2012 Nevada Preview – Offense
Nevada WR Brandon Wimberly
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Nevada Wolf Pack Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The Nevada offense will keep on being the Nevada offense. After an epic 2010 season there was supposed to be a drop-off – the Pack merely finished eighth in the nation in rushing and cranked out over 6,500 yards of offense while averaging close to 32 points per game. There are changes with new offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich more of a passing mind and with breakout star quarterback Cody Fajardo bulked up a bit and looking to throw more, but the running game will still rock with a slew of quick, talented backs working behind another strong line. The receiving corps is paper thin, but if Brandon Wimberly is back to form after missing all of last year recovering from a gunshot wound, and if tight end Zach Sudfeld can stay healthy, the passing game will be a positive.
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Cody Fajardo
Passing: Cody Fajardo
150-218, 1,707 yds, 6 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Cody Fajardo
128 carries, 694 yds, 11 TD
Receiving: Aaron Bradley
28 catches, 336 yds, 3 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore C Matt Galas
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Aaron Bradley
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Chris Barker
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Barker, 2) Fajardo, 3) OT Jeff Nady
Strength of the offense: Running, Efficient Passing
Weakness of the offense: Receiver Depth, Backup Quarterback Experience
The Wolf Pack had to try to go on without Colin Kaepernick, but the offense helped to showcase a new star in the making in Cody Fajardo, 6-2, 205-pound sophomore who was wanted by everyone in the WAC and Boise State but came through big for the Nevada offense. It took half the season before he took over the job from Tyler Lantrip, but he turned out to be just the catalyst the team needed finishing with 694 yards and a team-leading 11 touchdowns while completing 69% of his passes for 1,707 yards and six touchdowns, He threw six picks, but three came early on and one was taken away by Oregon in garbage time. Over the last seven games he threw just two interceptions while lighting up Hawaii for three touchdown passes and Louisiana
Tech for 110 rushing yards. A great athlete with a good passing touch, he’s just scratching the surface.
6-2, 190-pound redshirt freshman Tanner Roderick was the three-time Gatorade Montana Player of the Year in football and even won it once in basketball. Very quick and extremely athletic with a live arm, he’s a perfect fit for the Pistol offense and he should be a statistical star when he gets his shot. While he’s the second-best quarterback option, there’s a chance the coaching staff could turn to JUCO transfer Devin Combs in a pinch. The 6-2, 215-pound sophomore spent last year at Modesto JC and is ready to go out of the box. A running quarterback, he can step in and immediately crank out big numbers on the ground.
Watch Out For … the backup situation. Fajardo is unquestionably the main man, but he takes shots and he’ll likely miss time at some point, like he did late last year. Roderick is a great talent and Combs is ready if needed.
Strength: the Pistol offense. Kaepernick was a terrific star, but he was also able to shine in the perfect offensive system for his skills. The same went for Fajardo last season and any of the quarterback on the roster can step in and put up big numbers.
Weakness: Backup experience. Combs will be ready after spending last year at the JUCO level, but getting the reserves a little bit of garbage time is a must just to get their feet wet. Wolf Pack quarterbacks get beaten up a bit and there always has to be a contingency plan.
Outlook: Fajardo will put up All-America numbers with 1,000 yards rushing and 2,000 passing if he can stay healthy. He might not get to the level Kaepernick did during his heyday, but he’ll be fantastic. Roderick will be outstanding someday and Combs is as ready to roll as a third quarterback can be.
Unit Rating: 8
The top two running backs – Lampford Mark and Mike Ball – are gone, and now it’ll be a running back by committee situation with junior Stefphon Jefferson leading the pack. At 5-11 and 200 pounds he has good size and two years of experience rushing for 413 yards as a freshman and finishing fourth on the team last year with 429 yards and five scores averaging 6.1 yards per carry. While he has the size to run between the tackles, his game is about speed with home-run hitting potential. However, his longest run last year was just 27 yards.
