2012 Nevada Preview - Life In the M-West
Nevada LB Jeremiah Green
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Nevada Wolf Pack
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2012 Week 1 Opponent 2012
Now it's payoff time after years of making a big move forward.
Head coach: Chris Ault
28th year: 226-103-1
Off. 15, Def. 15, ST 1
Ten Best Nevada Players
1. QB Cody Fajardo, Soph.
2. G Chris Barker, Sr.
3. OT Jeff Nady, Sr.
4. TE Zach Sudfeld, Sr.
5. WR Brandon Wimberly, Sr.
6. RB Stefphon Jefferson, Jr.
7. S Duke Williams, Sr.
8. CB Khalid Wooten, Sr.
9. LB Jeremiah Green, Sr.
10. WR Aaron Bradley, Soph.
Sep. 1 at California
Sep. 8 South Florida
Sep. 15 Northwestern State
Sep. 22 at Hawaii
Sep. 29 at Texas State
Oct. 6 Wyoming
Oct. 13 at UNLV
Oct. 20 San Diego State
Oct. 27 at Air Force
Nov. 3 OPEN DATE
Nov. 10 Fresno State
Nov. 17 at New Mexico
Nov. 24 Boise State
Nevada made a big jump up with a 13-1 2012 and wasn't all that bad in a rebuilding 2011 going 7-6 with a bowl appearance. After moving from the Big West to the WAC in 2000, now the Wolf Pack gets a shot in a bigger spotlight as – depending on what Boise State ends up finally doing - the bright shining star of the new Mountain West.
Hall of Fame head coach Chris Ault has his Pistol offensive system that continues to rock and roll to the point where recruits are picking Nevada because they want to play in it. The running attack continues to be among the most devastating in college football, while the passing game has been ultra-efficient over the last few seasons.
The defense hasn't been up-to-snuff compared to the offense, but Ault always gets tremendous athletes who run through a wall to make plays. All the D has to do is hold up just enough so the O can do its thing, but now that might be a bit tougher in a better conference.
It's not exactly like TCU moving from the Mountain West to the Big 12, or Boise State possibly jumping ship to the Big East – that's still a question mark, by the way – but Nevada going to the Mountain West is a strong move forward for a program that hasn't been able to make much of a national splash outside of the great 2010 season. But will winning the Mountain West mean anything more than winning the WAC a few years ago?
The dream is to become another Utah and end up making the big move to the Pac-12, but the only way that gets on the radar is by winning and winning some more. It'll take a few more great years to be in the BCS conference hunt, but the system is in place to continue to improve.
The offense that needed so many big replacements last year was great. QB Cody Fajardo stepped up as a freshman and showed he's ready to be the star of the show for the next three seasons, and there's a good chance he could be the Mountain West's signature star. He has a great line to work behind, a promising group of receivers – if everyone stays healthy – and a good group of starving running backs who are waiting to be fed the ball.
The defense has veterans in the defensive backfield and athletes up front, but the blend has to come together with more big plays and tougher stops against the run. The Wolf Pack has just enough in the bag on defense to come up with a few stops here and there, and that's all it'll need to do with the offense about to explode for more than 6,000 yards again.
And now it's time for Ault to enjoy the success.
The program he built up continues to progress forward, and while several teams try to copy the style and success, no one seems to able to run the spread-like attack quite the same way. Because of it, the Mountain West is about to get a lot more fun.
What to watch for on offense: Even more from the passing game. Cody Fajardo got whacked around a bit on the ground last year like Nevada quarterbacks always do, but he also showed good toughness throughout the second half of the season and proved he could wing it around a little bit, too. Enter new offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich, who famously stepped in and threw for a baziilion yards for Hawaii in the 2000s. He's not going to abandon the run or the Ault Pistol attack, but he will try to add more to the passing attack and Fajardo will be happy to oblige. With Brandon Wimberly back after missing all of last year recovering from a gunshot wound, and with tight end Zach Suffold healthy again after suffering a broken leg, the passing attack will work just fine.
