2007 Nevada Preview - Defense
Nevada Wolf Pack Defense
Nevada Wolf Pack
Preview 2007 - Defense
2007 Nevada Preview
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2007 Nevada Depth
2006 CFN Nevada Preview
What you need to know: There will be some new defensive
coaches taking over with coordinator Ken Wilson keeping the 3-4
scheme to take advantage of the great linebackers. Ezra Butler,
Jeremy Engstrom, and Joshua Mauga are as good as any trio in the
WAC, and will be the team's strength. The line is solid, helped
by the emergence of nose tackle Matt Hines as a top all-around
playmaker. The secondary is fine, but nothing special; the
better WAC passing games won't have a problem against it.
Tackles: Ezra Butler,
Ezra Butler, 7.5
Interceptions: Joshua Magua, 3
Star of the defense: Senior LB Ezra Butler
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
LB Kevin Porter
Unsung star on the rise: Junior SS Uche Anyanwu
Best pro prospect: Butler
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Butler, 2) LB Joshua
Mauga, 3) NT Matt Hines
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, overall experience
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: The front three should be fine as long as
junior Mundrae Clifton turns into a player at the end. In a
limited role, the 292-pounder made seven tackles, and with his size
should be considered a third tackle as opposed to a pass rusher, even
though he has all the measurables. The former JUCO transfer is big,
strong, and quick, but the light has to go on.
The other spots are set with the return of seniors Matt Hines and
Erics Clark. The 285-pound Hines is the best of the front three
with terrific moves and the potential to grow into a star interior pass
rusher. He was good against the run making 33 tackles, and he was decent
behind the line with 4.5 tackles for loss, but he should do far more
this year and be more than just an anchor at nose tackle for everyone
else to work around. The 6-6, 270-pound Clark was expected to be a good
pass rusher as last year went on, but it didn't happen with just 2.5
sacks and 19 tackles. Even so, he's a good lineman with the big body
needed to stop things up.
Projected Top Reserves: There should be an
interesting rotation behind Clark at one end with the emergence of
redshirt freshman Kevin Basped and sophomore Thomas Flinn.
The 6-6, 235-pound Basped is a pure playmaker, even if he's a bit
undersized for what the line needs. The 270-pound Flynn is more of a run
stopper, coming over from the JUCO ranks.
270-pound senior Jay Dixon made eight tackles with 2.5 sacks as a
reserve last season, and while he's quick for his size and should be a
good pass rusher with more time behind Clifton.
Backing up Hines on the nose is 285-pound sophomore Nate Agaiava,
who isn't the pass rusher that Nines is but has the strength to be good
against the run. He and his brother, 270-pound sophomore Daniel
Agaiava, will be keys to the line over the next few years.
Watch Out For ... a great year from the front three.
Hines is on the verge of all-star honors, Clark is fine, and there are
good options to fill in the blanks among the reserves. The three didn't
do much to get into the backfield last year, but that should change.
Strength: Size. While there aren't any 300+ pound
monsters up front, there are close-to-300-pounders who are extremely
quick and can make plays behind the line, but ..
Weakness: Can they stop the run? The overall stats
weren't that great, and it's not like the Pack played a who's who of
running teams. Hawaii and Louisiana Tech, not exactly offenses with
powerhouse running games, got the ball moving. Nebraska and Northwestern
will be a problem in the first two games.
Outlook: It's an experienced front three with
several prospects and options to form a good rotation. It'll do its job
or holding up, for the most part, and letting the linebacking corps
shine, but it has to be stronger against the run and live up to the
promise showed this spring when it comes to getting into the backfield.
Projected Starters: The linebackers will be one of the team's
strengths led by all-star Ezra Butler at the Bandit position.
More like a defensive end than a linebacker, the 6-2, 248-pound senior
has cranked out 146 tackles, 13 tackles and 33.5 tackles for loss over
the last two seasons. Way too quick for most tackles, he's a great speed
rusher who's proven to be decent against the pass. He'll go into the
season as the preseason WAC defensive player of the year and the one the
defense will revolve around.
On the other side, the strongside, will once again be senior Jeremy
Engstrom, who reduced his role as a pass rusher and did more against
the pass. The 6-1, 247-pound is active at getting to the ball with 41
tackles and two recovered fumbles, and he'll be even more of a rock
against the run this season getting more room to move.
Junior Joshua Mauga grew into the job at the Wolf, or on the
weakside, finishing tied for second on the team with 56 tackles and
three interceptions. He's 6-2, 245 pounds, and extremely athletic with
great speed. He has the measurables to play on Sundays in the near
The one new starter in the corps is 6-1, 240-pound sophomore Kevin
Porter, who made 18 tackles as a reserve. He's had a strange career,
starting off as a good backup in 2004, missing all of 2005, and getting
back into the mix last year. He won't have to make every play with the
good defenders around him, but he'll have to be steady against the run.
