2013 Nevada Preview - Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Nevada Wolf Pack Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Don't expect anything to change. Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich is known for his days as a bomber in the high-octane Hawaii offense, but he's controlling the Wolf Pack's Pistol offense that needs a little retooling after cranking up 271 rushing yards per game, 515 total yards per outing and 38 points per game. Cody Fajardo should be among the Mountain West's best quarterbacks, and he has a nice receiving corps to work with led by veteran Brandon Wimberly. RB Stefphon Jefferson is gone, and now it's up to JUCO transfer Don Jackson to be ready to rock right out of the box behind a rebuilt line that's replacing three starters.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Cody Fajardo
Passing: Cody Fajardo
246-367, 2,786 yds, 20 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Cody Fajardo
190 carries, 1,121 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Brandon Wimberly
70 catches, 845 yds, 4 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore RB Don Jackson
Unsung star on the rise: Jackson
Best pro prospect: Senior WR Brandon Wimberly
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Fajardo, 2) Jackson, 3) Wimberly
Strength of the offense: The Pistol Offense, Fajardo
Weakness of the offense: Line Experience, Running Back Experience
How do you possibly replace Colin Kaepernick? Junior Cody Fajardo isn't as big, isn't as fast and doesn't have the same jaw-dropping arm, but the 6-2, 210-pounder is fast, smart and terrific at moving the offense. A hot prospect a few years ago, he has been a perfect fit for the Wolf Pack Pistol attack finishing second on the team with 981 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing 67% of his throws for 2,786 yards and 20 scores and nine picks. He'll take some big pops and it might not be a plus to carry the ball 20 times a game – he missed the UNLV win – but he's a playmaker with 304 yards and three touchdown passes against San Diego State the week after and pitched three scoring throws against New Mexico and Texas State before finishing up with a brilliant performance – two picks aside – in the thrilling bowl loss to Arizona.
Former JUCO transfer Devin Combs will be the No. 2 man after spending last season as the main backup. He stepped in when Fajardo went down and led the way to wins over Wyoming and UNLV to finish the year with 384 passing yards and four scores with 177 rushing yards and a touchdown – 111 of them coming against the Rebels. At 6-2 and 220 pounds the junior has good size and terrific running skills, and he showed last season that he's a solid short-to-midrange passer, too. The third man in the mix is 6-4, 220-pound redshirt freshman Tyler Stewart, another good-sized runner with a live arm and good leadership skills, taking his high school to the California state title as a senior.
Watch Out For … Dante Mayes. While he might not be a superstar recruit, the 6-2, 175-pound dual-threat prospect from California fits the mold. Very fast, he can take off and crank out big plays, but he's a pure passer who could sling it in a pro-style attack if needed.
Strength: Runners. Nevada has the right quarterbacks for the system. Everyone can run, everyone can throw and everyone can take the big shots like a running back. The system makes these guys, but these guys also make the system.
Weakness: Interceptions. It's not like they were a massive issue with ten spread out over the course of the season, but the Wolf Pack lost the two games – Fresno State and Arizona - when Fajardo threw two picks. Again, it's not a huge problem, but with all the attention defenses pay to the Pack ground game, it would be nice if the giveaways were kept to a bare minimum.
Outlook: The Mountain West is loaded with good quarterbacks, and Fajardo is one of them. As long as he can stay in one piece, he's a statistical superstar who can carry the offense by himself. In a perfect world he'll do more to spread the passes around so he doesn't have to run so much, but he'll be fantastic. Combs is a rock-solid backup.
Unit Rating: 8
Stephfon Jefferson is done after ripping off 1,703 yards and 22 touchdowns, and now it's the next up in the rotation with 5-10, 210-pound sophomore Don Jackson coming in from Iowa Western CC where he averaged 8.7 yards per pop with great home run hitting ability and the potential to crank out big yards in the system. Can he handle the ball 341 times like Jefferson? Probably not, he's a perfect fit who should be a lock for 1,000 yards if he stays healthy.
Also in the rotation will be 5-9, 195-pound junior Kendall Brock, who's part wide receiver and part running back. He had several offers from lower-level BCS schools and should be able to tear off yards in chunks. He only ran once for four yards, but he caught five passes for 69 yards and a score. Once again, he'll get on the field in some way, while 6-0, 210-pound Nate McLaurin will provide more thump. The former JUCO transfer from Grossmont College can catch as well as pound away a bit. Give him a hole and he'll come up with big yards, but now he needs time in the system.
Watch Out For … Jackson. The Wolf Pack only brought in one running back in its recruiting class, and he needs to be a good one. If he doesn't shine right away, it could be uh-oh time for the backfield.
Strength: The system. It doesn't matter who it is running the ball, Nevada's backs always crank out big, big yards and put up massive numbers. Jefferson had a special 2012 season finishing as the nation's second-leading rusher, but he was just a marginal talent.
Weakness: The backup situation. Yeah, Brock and McLaurin should fit, and it's the system that creates the big yards, but there could be a huge problem if Jackson isn't fantastic right out of the box.
Outlook: The numbers will be there no matter what. There was supposed to be a rotation last year, but it didn't happen with Jefferson handling the running back workload. Jackson might get carries until he drops, but Brock and McLaurin have to play a role. Combining with quarterback Cody Fajardo, Nevada will tear off over 3,000 rushing yards. The stats will be better than the players.
