2010 Nevada Preview – Offense
Nevada RB Vai Taua
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Nevada Wolf Pack Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Head coach Chris Ault and offensive coordinator Cameron Norcross have created a monster. The Pistol offense not only led the nation in rushing, but it did it by more than 50 yards per game over the pure rushing attacks of Georgia Tech, Air Force and Navy. So potent, the attack set a record with three runners going over the 1,000-yard mark as the ground game ripped off 4,484 yards, 48 touchdowns, and averaged a ridiculous 7.4 yards per carry. There are a few key losses with two all-stars gone off the line (Alonzo Durham and Kenneth Ackerman) and with Luke Lippincott gone from the backfield, but QB Colin Kaepernick will once again be one of the nation's top dual-threat playmakers, all three starting receivers back, including all-star tight end Virgil Green, and a strong line in place to keep it all moving. Now the offense needs to produce against the better teams and not just against the dregs of the WAC.
Star of the offense: Senior QB Colin Kaepernick
Passing: Colin Kaepernick
166-282, 2,052 yds, 20 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Vai Taua
172 carries, 1,345 yds, 10 TD
Receiving: Brandon Wimberly
53 catches, 733 yds, 6 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior OT Jose Acuna
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Mike Ball
Best pro prospect: Senior OG John Bender
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Kaepernick, 2) RB Vai Taua, 3) TE Virgil Green
Strength of the offense: Running Game, Experience
Weakness of the offense: Passing Production, Backup Quarterback
Projected Starter: Senior Colin Kaepernick hasn't led the team to many big wins and he hasn't come through in the bowls, but he has been one of the nation's top dual-threat playmakers with two straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons while completing 56% of his career throws for 7,076 yards with 61 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. When he's on a roll, he's unstoppable rushing for 240 yards and three touchdowns against UNLV a few years ago and ripping off 230 yards and four scores against Idaho while running for five 100-yard games on the year. Deadly on the move, he has rushed for 39 career scores averaging 6.8 yards per carry. How accurate was he last year? He threw just two interceptions over the final 11 games. A Vince Young type of quarterback, he's 6-6 and 215 pounds with a slippery running style and a live arm with a major-league fastball. But for all the stats and for all the amazing things he has done over his phenomenal career, it's all about coming up with the big wins in his final year.
Projected Top Reserves: Nowhere near the runner or playmaker that Kaepernick is, 6-4, 220-pound junior Tyler Lantrip is a better bomber with a great arm and excellent tools. He can move with great speed for his size, and he can put the ball all over the field, but he only completed 3-of-9 throws for 31 yards in his little bit of work. The back problems he suffered early in his career are gone, and he should be a reliable backup who gets the gig next year.
Extremely athletic, 6-2, 195-pound redshirt freshman Mason Magleby is an interesting prospect with great rushing skills and a live arm. USC wanted him to play baseball and he was a hot-shot dual-sport prospect wanted by several schools, and he'll get every shot at the No. 2 job.
Watch Out For … others to get more involved. It's not that the coaching staff doesn't want Kaepernick in as much as possible, but the team needs a more seasoned option going into 2011 and wants Kaepernick to stay in one piece. In blowouts, Lantrip and Magleby will each see plenty of action.
Strength: Mobility and arms. Nevada recruits a specific type of quarterback with big arms and good running skills. Kaepernick has a gun, while Lantrip and Magleby can use gun it. They can all run extremely well.
Weakness: Veteran backups. Lantrip and Magleby are promising, but the season might go kaput if either one ends up having to play for long stretches. Kaepernick has run the ball 437 times in three years and will take more than his share of shots.
Outlook: Kaepernick is one of the nation's premier players, but he hasn't come up with the key wins to show it. If he can stay healthy and if all goes according to plan, he'll throw for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 yet again, but it'll be important to mix in the backups just so they can get in some more meaningful work.
Unit Rating: 8.5
Projected Starters: On a team that produced three 1,000-yard rushers, senior Vai Taua led the way with 1,345 yards and ten touchdowns averaging 7.8 yards per carry a year (despite missing three games) after running for 1,521 yards and 15 scores when he had to carry more of the load. With the academic problems of last year out of the way (keeping him out of the bowl game), he'll be the main workhorse for the ground game once again with 5-10, 220-pound size and the speed to tear off yards in chunks. In the 11 games he played in, he only ran for under 100 yards once, gaining 95 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado State. With power, speed, and the hands to be used more as a receiver, catching 12 passes for 99 yards and two scores, he'll be a lock for first-team All-WAC honors.
