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2008 Nevada Preview - Offense
Nevada C Dominic Green
Nevada C Dominic Green
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 9, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Nevada Wolf Pack Offense

Nevada Wolf Pack

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Nevada Preview | 2008 Nevada Offense
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2008 Nevada Defense | 2008 Nevada Depth Chart
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2007 CFN Nevada Preview | 2006 CFN Nevada Preview 

What you need to know:
Considering the offense was supposed to be a work in progress last year, it came through better than anyone could've hoped for finishing 11th in the nation in yards and 12th in rushing. C Dominic Green leads a strong, veteran line paving the way for RB Luke Lippincott and a good stable of backs, while the receiving corps has two good playmakers in Marko Mitchell and Mike McCoy to stretch the field again. The big story will be the quarterback situation, where Colin Kaepernick is coming off a terrific freshman season after filling in for an injured Nick Graziano. Now there will be a bit of a controversy, but it's not a bad thing considering either passer could be the WAC's best quarterback.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Colin Kaepernick
133-247, 2,175 yds, 19 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Luke Lippincott
267 carries, 1,420 yds, 15 TD
Receiving: Marko Mitchell
53 catches, 1,129 yds, 8 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Luke Lippincott
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior OG Josh Catapano
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Mike Gallett
Best pro prospect: Senior C Dominic Green
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lippincott, 2) Green, 3) WR Marko Mitchell
Strength of the offense: Experienced starters, running, home-run receivers
Weakness of the offense:
Proven depth everywhere but quarterback

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
It's going to eventually be a battle for the starting quarterback job, but sophomore Colin Kaepernick will be tough to beat out. While he's not Vince Young, he certainly looked the part at times last year with 593 rushing yards and six touchdowns while throwing for 19 touchdowns and a mere three interceptions. At 6-6 and 215 pounds, he's a tall, thin player who doesn't look like the type who could tear off big run after big run, but he ran for 177 yards and two scores in the shootout loss to Boise State, and ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the win over New Mexico State. Just when it seemed like he was on the verge of WAC superstardom, throwing for 404 yards and three touchdowns in a bowl-game sealing win over Louisiana Tech, he clunked against New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl completing just 13 of 31 passes for 137 yards. The WAC Freshman of the Year has a live arm to go along with his excellent mobility, and now he has to keep his throwing motion up. He occasionally drops down a bit negating his height advantage.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Nick Graziano was on his way to a big season throwing for ten touchdowns and five interceptions, and coming off a two-game stretch with 566 yards and eight touchdown passes. And then he suffered a bad injury to his foot against Fresno State and was gone for the season. It's going to be a while before he's back in the mix with the screws taken out this spring, and he's expected to challenge for his starting job again. Realistically, he'll be the number two man in the mix behind Colin Kaepernick, even though he might have more talent. He was once a top recruit for the program with all the tools including a live arm.

6-3, 210-pound redshirt freshman Luke Collis was about to be thrown into the equation over the second half of last season when Nick Graziano went down, but Colin Kaepernick stayed healthy and Collis was able to redshirt. While he doesn't have the mobility of Kaepernick or Graziano, he can throw.

Battling for the No. 3 job will be 6-4, 210-pound Tyler Lantrip, who has the size and the potential, but he wasn't able to get on the field after suffering a back problem.

Watch Out For ... Some though given to redshirting Nick Graziano. Considering how bad his foot injury was, it's asking a ton for him to be back to normal just a few months after getting the screws taken out. Physically he could turn out to be fine, but it might take him a year to be football-ready. Even so, he's expected to challenge for the starting job.
Strength: Live arms. Colin Kaepernick has a great gun, Graziano can throw the heck out of the ball, and Luke Collis and Tyler Lantrip can both throw. There isn't any scarcity of bombers to choose from.
Weakness: Potentially, experienced backups. If Graziano isn't ready, the Pack will have to hope Collis is ready for prime time. He saw a lot of reps and got plenty of practice chances over the last year and a half, but any hope for a WAC title might be gone if he's in for an extended stretch. That's not to say he can't play, but he's not Kaepernick or Graziano.
Outlook: If Nick Graziano can return healthy from a foot injury, Nevada will have one of the strongest quarterback situations in the WAC. Graziano is a talented passer who was just starting to rev up the offense before getting hurt, while Kaepernick offers more options with his mobility. The coaching staff is high on Luke Collis, who has the potential to be an even better pure bomber than Graziano or Kaepernick. However, Graziano isn't a sure thing, and Kaepernick is always open for taking big shots with his running style.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starter
:
Senior Luke Lippincott had his moments as a sophomore against the really bad teams, and then he showed last season that he wasn't a fluke rushing for 1,420 yards and 15 touchdowns while catching 26 passes for 295 yards and three scores. With eight 100-yard games, he would've been the WAC Player of the Year if it wasn't for Colt Brennan, and now he's a weapon to revolve the offense around. The former safety has a little bit of speed and quickness, and a nice burst through the line, but he's mostly a 6-2, 215-pound power back who scores and produces in bunches with four touchdowns against Boise State and five against Louisiana Tech, and 112 yards rushing and 105 receiving against the Bulldogs.


