2009 Nevada Preview - Offense
Nevada OT Mike Gallett
Nevada OT Mike Gallett
Posted Jul 14, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Nevada Wolf Pack Offense

Nevada Wolf Pack

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Nevada Preview | 2009 Nevada Offense
2009 Nevada Defense | 2009 Nevada Depth Chart
2008 Nevada Preview | 2007 Nevada Preview | 2006 Nevada Preview  

What you need to know: The Nevada Pistol offense will once again revolve around the all-around talents of QB Colin Kaepernick, one of the nation’s best running quarterbacks. He led the way for the No. 3 running attack that averaged 278 yards per game, and now that he’s more experienced, he’ll get more of a chance to open up the offense with the passing game. However, the stars are in the backfield with 1,521-yard back Vai Taua returning. The receiving corps loses its two best players, Marko Mitchell and Mike McCoy, meaning Chris Wellington has to use his excellent speed to take advantage of everyone stacking up against the run. The offensive line welcomes back two of the WAC’s best tackles, Mike Gallett and Alonzo Durham, but needs to play around with the inside.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Colin Kaepernick
208-383, 2,849 yds, 22 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Vai Taua
236 carries, 1,521 yds, 15 TD
Receiving: Chris Wellington
42 catches, 632 yds, 6 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Colin Kaepernick
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior WR Art King
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Chris Wellington
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Mike Gallett
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Kaepernick, 2) RB Vai Taua, 3) Gallett
Strength of the offense: Running game, Kaepernick
Weakness of the offense: Proven receivers, guard


Projected Starter
After battling for the starting quarterback job last year, and with two years of experience under his belt, junior Colin Kaepernick has now established himself as one of the special players in the WAC, and one of the most dynamic players in college football. A Vince Young type, he’s 6-6, 215 pounds, and quick with tremendous running skills. After running for 593 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman, to go along with 19 touchdown passes and just three interceptions, he was even better once he got the gig all to himself. Helped by a 240-yard, three touchdown rushing day against UNLV, he ran for 1,130 yards and 17 touchdowns, while throwing for 2,849 yards and 22 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He’s not always accurate, completing just 54% of his passes, but the WAC Offensive Player of the year has a major-league fastball to go along with his mobility.

Projected Top Reserves: With Nick Graziano transferring, the No. 2 job will go to sophomore Luke Collis, a 6-3, 210-pound thrower with decent mobility. A great high school baseball player, he has a live arm and good upside. So does Tyler Lantrip, a 6-4, 220-pound bomber who was a nice get for the program. He’s fast, big, and has all the tools. Now he has to see a little time after having back problems earlier in his career.

Watch Out For ... Collis and/or Lantrip to each see time throughout the year. Kaepernick was being held out of some of spring drills for precautionary reasons with an ankle injury. That might be just the beginning for the franchise playmaker. The coaching staff isn’t going to want the star to get dinged up, so look for Collis and Lantrip to each get in games just to have a bit more game experience.
Strength: Live arms. Kaepernick has a howitzer, even if he doesn’t look like it. Collis and Lantrip can throw, too.
Weakness: Veteran backups. Kaepernick has run the ball 266 times in the first two years; he’s going to take his shots. Nevada’s season isn’t over if he goes down, but things would take a serious turn. The backups got the reps this spring, and they need more.
Outlook: With Nick Graziano leaving for Arkansas Tech, this is Kaepernick’s job and Kaepernick’s offense. He’s a special player who needs to take another leap up in his production now that he has two years of experience, and he has to be more accurate. Collis and Lantrip are promising, and now they need to be reliable.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starter
When Luke Lippincott went down with a torn ACL, Vai Taua stepped up and had a magical season, running for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns to go along with 30 catches for 243 yards and three scores. The 5-10, 225-pound junior started last season buried on the depth chart and quickly found his way up to the top spot where he showed good pop and toughness to go along with decent quickness. He ran for 100 yards or more in eight games last year highlighted by a 263-yard day against Fresno State, and he showed off surprising hands. Versatile, he can be a power runner and is also great in space.
Projected Top Reserves: Nevada caught a huge break getting Luke Lippincott back for a sixth year after he tore up his knee last season. He started off the year with 104 yards and a touchdown in two games before going down, but he hurt his ACL early enough in the season to be able to come back. Dominant in 2007, the 6-2, 215-pounder ran for 1,420 yards and 15 touchdowns while catching 26 passes for 295 yards and three scores. He helped allow for QB Colin Kaepernick to ease his way into the role, and he showed he could do it all with a nice burst through the line to go along with good power.

