2009 Nevada Preview - Offense
Nevada OT Mike Gallett
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Nevada Wolf Pack Offense
Nevada Wolf Pack
Preview 2009 - Offense
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2009 Nevada Offense
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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.
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
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
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
6-3, 195-pound redshirt freshman
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.