Projected Top Reserves: Junior Brandon Fragger was supposed to push for the starting job last year, or at least be a strong No. 2 option behind Luke Lippincott, but he was never healthy, mostly having problems with his shoulder, and only finished with 33 yards and two scores. At 5-9 and 195 pounds, he's a quick back could be used as a change of pace with Lippincott pounding away on the inside.

Sophomore Courtney Randall emerged as an option as last season went on finishing with 108 yards, including 59 against Louisiana Tech. A strong back with a quick cut, he can do a little of everything and could carry the running game for stretches if needed.

Nevada doesn't really use a fullback, but it has a powerful type of blocker/short yardage runner in sophomore Vai Taua, who finished fourth on the team with 112 yards and a touchdown averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He's a 225-pound tailback with speed, and now he needs to be more of a receiver to get more playing time.

Adding even more speed to the mix is Lampford Mark, a 6-1, 200-pound redshirt freshman who was clocked at 10.7 in the 100 meters and 21.8 in the 200. He's a potential home run hitter who'll need to have a few specific plays designed for him to get his wheels into the open field.

Watch Out For ... Even more running. With a running quarterback in Colin Kaepernick, Nevada led the WAC in rushing and was 12th in the nation averaging 214 yards per game. Luke Lippincott will be one of the league's top players, and now if Brandon Fragger is healthy again, he'll take more heat off Kaepernick.
Strength: Depth. Fragger, Courtney Randall and Vai Taua could all start and all produce, and Lampford Mark is an interesting option who'll need a long look for a few plays here and there. This is the WAC's deepest backfield by far.
Weakness: Proven full-season reserves. It's nitpicking for a running back corps that doesn't have much of a weakness, but considering Fragger was banged up throughout last year, there's not a sure-thing No. 2 back the team can rely on for a full season.
Outlook: Nevada might be known for throwing the ball on offense, but the running back situation is loaded with options and could be the team's biggest strength. Luke Lippincott is a fantastic workhorse who punishes teams when he gets on a roll, and Brandon Fragger, Courtney Randall, Lampford Mark and Vai Taua are interesting backups who should all be able to produce. Considering the offense only uses a back in most formations, the Wolf Pack are loaded with options.
Rating: 7.5

Receivers

Projected Starters
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The offense needed a target to come through with Caleb Spencer was gone, and senior Marko Mitchell played up to his potential leading the team with 53 catches for 1,129 yards and eight touchdowns in the inside Z position. At 6-4 and 200 pounds, he has the size to handle himself well against smaller defensive backs to go along with the speed to hit the home run averaging a 21.3 yards per catch, second best in the nation. With great hands, he gets everything that's close to him. Ridiculously consistent, he's a true No. 1 receiver to count on.

Senior Mike McCoy started out the year as a backup behind Mitchell at the F, but he ended up stepping into the starting spot and doing a decent job making 32 catches for 617 yards and four touchdowns. However, his production dipped after Colin Kaepernick took over and came up with just ten grabs for 163 yards and a touchdown over the final six games. He has the ability to score, coming up with nine touchdowns on just 23 grabs as a sophomore, but now he has to use his experience, terrific hands and quickness to do more.

With Kyle Sammons, the team's second leading receiver, gone, sophomore Chris Wellington has the opportunity to step into the X spot and be one of the team's most dangerous deep threats. He wasn't used much last year, making just three catches for 30 yards, all within the first five games, but he got a little work as a kick returner averaging 20.5 yards per try. at 6-1 and 185 pounds, he has decent size to go along with 4.4 speed.

The tight end hasn't been used as much as it should've considering Adam Bishop was a great talent, but 6-4, 240-pound junior Junior Puloka will try to get involved a little more. The walk on got four starts and made five catches for 48 yards with a touchdown against Boise State, but his strength is as a blocker. Tough as nails, he fought through a broken hand and kept playing.


Projected Top Reserves: Somewhere in the mix will be junior Arthur King, who was dinged up throughout last year and was only able to make two catches over the final ten games after making eight grabs for 123 yards and a touchdown in the first three. He came to Nevada as a combination of defensive back and receiver, but he's now just a quick target who'll play on the inside.

