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB David Cornwell, Jr. – A star recruit for Alabama in 2014, he looked like the new star of the show with great size, next-level passing skills, and impressive mobility for a quarterback of his size.
A pure pro-style quarterback, he fits everything the new Air Raid offensive style wants to do. Now he’s getting his shot. He wasn’t going to be a part of the Crimson Tide attack with Jalen Hurts owning the spot, but this will be his offense to run for the next few years. If he’s great, Nevada becomes an X factor in the Mountain West.
The Nevada Season Will Be A Success If …
It wins seven games in a bowl season. With a new coaching staff, a more dangerous offense, and a defense that can’t be any worse, the Wolf Pack should be at least one win better – that gets them to a bowl game. Beat Idaho State, Fresno State, Hawaii, San Jose State and UNLV – all home games against the Fresno date – and there’s a five-win base.
Take down a Toledo, or an Air Force, and/or pull off an upside at home, and they’ve got it. However, there’s no margin for error with road games at Northwestern, Washington State, Colorado State Boise State and San Diego State – Nevada will be the underdog in all five games. That’s why …
Key Game To The Nevada Season
Sept. 9 vs. Toledo – Nevada won’t be good enough to win the West, but in the first year under the new coaching staff, it needs to be in the hunt for a winning season – at least. Toledo might have the MAC’s best team, but it has to come to Reno for the Nevada home opener. This is when the Air Raid attack will be unleashed for the fans, and it could rock the Rocket secondary.
2016 Nevada Fun Stats
– Nevada 3rd Quarter Scoring: 39 – Nevada 4th Quarter Scoring: 103
– Rushing Yards: Opponents 3,571 – Nevada 2,088
– Fumbles: Opponents 20 (lost 10) – Nevada 7 (lost 2)