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing Porter for the
starting job in the middle will be 265-pound junior Jerome Johnson,
a bigger inside presence who had a great spring. the JUCO transfer has
nice range and good ball skills against the passing game. He'll find a
starting spot sooner than later.
Senior Nick Fuhr hasn't had much of a chance to do anything over
the last few years, and made only seven stops in 2006, but he's a
veteran who can step in on the strongside behind Engstrom and be decent.
Watch Out For ... Mauga. Butler will get all the
publicity and all the accolades, but Mauga could, at times, be the
Strength: Experience. Mauga, Engstrom, and, of
course, Butler, would make for a phenomenal veteran threesome. Throw
longtime reserve Kevin Porter into the mix, and the starters are going
to know what they're doing.
Weakness: The corps isn't as good against the run
as many might believe. Yeah, there's a ton of talent, and yeah, there
are several all-star candidates who fly around the ball, but good power
teams should be able to hammer the ball on this group.
Outlook: This might be the best linebacking corps
in the WAC thanks to the return of Butler and Engstrom. There will be
plenty of plays made all over the field by the four in the 3-4 that's
supposed to fill the stat sheet, and this veteran crew will do the job.
Projected Starters: After De'Angelo Wilson
was kicked off the team, that left a hole at corner. Senior
Devon Walker was getting prepared to go into the season as a
number two, and now he's a starter after making 18 tackles and
two broken up passes. He has good speed and 6-0, 180-pound size,
but he has to prove he can handle himself on a regular basis
against the better WAC offenses.
On the other side, as the top cover-corner, will be junior
Paul Pratt, who stepped up and was great this spring. He
made 24 tackles and broke up six passes, but he only picked off
one pass and got beaten deep way too often. He's a full year
removed from a knee injury and still has all his speed.
Sophomore Jonathan Amaya is back at free safety after
being one of the shocks of last year. The former walk-on made 42
tackles and an interception. While he's 6-2 and 190 pounds and
can get around, he needs to do even more against the pass and
has to provide more help for the corners.
The big issue is at strong safety, where Uche Anyanwu
takes over for all-around star Joe Garcia. He played hurt for a
big portion of last year, but he's growing into a playmaking
star after a great spring when he was all over the field
providing a huge pop. He's 6-4, 220 pounds, and can really,
really hit with 29 tackles in a limited role last season.
Projected Top Reserves: Backing up Walker is
senior Shannon Sevor, who is good enough to start if
needed. With the loss of Wilson, he's getting plenty of reps
with the ones, and he has just enough experience and skill to
push for time.
On the other side, redshirt freshman Kenny Viser has
excellent upside behind Pratt. At 6-1 and 195 pounds, he has
more size than Pratt and enough toughness to move to safety if
needed. He'll need time, and seasoning, but he could become the
team's most important reserve because of his versatility.
Backing up Amaya at free safety is senior Justin Jackson,
a decent veteran who was good at making plays behind the line
with three tackles for loss to go along with 22 tackles. He has
just enough speed and hitting ability to play either safety
Watch Out For ... Anyanwu. He might not make 51
tackles, six interceptions and seven broken up passes like
Garcia, but he's turning into the leader of the secondary and a
Strength: Experience. Even the new starters have
seen enough action to be almost considered starters. The backups
can all step in and be productive in the rotation.
Weakness: Big plays. The top WAC passing games
bomb away on everyone, and this group is more than happy to get
torched on occasion. The corners are decent, but they're not
good enough to not give up a few home runs.
Outlook: While the secondary improved, but it
still allowed 196 yards per game. It should be fine this year,
but the best players from last year's defensive backfield, Joe
Garcia and Nick Hawthrone, are gone. It's a serviceable group
that'll have its good moments, and won't be a weakness, but
it'll hardly be special.
Projected Starters: Junior Brett Jaekle
isn't going to hit a lot of bombs, but he'll do his part
inside the 40. Hitting 20 of 26 field goals over the last two
years, and 8 of 11 last year, he's as reliable as they come.
Punting is a bit more of an issue after finishing 103rd in the
nation, but senior Zachary Whited isn't bad, averaging
39.1 yards per kick while putting 14 inside the 20. He has a
nice leg, but he has to do a better job of not outkicking the
Watch Out For ... Jaekle to be even better. Even if
he doesn't hit 50 yarders, he'll win a game or two with a clutch
Strength: Return game. Dwayne Sanders was terrific
last season averaging 25 yards per kick return. He and Brian
Fludd should be solid in punt returns.
Weakness: Jaekle's leg. Forget about anything from
beyond 45 yards. The offense will have to go for it on fourth
downs from time to time to get into his range.
Outlook: It's asking a lot to be ninth in the
nation in punt returns and 14th in kickoff returns, but the Wolf
Pack return game will be great. The punting game is effective,
even if the net stats aren't great, and Jaekle is a rock. The
special teams will be as good as any in the WAC.