Junior Courtney Randall worked his way into the No. 2 job with 337 yards and four touchdowns behind Taua. The 5-10, 215-pounder is a strong back with a quick cut. He can do a little of everything well, and he’ll likely play even more of a role this season even with the return of Lippincott.

Senior Brandon Fragger has had health issues throughout his career. After running for 33 yards and two touchdowns in 2007, he was limited by a shoulder problem finishing with 196 yards and a score. At 5-9 and 195 pounds, he’s not all that big, but he’s quick and fits the mold.

6-1, 200-pound sophomore Lampford Mark brings even more speed to the mix being clocked at 10.7 in the 100 meters and 21.8 in the 200. He played a limited role rushing for 182 yards, mostly in mop-up time early in the year, but he has the home run hitting ability to do more.

Redshirt freshman Mike Ball sat out last year waiting his turn, and now the coaching staff wants to see what he can do. The 5-10, 225-pounder was an ultra-productive high school runner and track star who’s like the rest of the Pack running backs. He can cut on a dime and he’s fast through the hole.

Coming in and looking for early work will be true freshman Stefphon Jefferson, a 5-10, 185-pound producer who ran for 2,850 yards and 34 touchdowns in his final year of high school. He fits the mold, and while he’ll likely be redshirted, he has the skills to be the most talented runner on the roster.

Watch Out For ... The production to keep on rolling.  Having a 1,130-yard rushing quarterback like Colin Kaepernick helps, but with Lippincott back in the mix, there’s no reason to not go to more of a rotation. Nevada finished third in the nation with 3,611 rushing yards and 39 scores, and could blow past that.
Strength: Depth. There are six backs who could carry the ball and produce. As shown last year, when one goes down, he steps aside and another one fills the gap. All the Wolf Pack runners are quick, tough, and can catch.
Weakness: Too much reliance on one runner. Even with all the options, the coaching staff likes to go with one runner until he drops. Lippincott ran 267 times in 2007, and Taua handled the ball 266 total times last year. Considering Lippincott is trying to come back from a knee injury, and Fragger struggles to stay healthy, the backs wear down quickly in this attack.
Outlook: There are more than enough backs to carry the mail. The Pistol offense only uses one back, and there are several options ready to keep on producing. It would be nice if there was a true power back, but the receiving ability up and down the depth chart, and the quickness to cut through the holes made by the design of the attack, makes up for it.
Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters: Junior Chris Wellington goes from being a nice complementary receiver to a key target, possibly a No. 1, after finishing second on the team in receiving yards. He wasn’t flashy, but he caught a steady 42 passes for 632 yards and six touchdowns. At 6-1 and 185 pounds, he’s not big, but he’s fast enough to become a home run hitting threat with 4.4 speed. He can also be used as a kick returner if needed.

6-3, 195-pound redshirt freshman Brandon Wimberly joined the team early and was around for spring ball, but he settled into the team for the year and ended up redshirting. He’s a Z receiver who’ll push for a job right away.

Sophomore Tray Session was supposed to be a part of the offense, but the speedster only caught one pass and wasn’t used throughout the year. He’s a promising 6-3, 175-pound speedster who’s the younger brother of former Oregon Duck receiving star, Samie Parker.

6-5, 225-pound junior Virgil Green is back after catching 14 passes for 164 yards and a score after taking over the job as the season went on. He has enough speed to stretch the field a bit, and now he’s expected to be used more as a safety valve for Colin Kaepernick. With so much turnover at wide receiver, this could be his breakout season.

Projected Top Reserves: All eyes will be on Joe Washington, one of the team’s top recruits. The 6-0, 190 pounder was a grayshirt at California but chose to come over to Nevada to play right away. He has kick return skills and gamebreaking ability with the ball in his hands as a receiver. He played quarterback in high school just to get him moving as much as possible, and he should grow into a dangerous all-around weapon.

Looking to fill in somewhere in the corps will be senior Art King, an X receiver who spent last year behind Chris Wellington. He caught ten passes for 96 yards and was occasionally used as a runner and a kickoff returner. He doesn’t have Wellington’s speed, but he has enough experience to see more playing time and to take over one of the inside roles. A quick 6-1 and 195 pounds, he can play inside or out.

The sky’s the limit for Malcolm Sheppard, a top JUCO transfer last year who didn’t see the field. The junior wasn’t needed last season, but with his athleticism and 6-3, 210-pound size, he has the tools to become a key target at one of the inside spots. He caught 44 passes for 689 yards and seven touchdowns in his final year at Pima CC in Tucson.

Also joining the team is JUCO transfer Maurice Patterson, a 6-3, 200-pound playmaker who fits the Nevada mold of big, tough receivers. He has good hands and the upside to grow into a number one target.