What to watch for on defense: The veteran secondary. The pass rush needs to emerge from a few unlikely sources up front, and the linebacking corps needs time and a whole bunch of seasoning considering three seniors will be starting, but the secondary could be a rock. Everyone can tackle and everyone can move, and now it all has to combine with the experience of seven seniors and on JUCO transfer in the rotation to start making more plays. The interceptions have to start coming after losing top corner Isaiah Frey, while the entire secondary will have to make up for the lack of proven pass rusher up front.
The team will be far better if … the secondary holds up on a consistent basis. The offense is going to do its job meaning the opposing attacks will have to keep bombing away over and over again to try to keep up. When the defensive backfield does its job the Wolf Pack almost always wins. Last year Nevada was 5-0 when it was able to hold teams to one touchdown pass or fewer with all five wins ugly blowouts. While it gave up three touchdown passes to both Fresno State and New Mexico State and won, it was 2-6 when allowing two scores or more. To expand a bit, in the great 2010 season Nevada's only loss came when it allowed three touchdown passes to Hawaii but went 13-0 when allowing two touchdown passes or fewer.
The schedule: The Wolf Pack will get tested early on with a trip to Cal and a date with South Florida to kick things off. There's a stretch of three road games in four weeks, but they're winnable going to Hawaii, Texas State, and UNLV. Missing Colorado State doesn't help, but getting San Diego State, Fresno State and Boise State at home is a break. If the Pack wants to win the Mountain West, this is the schedule for it.
Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Cody Fajardo. He had the impossible task of having to step in halfway through last year and shine, and he had the even tougher job of trying to be another Colin Kaepernick. He's not as big as the San Francisco 49er, and he doesn't have the same arm, but he bulked up over the last year to handle the rigors of running the Pistol attack and he's concentrating more on being a more effective passer. He wasn't that bad before completing 69% of his passes while running for 694 yards and 11 scores, and if all goes according to plan he'll be a statistical superstar now that he knows what he's doing.
Best defensive player: Senior S Duke Williams. He might not have done enough against the pass and he might be a bit leaky at times against the stronger runners, but he's a good-hitting safety with nice range and enough size to hold up. The team's leading returning tackler made 83 stops last year but only came up with one pick. With a slew of veterans around him he might not have to take many chances, but he'll be a steady hitter and a tone-setter.
Key player to a successful season: Anyone on the defensive line. Seven seniors will be starting in the Nevada defensive back seven, and the last thing they want to do is spend all their time dealing with cleaning up the mess left by the green front four. More than that, they don't want to have to be counted on for a pass rush. Tackle Brett Roy and his ten sacks are gone, as is Kaelin Burnett and his five sacks. The rest of the Wolf Pack D came up with nine sacks and the returning line didn't account for much of them. It'll be a work in progress to find the next great Wolf Pack pass rusher.
The season will be a success if … Nevada wins the Mountain West title. If all goes according to plan and Fajardo and the offense do what they're supposed to, and if the defense can be merely adequate, it'll be a shocker if the Wolf Pack gets tripped up by anyone in the league other than Air Force or Boise State. The battle with the Falcons is on the road and should be an interesting contrast in running games, while the Boise State showdown in the season finale at home. If Nevada wins those two, or at least beats Boise State, a ten-win season will be more than likely.
Key game: Oct. 27 at Air Force. Boise State is obviously the bigger deal, but the Air Force game should set the tone for the finishing kick making the final game in Reno matter. Going to Hawaii is never fun – at least on the field – but the Pack should be able to handle that, meaning the only other conference road game to worry about in any way will be against the Falcons. With a week off to follow, if Nevada can come out of Fort Collins with a win it'll get time to rest up before Fresno State, a trip to New Mexico, and then the final showdown against the Broncos.
2011 Fun Stats:
- Opponent 1st Quarter Score: 43 – Opponent 2nd Quarter Score: 117
- Rushing Yards Per Game: Nevada 247.5 – Opponents 147.4
- Time of Possession: Nevada 34:32 – Opponents 25:28
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