2007 Nevada Preview

Posted Jul 10, 2007

Preview 2007 Nevada Wolf Pack

Nevada Wolf Pack

Preview 2007

By Pete Fiutak

- 2007 Nevada Offense Preview | 2007 Nevada Defense Preview
- 2007 Nevada Depth Chart
| 2006 CFN Nevada Preview 

Under head coach Chris Ault, Nevada has carved out a nice niche for itself in the WAC world as a steady force that’ll always be in the hunt for the title. The co-champions of 2005 came back with another successful season beating up the teams they were supposed to and losing, for the most part, to the teams they were expected to. However, it might take a bit or rebuilding this year to get back to a third bowl in three seasons.

Long-time starting quarterback Jeff Rowe is gone along with top receiver Caleb Spencer and safety-valve tight end Anthony Pudewell. There’s enough talent to reload and be decent in the passing game, and the ground game should be good as always with three starters returning on the line along with pounding back Luke Lippencott, but is there enough in the offensive arsenal to keep up with Boise State, Hawaii, and even New Mexico State? How about in non-conference games against Nebraska and an improved Northwestern?  With Ault’s experience in knowing how to put together strong teams in a hurry, and with a rock-solid team returning in all phases, there just might be enough to challenge for the WAC title.

Head coach: Chris Ault
22nd year: 185-78-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 19, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best Pack Players
1. LB Ezra Butler, Sr.
2. C Dominic Green, Jr.
3. QB Nick Graziano, Soph.
4. LB Joshua Mauga, Jr.
5. NT Matt Hines, Sr.
6. LB Jeremy Engstrom, Sr.
7. WR Marko Mitchell, Jr.
8. DE Erics Clark, Sr.
9. OG Charles Manu, Sr.
10. RB Luke Lippincott, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Sept. 1

at Nebraska

Sept. 8

at Northwestern

Sept. 15

Nicholls State

Sept. 29


Oct. 6

Fresno State

Oct. 14

at Boise State

Oct. 20

at Utah State

Oct. 27


Nov. 2

at New Mexico St

Nov. 16


Nov. 24

at San Jose State

Dec. 1

Louisiana Tech

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 8-4

2006 Record:
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/1 at Fresno St L 28-19
9/9 at Arizona St L 52-21
9/16 Colorado State W 28-10
9/22 Northwestern W 31-21
9/30 at UNLV W 31-3
10/7 at Hawaii L 41-34
10/21 San Jose State W 23-7
10/28 New Mexico St W 48-21
11/4 at Idaho W 45-7
11/11 Utah State W 42-0
11/18 at La Tech W 42-0
11/25 Boise State L 35-7
12/31 MPC Computers Bowl
Miami L 21-20

Despite a perception that the “pistol” offense is about throwing the ball, Nevada is a hard-nosed, strong running team that’s as physical as any team in the conference. There might not be a better defense in the WAC, and no one outside of Boise State does all the little things right, so the hope has to be for the combination of a punishing ground game, efficient passing attack, tremendous return game and few mistakes to overcome a lack of explosion.

Ault has the system in place that’s taken the program from point A to point B, and while it might not be the WAC’s flashiest team (like Hawaii), or the new kid on the block everyone is talking about (like San Jose State), it has the potential, and the coaching, to take the next step and be the WAC’s best team from top to bottom.

What to watch for on offense: Mistakes to be kept to a minimum. The occasionally conservative aspect of the one-back, shotgun offense only works if there aren’t many mistakes. There were too many turnovers last year, but the 37 takeaways from the defense made up for them. Likely new starting quarterback Nick Graziano’s job one is to secure the ball. Job two is to keep feeding Lippencott.

What to watch for on defense: Pressure, more pressure, and turnovers. The 3-4 scheme wasn’t always a rock, but it crushed and killed the weaker, inefficient WAC offenses. Even though Boise State’s defense might have been the best in the league, no one got into the backfield like the Pack did and no one was as good at forcing mistakes. Even without top end J.J. Milan, the heat will keep on coming.

The team will be far better if … The punting game is better. This might be the team’s one true weakness. For a team that likes to take chances on defense and run the ball on offense, a good kicking game and better overall field position would be nice. Zacary Whited was decent, but the coverage unit didn’t do much to help him out.

The Schedule: The non-conference schedule is interesting with dates at Nebraska and Northwestern to go along with a home game against UNLV. If the Pack can win two of those three, it’ll be a success before starting off the WAC season with some of its biggest games hosting Fresno State and going to Boise State. Hawaii has to come to Reno, but Nevada has to go to San Jose State in late November before closing out with an apparent layup against Louisiana Tech.

Best Offensive Player: Junior C Dominic Green. After an All-WAC season at tackle, the 6-3, 295-pounder will move inside to his more natural center position where he started eight games as a freshman. Easily the team’s most versatile lineman, he’s also the best with an NFL future ahead of him.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Ezra Butler. A tackling machine with 146 stops in the last two seasons to go along with 12.5 sacks, Butler is the tone-setter for the defense and a consistent force in all areas. When needed, he can play like an extra defensive end, but he’s grown into a star linebacker.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Nick Graziano. Maybe. While Graziano has a little bit of experience as the third string quarterback last year, he’ll have to fight off redshirt freshmen Colin Kaepernick and Tyler Lantrip to hold on to the job. The 6-1, 220-pound Graziano is much smaller than the 6-5, 225-pound Jeff Rowe, who was the leader in the program’s resurgence, he has a better arm.

The season will be a success if ... Nevada gets back to a bowl game and finishes second in the WAC. While the fans and coaching staff will shoot for nothing less than a conference title, there might not be quite enough in the bag to get by road dates against Boise State and San Jose State.

Key game: Oct. 14th at Boise State. In a Sunday afternoon game, the Pack will try to make up for last year’s debacle getting thoroughly dominated at home by the Broncos. If Nevada can beat Fresno State to start the season, a win over the Boise would mean the WAC title will be there for the taking

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Nevada 37 for 232 yards – Opponents 26 for 171 yards
- Penalties: Opponents 86 for 731 yards – Nevada 55 for 438 yards
- Put return average: Nevada 13.6 yards – Opponents 7.9 yards


Related Stories
2007 Nevada Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 10, 2007
2007 Nevada Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 10, 2007
2007 Nevada Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 10, 2007

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