6-4, 240-pound senior tight end Talaiasi Puloka is a former walk-on got who’s been a part of the offense for the last few years, but he’s mostly been a blocker. He has good size and excellent toughness, he played through a broken hand two years ago, and now he’ll be used even more as a blaster for the running game. He’s also a good special teamer.

Watch Out For ... all the new guys. To make up for the big losses in the receiving corps, the Wolf Pack has to get big production out of at least one of the new faces. Joe Washington has the most talent of the lot, but the passing game needs Malcolm Shepherd and Brandon Wimberly to shine right away.
Strength: Playing to a type. The Pack gets the targets who fit what the offense does. The attack needs big, physical receivers who are willing to block and can make the big catch when needed. This is a tall, athletic group that should be good in time.
Weakness: Experience. Wellington should emerge as a good No. 1 target, but he’ll need help from a slew of untested talents. If the new faces don’t shine right away, there will be major problems.
Outlook: The running game might make the passing attack seem like a bit of an afterthought, but the Nevada receivers are expected to be used a little more. With the maturity of QB Colin Kaepernick, the coaching staff will open up the playbook a use more passing plays. That means the new prospects will have to shine after the corps lost 1,141 yards and 10 touchdowns from Marko Mitchell and 53 catches for 592 yards and two scores from Mike McCoy.
Rating: 5.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The biggest question mark to start the season will be in the middle of the line, where all-star Dominic Green has to be replaced. Senior Kenneth Ackerman has been able to play guard when needed, starting over the final seven games, but he’ll be needed in the middle. The 6-4, 285-pounder is more of a natural in the middle, and now he has enough experience to be a decent fill-in, even though he’s not going to be Green.

The star of the line will be senior Alonzo Durham, a 6-4, 285-pound athlete who was one of the team’s steadiest blockers. The second-team All-WAC performer was the starter on the weakside after starting his career on the defensive line. A strong pass protector, he has worked himself into a technician of a run blocker.

At the strongside tackle position will once again be Mike Gallett, a 6-6, 295-pound junior who was a second-team All-WAC star who emerged as a standout blocker as the year went on. He took over the starting spot as a freshman and did well, showing a world of upside, and now he should be among the WAC’s best linemen. He can do a little of everything and will be the anchor of the attack.

With Ackerman getting the first look at center, massive 6-8, 325-pound junior John Bender will likely fill in at the strongside guard spot. He hasn’t been healthy, having problems with a knee injury, but he was a top recruit and he’s a major-league blocker for the running game with the size and bulk to open up big holes. He’s built more like a tackle, but he’s productive on the inside.

6-4, 315-pound Chris Barker was a star recruit who was supposed to be a part of the system early on, but he ended up redshirting and now needs to use his size and strength to push for one of the guard spots. He’s good enough to play anywhere on the line with a defensive lineman toughness and the quickness to grow into an anchor at guard.

Projected Top Reserves: It’ll be an open casting call for the other open guard spot, with sophomore Jeff Meads getting a shot. A great recruit for the program a few years ago, he got time to heal up after suffering a knee injury his senior year of high school. The 6-3, 290-pounder can play either guard spot. 

JUCO transfer Aminiasi Silatolu was considered the top offensive line recruit coming out of California and he’ll get a shot to take over one of the tackle spots right away. At 6-4 and 295 pounds, he has the size and the athleticism to push for a starting spot, and he could end up taking over at guard. At least that’s the hope. If he’s great early on, the coaching staff can do some reshuffling up front.

Sophomore Steve Haley is a 6-5, 305-pound tackle prospect with good athleticism and decent upside. While he’s not a top talent, and he could end up being moved to guard, he’ll get every chance to push for time behind Mike Gallett on the strongside.

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.

Watch Out For ... Ackerman to be one of the fixtures on the inside. While he won’t be Dominic Green at center, he’s good enough and experienced enough to be more than fine to keep the rushing production going.
Strength: The tackles. Mike Gallett and Alonzo Durham flew under the radar a little bit last year, with Dominic Green getting most of the spotlight, but these two should be first-team all-stars who’ll make the ground game go.
Weakness: The second guard spot. The Wolf Pack should be set with John Bender stepping up to be a steady performer somewhere on the line, but the Union needs a second guard to emerge early on. There are several good tackle prospects, but finding a steady guard is a must.
Outlook: Arguably the WAC’s best offensive line last year, the Union, the nickname for the Nevada front five, has to retool and rebuild a bit. The tackles, Mike Gallett and Alonzo Durham, will be fantastic, and the gaps will be filled in on the inside. Replacing center Dominic Green is impossible, but there are enough solid prospects to expect decent production again for the nation’s No. 3 ground game.
Rating: 6


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