Unit Rating: 8
The passing game doesn't take a back seat to the great running game. Senior Brandon Wimberly is back after leading the team with 70 catches for 845 yards and four scores after missing all of 2011 recovering from a serious gunshot wound that damaged his colon and intestines. At 6-3 and 225 pounds he's very big, very fast and back to form in one of the best stories in college football. He didn't turn in a huge season as a scorer – with two touchdown catches against both San Diego State and New Mexico, and that was it – but he was steady as well as explosive.
Wimberly will work at the outside X position, while 5-11, 180-pound junior Richy Turner is back after finishing second on the team with 60 catches for 752 yards and three touchdowns. The former JUCO transfer from Fullerton College is shifty on the inside and is great at making things happen on the move as both a runner and a receiver. He'll work in a rotation with 5-11, 185-pound junior Joseph Huber, who only caught three passes for 44 yards and a score in an injury-plagued campaign, and he could grow into a reliable third down target in four-wide sets.
6-1, 200-pound junior Aaron Bradley turned in a nice freshman season with 28 catches and followed it up by finishing tied for third on the team with 45 grabs for 467 yards and four scores, highlighted by an eight-catch, 111-yard, one score day against Wyoming. Providing more bulk at the F position is 6-2, 225-pound sophomore Dominic Coulter, a Pac-12 caliber target with good athleticism and enough quickness to get by.
Tight end Zach Sudfeld is off to be a part of the fun with the New England Patriots, and now it'll be up to 6-3, 250-pound senior Kolby Arendse, a good receiver who came in from Mount San Antonio JC with great athleticism and deep ball skills. He caught 13 passes for 196 yards and a score, but with Sudfeld's 45 catches gone, the opportunities will be there to play a bigger role. He'll be backed up by 6-3, 265-pound senior Stephen Jeffers, who'll be more of a blocker and a factor around the goal line after catching two passes for six yards and a score in his limited role.
Watch Out For … Kaodi Dike and Travis Wilson, two solid new recruits who'll be tried out in several spots. The 6-2, 198-pound Dike is a speedster with a great combination of size and field-stretching speed. The cousin of NBA star Emeka Okafor could end up as a defensive back, while the 6-1, 200-pound Wilson could be a devastating kick and punt returner and could be used at times as a runner.
Strength: Experience. With the return of Wimberly and Turner, the Wolf Pack has two rock-solid veterans who know what they're doing. Everything will fill in around them.
Weakness: Tight end. Arendse should be a good one, but Sudfeld was a terrific talent who'll be missed. The Patriot led the team with six touchdown catches and was one of the team's most reliable targets.
Outlook: Helped by the experience of quarterback Cody Fajardo, the receiving corps should be terrific thanks to the extra year Wimberly gets and the emergence of Turner. As long as these two are averaging over 12 yards per catch and move the chains without a problem, all will be fine.
Unit Rating: 6
The system helps keep the quarterbacks clean and opens up huge holes for the ground game, but there's a little bit of work to do with three starters gone. The key returner is junior center Matt Galas, a 6-1, 280-pound veteran who might not be tall, but he's extremely quick, smart and able to handle all the line calls without a problem. Adding more size is 6-3, 300-pound Abel De Haro, a former JUCO transfer from Los Angeles Valley College who can play anywhere in the interior, spending last year as a backup.
Trying to replace all-star Jeff Nady at left tackle is 6-4, 315-pound senior Joel Bitonio, a good all-around blocker with terrific strength and the brutish ability to provide a big punch. While he's far better suited at guard, he'll be in charge of protecting Cody Fajardo's blindside after spending last season at right tackle. Stepping in for him on the other side is sophomore Connor Talbott, a 6-4, 290-pound pass blocker who might not be an elite talent, but he's quick and versatile with the potential to work at guard if needed.
Replacing longtime all-star Chris Barker at left guard will be an issue. 6-1, 305-pound redshirt freshman Jeremy Macauley will try to make the job his for the next four years with the frame to get good leverage and the strength to hold his own. A local product, he's ready to roll and grow into one of the team's anchors. Also looking to make a statement right away at right guard is 6-3, 290-pound sophomore Zach Brickell, a tackle-sized blocker who could move outside without a problem. With good feet, he'll be a typical Wolf Pack interior lineman.
Watch Out For … Ziad Damanhoury. The Pack came up with a nice haul of prospects for the line, and Damanhoury should be the best of the bunch. The 6-6, 290-pounder got away from San Diego State and should eventually be one of the team's key tackles. While he's tall, he gets low and gets nice leverage.
Strength: The system. The linemen don't have to plow over anyone and they don't have to get too physical. Get out quickly, wall off the man and keep moving. This group can do that.
Weakness: Nady and Barker. The all-stars formed a terrific left side that was among the steadiest in college football. Those two knew how to control the line and the offense, and while Bitonio and Macauley should be fine, they're not anywhere near as good.
Outlook: The line was supposed to be terrific last season, and it lived up to its billing with all the experience coming through to make the offense rock. Getting Galas back is a nice start, but it's going to take a while for "The Union" to be back up to snuff.
Unit Rating: 5.5
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