5-10, 210-pound senior Nick Hale came over from the College of the Canyons and saw time in every game running for 105 yards in a reserve role, catching four passes for 34 yards, and serving as a key special teamer. Quick and tough, he can work inside or out, while 6-1, 225-pound redshirt freshman Tony Knight is a bit more of a power back. The Massachusetts native should be a given around the goal line and has workhorse potential.
Also in the rotation will be 5-9, 195-pound sophomore Kendall Brock, a great athlete who had several offers from lower-end BCS schools. Great around the edge and strong for his size, he’s a perfect fit for the Pistol offense and should be able to contribute big numbers when he gets his chances after averaging 7.8 yards per carry on his 13 carries. To get him on the field he’ll also work as a backup receiver at the outside X position.
Watch Out For … Jefferson. It’ll be a crowded backfield with the coaching staff always going with the hot hand, but Jefferson has the combination of skills and experience to be a 1,000-yard rusher if he gets the work. He’ll get the first crack to rise up from the bunch.
Strength: The rotation. Nevada uses several backs and always likes to spread things around, and this year won’t be any different. There might not be any one star in bunch, but any of the options could end up shining depending on the day.
Weakness: The top backs. This was supposed to be an issue going into last season and Lampford Mark and Mike Ball combined for over 1,600 yards with 13 scores and have to be replaced. Jefferson and the rest of the options will be fine, but they haven’t had to carry the load yet.
Outlook: It’s Nevada. The rushing numbers will be terrific. Four good backs will all get their chances, and even through QB Cody Fajardo will be one of the key pieces to the ground game, Jefferson, Hall and the others should be able to help the ground game rumble for well over 3,000 yards again. The rating is based on expected production more than talent.
Unit Rating: 7.5
The receiving corps has to deal with the big loss of 91-catch go-to receiver Rishard Matthews and No. 2 target Shane Anderson. Fortunately, senior Brandon Wimberly returns after missing all of last year recovering from a serious gunshot wound that damaged his colon and intestines. Whether or not he’s back to form is secondary after such a scare, but he’s ready to get back to football and take his spot at the outside X back after making 53 catches for 733 yards and six touchdowns in 2009 and 41 catches for 482 yards last year. At 6-3, and 210 pounds he’s big, extremely fast and potentially the star of the passing game if he can be close to 100%.
Blossoming as a true freshman was 6-1, 180-pound Aaron Bradley, who came up big as the season went on finishing third on the team with 28 catches for 336 yards and three scores highlighted by a seven-grab, 136-yard, three-score day in the blowout over Idaho. With phenomenal athleticism he was wanted by Kentucky and Kansas State, but he’ll be one of the biggest parts of the Nevada passing game for the next few years at the F.
5-9, 180-pound junior Joe Huber has mostly been a special teamer seeing time in just four games, but now he’ll get a long look at the Z position. He’s not going to be a major star, but he could be a reliable third down target, while 6-2, 220-pound sophomore Parker Vail is a Maryland transfer with excellent size and great athleticism. He can jump out of the stadium, but he has to prove he grow into a consistent target.
6-0, 205-pound sophomore Necho Beard saw a little bit of playing time as a receiver and on special teams catching one pass for four yards, and now he’ll see time behind Bradley at the F.
Senior tight end Zach Sudfield is a massive 6-7, 255-pound target who was supposed to play a big role last year but got hurt and only made a catch for three yards. A full-tilt worker with a great motor, he’s big, tough and has the potential to be a matchup nightmare if he can stay on the field. He was a superstar this offseason looking quick and ready to become the go-to guy in key situations. If he can stay in one piece then 6-3, 245-pound junior Kolby Arendse will be the main man again after finishing fourth on the team with 26 catches for 303 yards and a score. He’s a good athletic target who can work in two tight end sets and can become the main man at times for the passing game after growing into a role over the second half of last year.
