2014 Nevada Preview: What You Need To Know
Nevada RB Don Jackson
Nevada RB Don Jackson
Posted Jul 22, 2014

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2014 Nevada Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Nevada Preview  

What You Need To Know About The Offense: It wasn’t nearly as deadly and effective as it was over the last few years under Chris Ault, but the Pistol stuck around and the results weren’t that bad under offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich. The backfield should be outstanding as long as QB Cody Fajardo can stay in one piece and the quick veteran backs can get a little room to move. Losing top target Brandon Wimberly is a problem, but Richy Turner should be fine as Fajardo’s No. 1 man. The line was banged up all offseason, but in a good way, that allowed the depth to develop. When everyone is right, this should be a solid front five, but it might take a little while for everything to come together.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: Absolutely disastrous last year, the defense should be far better with a good group of veterans returning for new defensive coordinator, Scott Boone, who led the FCS’s No. 2 D at William & Mary last year. Expect a far more aggressive, attacking style that goes for more gamechanging plays utilizing primarily a cover-2 style. The pass defense was awful, the run defense worse, and there weren’t enough big stops against the better offenses in the Mountain West giving up 505 yards and 34 points per game. DE Brock Hekking should be among the nation’s top pure pass rushers, and corners Charles Garrett and Evan Favors are far better than last year’s stats would indicate.

Players You Need To Know

1. DE Brock Hekking, Sr.
One of the few bright spots on an otherwise miserable defense, the 6-4, 255-pound all-star came up with 48 tackles with nine sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss – the rest of the team generated just 12 sacks. Extremely quick off the ball, he’s always going full tilt and he doesn’t take a play off with a motor that never quits. Unlike 2012, when he got off to a tremendous start and then was taken out by offenses that loaded up to stop him, he was steady generating a sack in six of the final nine games with two against San Jose State and Hawaii. However, he made 75 stops two years ago, and like the rest of the defense he needs to do more against the run.

2. QB Cody Fajardo, Sr.
Is was Fajardo’s job to replace Colin Kaepernick two years ago, and he did his job doing a great job of moving the offense with 981 rushing yards and 11 scores to go along with 2,786 yards through the air with 20 scores. A playmaker, he moves well, is creative, and finds ways to make big things happen, but he’s not huge at 6-2 and 215 pounds and he takes shots. He missed a few games last year hurt, but he did his part trying to keep pace to make up for a defense that couldn’t stop anyone, finishing completing 68% of his passes for 2,633 yards and 13 touchdowns with just three picks. More of a passer last season, he still did his job taking off when needed, finishing second on the team with 621 yards and eight scores. When he was on, he was dangerous, running for 104 yards and a score against San Jose State and 106 and two scores in the opener against UCLA, but the key to the season might be keeping him healthy.

3. CB Charles Garrett, Sr.
The pass defense was a disaster, and Garrett has to make more big plays to help change that. A strong, good tackler, he’s 5-11 and 205 pounds with safety-like hitting ability in the open field, making 57 tackles with a pick and five broken up passes. Steady, he needs to be more sensational against the better passing teams. Able to play anywhere in the secondary, he came up with ten broken up passes two years ago, he can work as a nickel or dime defender as well as a possible shutdown corner – he has the tools and the experience to start erasing the opposing top target.

4. RB Kendall Brock, Sr.
Expected to be part of a rotation, Brock ended up being the main man for the running game leading the team with 812 yards and ten scores to go along with ten catches for 56 yards. Not a power back but really, really quick, he’s a tough 5-9 and 195 pounds and can tear off yards in chunks. A talent, he had several offers from lower-level BCS schools, and he has the potential and skill to put up huge numbers with a little more work and more room to move. He came up with 116 yards and two scores against UC Davis, and ran for 112 yards and three touchdowns against San Diego State, but his workload slowed down late, not carrying the ball more than 18 times in any of the final six games.

5. LB Jonathan McNeal, Sr.
The former JUCO transfer from Santa Monica CC has great athleticism and tremendous range, leading the team with 103 tackles with a sack and four tackles for loss. At 6-1 and 235 pounds, he’s a short, compact hitter who was in on just about everything. Now he has to make more plays at the point of attack and not so many tackles down the field. With 15 stops against San Jose State and 25 in a two-game stretch against Boise State and UNLV, he’s a proven defender who cleaned things up the line didn’t get to. He’ll lead the team in stops again, and now he needs to start getting into the backfield more.

6. RB Don Jackson, Jr.
Never quite right after suffering an ankle injury, the 5-10, 210-pounder finished third on the team with 332 yards and four scores, doing his best work against San Jose State late in the year with 80 yards and a score on 11 carries. When he’s right, the former top recruit from Iowa Western CC has the ability to be a top home run hitter who could put up massive numbers in the old Nevada rushing system. Give him room to run and he’ll fly through the open space.

7. WR Richy Turner, Sr.
With Brandon Wimberly and his 97 catches from last year gone, now it’s up to the 5-11, 180-pound Turner to be the main target after finishing second on the team with 61 catches for 755 yards and four scores. He’ll get the call at the outside X position with great speed and good experience, starting out his career at Fullerton College before coming in and catching 60 balls in 2012. When he’s on, he’s a gamechanger coming up with 136 yards against UC Davis, 111 against San Diego State, and making eight catches for 149 yards and a score in the loss to UNLV.

8. CB Evan Favors, Sr.
Mostly a special teamer early on in his career, Favors turned into a key starter making 43 stops with a pick and four broken up passes. At 6-0 and 185 pounds he has decent size to go along with the speed to be the team’s No. 1 corner at times. Two years removed from a broken leg, he has the quickness and suddenness to do far more when the ball is in the air.

9. DT Rykeem Yates, Jr.
While he’s not that massive for an interior presence, the 6-2, 270-pound veteran can move a little bit in the interior – not he has to be stronger and better against the power running teams. He came up with 38 tackles with a sack, but with his experience and strength, he has the potential to do far more – the power and explosion off the ball are there to be far tougher against the run.

10. PK Brent Zuzo, Soph.
He wasn’t expected to take over the kicking job last season, but he eased into it with several short shots over the first few games before hitting a 44-yarder against San Diego State. He nailed his first 11 field goals on the year, but he got one block missing from 54 and 37 against Colorado State, and he missed a 38-yarder against BYU. While he doesn’t have a massive range, he connected on all five of his tries between 40-and-49 yards away – he’ll hit a few 50-yarders this year.

- 2013 Nevada Preview