Needing to step in and become a factor is senior Brian Fludd, a 5-9, 160-pound speedster who didn't catch a pass last season. The former JUCO transfer has the best wheels on the team, and while he's not big, he could become a top return man and slot receiver at the F.

With depth a problem, it'll be up to a slew of redshirt freshmen, Tony Maldonado, Tray Session, and tight end Josh Morrow to become instant factors. Moldanado is a former quarterback who spent last year converting to receiver, Session is a promising 6-3, 175-pound speedster who's the younger brother of former Oregon Duck and current Kansas City Chief, Samie Parker, and Morrow an athletic 6-4, 220-pound target who'll combine with sophomore Virgil Green to backup Junior Puloka.

Watch Out For ... even more big plays. The coaching staff made a concerted effort to try to get more home runs last year, and it worked with the passing game averaging 16.4 yards per catch. Marko Mitchell and Mike McCoy will try to do even more field-stretching.
Strength: Mitchell and McCoy. These two provide a fantastic 1-2 punch with great hands and excellent route running ability. They're two good veterans the team can count on game-in-and-game-out.
Weakness: Backups. There's nothing, nothing the team can count on early on if something happens to the starters. While there are plenty of options with several receiver prospects waiting for their turn at bat, it's going to be trial by fire for many of them.
Outlook: The running game controls the Nevada offense, and with all the attention needing to be paid to the backfield, the receivers can make big plays. Last year things all worked out nicely with Marko Mitchell averaging 21.3 yards per grab and Mike McCoy averaging 19.3 yards per catch, and now they need to shine again as the veterans of a very, very green group. The Pistol offense will make receivers shine at times, but steady play is at a premium. That might be hard to do with so many new faces in the mix.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
Once again, the star of the line and the anchor of the offense will be Dominic Green, a first-team All-WAC center who moved over from tackle and was dominant despite playing through injury problems. He's an athletic 6-3 and 295 pounds who can move anyone around in the running game and has grown into a top pass protector. More than anything else, the senior is a steady leader for the rest of the veteran group.

The only big hole to fill is at left guard with Charles Manu gone. Looking to step in and take over is 6-3, 285-pound senior Josh Catapano, a top JUCO defensive end who spent the last few years getting used to the offensive side. Athletic enough to play tackle, he needs to be steady on the inside.

Returning at left tackle is 6-6, 295-pound sophomore Mike Gallett, who took over a starting spot in the middle of the season and became a terrific all-around blocker. With as much talent as anyone on the line, and with a world of upside, he's expected to progress into an All-WAC performer sooner than later.

The right side of the line is set with senior guard Greg Hall and junior tackle Alonzo Durham back for another year. The 6-3, 290-pound Hall has started 26 straight games as one of the team's steadiest players. A tremendous run blocker, he has had moments where he's been the team's best linemen. With is experience and strength, he should be the go-to blocker on key plays. Durham, a 6-4, 285-pounder, started every game as he grew into the tackle role after starting his career as a defensive lineman. A natural pass blocker, he's about to become a star now that he knows what he's doing.


Projected Top Reserves: It John Bender going to be ready? The 6-3, 325-pound sophomore was one of the team's top recruits a few years ago and appears on the verge of growing into a star, and then he suffered a knee injury and was far less than 100% the rest of the way. He has the size and he has the talent, and now he has to get healthy to get a starting job back.

Looking to get in the rotation at both tackle spots is 6-4, 295-pound junior Clayton Johnson, a star JUCO transfer with excellent skills and huge upside. Able to redshirt last season, he'll push for time behind both Mike Gallett and Alonzo Durham; he'll get more than his share of playing time.

There aren't any ready-made starting offensive linemen from the 2008 recruiting class, but Christian Baker comes close. While he'll be behind the curve coming into to school this fall, he's still a top prospect with 6-4, 315-pound size and the versatility to be groomed to play just about anywhere.

Watch Out For ... the line to be the best in the WAC. With four starters returning, and John Bender back in the mix, there's no reason to expect any sort of drop-off from last year's production.
Strength: All-around ability. This group can bang out holes for the running game, and there's enough athleticism to be strong in pass protection. With four of the five starters returning from the New Mexico Bowl, this should be an even tighter group.
Weakness: Proven reserves. On the plus side, the starting five became a rock as the season went on, even with a injury to John Bender early on, but there wasn't quite enough development of the backups to be totally comfortable if the starters have problems.
Outlook: What was considered a possible weak link going into last year turned into a major strength as the line paved the way for 214 rushing yards per game and allowed just 26 sacks, an even stronger stat considering Colin Kaepernick is a running quarterback. Center Dominic Green might be the WAC's best linemen, while tackle Mike Gallett has the potential to be an All-WAC star. After the backups get a little more time in the rotation, this could be the WAC's strongest all-around line.
Rating: 6.5