Watch Out For … the return of Wimberly. He has vowed to be back to normal after his year off, but it’s asking for way too much to get the same speedster he was before getting shot. Also, before the injury he was coming off a disappointing sophomore campaign. Watch out for an ultra-committed player who could be the best comeback story in college football.
Strength: the offense. The Pistol attack always seems to create mismatches and gets receivers open. If Wimberly can be fine and if Sudfeld can stay healthy and Bradley can step up his play a bit, the base will be in play to make the passing game shine.
Weakness: Sure things. Can Wimberly regain his form? Can Sudfield stay on the field? Can Bradley be special? There weren’t many sure things going into last season’s receiving corps, but Rishard Matthews was a lock to have a big season. This year’s Wolf Pack passing game doesn’t have that.
Outlook: With the improved passing of Cody Fajardo and the return of Wimberly the receivers will be fine. The Pistol offense will find ways to get the top options in open spaces and there are some great pieces to make that happen. If everyone can stay healthy the potential is there for a huge year, but that’s a big if.
Unit Rating: 6
The offensive line continues to be terrific because of the system, the coaching and the style of play, and this year’s group should be even stronger. First-team all-star Chris Barker is back at left guard after living up to his promise and potential last season and doing even more last year. The 6-4, 305-pounder is a technician with decent size and great athleticism able to kick out on the move effortlessly while getting physical when he had to. He could’ve gone to a Pac-12 school and started, but he has grown into the anchor of the Wolf Pack front five.
Also back on the left side is senior Jeff Nady, a 6-7, 310-pound veteran who stayed healthy and held down the job over the last few seasons turning into a top pass protector and a consistent performer earning second-team All-WAC honors. Long, he’s tough to get around and is terrific at walling off his man. He’ll be backed up by 6-6, 305-pound sophomore Kyle Roberts, a promising understudy who saw a little bit of time, hit the weights hard, and should be a key part of the puzzle over the next few years.
Trying to anchor the line in the middle is Matt Galas, a short 6-1, 275-pound sophomore who saw time in two games but should be the quarterback up front for the next few years. Extremely quick, he’s able to get off the ball in a hurry and is the right fit for the offense with the smarts to get recruited hard by Stanford and Cal. He’ll be backed up by 6-3, 285-pound redshirt freshman Connor Talbott, who isn’t as talented but has more size. He could be moved to guard if needed.
6-3, 300-pound junior Alex Pinto ended up taking over a guard spot and now should come into his own. Quick and strong, he’s ready to do even more for the running game and he should be one of the team’s more consistent blockers. While he won’t be an all-star, he’ll be solid next to 6-4, 300-pound veteran tackle Joel Bitonio, a nice backup who turned into a good all-around blocker. Very tough and with great strength he’s great for the ground game.
6-6, 305-pound sophomore Kyle Roberts had his pick of Mountain West schools and should end up starting at tackle at some point, but he’ll spend this year as the understudy on the left side/weak tackle behind Jeff Nady. The talent is there; he just needs the time to get his chance after seeing time in just two games.
Watch Out For … Nady and Barker to dominate. They were WAC all-stars who have the experience and talent to become two of the best blockers in the Mountain West. They’re great on their own, but after working together for the last few years they should be phenomenal.
Strength: Quickness. “The Union” – the O line’s nickname – is always productive and always getting the skill players in positions where they can produce. This group can get out and spring the big plays when needed and they’re excellent in pass protection. This is a smart line that doesn’t make mistakes.
Weakness: Center. Jordan Mudge wasn’t an all-star, but he was a strong veteran who did a good job of holding things together. Galas is a talent, but he’s not as big and he might need a little bit of time to handle the work.
Outlook: The line wasn’t as good in 2011 as it was in 2010, but it did a great job considering all the inexperience in the backfield. As long as Galas does his job the line should be terrific with Barker a star to work around and Nady as strong as any tackle in the Mountain West. The depth might be lacking a bit, but new line coach Darren Hiller will have the line paving the way for at least 3,000 rushing yards again.
Unit Rating: 7
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