Projected Top Reserves: Alright Mike Ball , you're up. The 5-10, 225-pound sophomore stepped in against UNLV and tore off 184 of his 220 yards on the year scoring five times in the 63-28 rout, and then he was barely heard from again other than special teams as a star kick returner. With a compact body and a quick, scooting running style, he's a great fit for the offense, and like all the Wolf Pack runners, he was phenomenally productive in high school with track star speed. A darter, he'll be the next on the train to 1,000 yards if he can stay healthy.
Senior Courtney Randall served as the No. 2 back in 2008 when Luke Lippincott went down, and he finished with 337 yards and four touchdowns. Last year, with everyone of note back, he was limited carrying the ball just 22 times for 154 yards and three scores. At 5-10 and 215 pounds, he's a strong back with quick cutting ability, and now he'll get back in the mix in the hunt for the key backup job.
6-1, 200-pound junior Lampford Mark found more work late in the year running for 114 yards and a score against San Jose State and being one of the few positives in the bowl loss running for 90 yards on 15 carries. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry with the potential to do far more with some of the best wheels on the offense. With his size and 10.7 100 and 21.8 200 speed, he has the ability to shine in the offense, but he has yet to do more than see garbage time.
Watch Out For … Ball. It's a crazy enough concept for a team to have three 1,000-yard rushers in the same season, and it's even crazier to think that it can happen again. It can happen again. Ball is good enough to tear off more than seven yards per crack.
Strength: The offense. Yeah, Taua, Ball, Randall and Mark are all good backs, but they're not going to tear up the NFL. The Pistol offense, as run by the Pack, is special and it does a phenomenal job of getting the speedsters in space. There's no shortage of wheels to crank out big play after big play.
Weakness: Receiving. Fine, so Sinatra couldn't dance, but it would be nice if the running backs were more involved in the passing game to get their speed and athleticism in space to do big things. Of course, that's nitpicking.
Outlook: With a great rotation, a terrific line, a fantastic offensive scheme, and plenty of speed and skill, the Nevada running game will be among the nation's leaders yet again. Taua and Ball could end up being the first-team All-WAC runners, and Randall and Mark will get more than their share of carries to keep the rotation fresh. Combining with QB Colin Kaepernick, the ground game will crank out over 4,000 yards again.
Unit Rating: 10
Projected Starters: Sophomore Brandon Wimberly turned into the team's best receiver and should be the top deep threat on the X again after averaging 13.8 yards per catch. Steady throughout, he spread out his 53 catches for 755 yards and six touchdowns, but he didn't have a blow up game on only went over the 100-yard mark once. Reliable with the ability to exploit single coverage, he'll be Colin Kaepernick's top target once again.
Junior Tray Session , the brother of former Oregon star, Samie Parker, went from a disappointment to a key playmaker in one year catching 30 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns. While he died down in the middle of the season, he still turned out to be just good enough to make two or three catches a game at the Z position. At 6-3 and 175 pounds, he has good size with excellent speed with the ball in his hands.
Senior Chris Wellington was supposed to be the No. 1 target after catching 42 passes for 632 yards and six touchdowns in 2008, but he ended up taking a backseat role at the F catching 24 passes for 327 yards and just one score. Unlike the other Wolf Pack receivers, the 6-1, 190-pound veteran isn't flashy even with his 4.4 speed, but he catches everything thrown his way.
Second-team All-WAC performer Virgil Green is a terrific blocker and a good midrange receiver catching 23 passes for 260 yards and five touchdowns. The senior had a run of four straight games with a touchdown catch in each including 44-yard scoring plays against Utah State and Idaho in back-to-back weeks. At 6-5 and 240 pounds, he has the size and he has the speed to get deep. He should be a lock for all-star honors again if he stays healthy.
Projected Top Reserves: JUCO transfer Rishard Mathews might turn out to be a good receiver, but his main worth will be as a potential savior for the miserable punt return game. The 6-2, 215-pound junior is very fast, very quick, and he should make things happen at the inside Z position when he gets a shot in the rotation.
A top recruit last year, 6-0, 195-pound sophomore L.J. Washington saw time in six games making five catches for 98 yards and a score. He had a shot to go to Cal, but changed his mind and his commitment to join the Pack, and with kick return skills, gamebreaking speed, and dangerous skills working at the F behind Chris Wellington.
6-3, 210-pound junior Malcolm Shepherd came over from Pima CC as a top JUCO transfer and has yet to make an impact. He played in nine games and didn't make a catch, and while he has the combination of size, speed, and ability to play inside or out, he has to come through as a key reserve at the outside X.
Former JUCO transfer Moe Patterson has 6-3, 200-pound size and track star speed running the 100 in 10.5. The skills are there to be dangerous, but he didn't do anything last year and now will fight to be a part of the rotation at the F. The tools are too good to not be a factor.
Mostly a special teamer so far, junior Zach Sudfeld is an interesting prospect with 6-7, 245-pound size and good hands. A full-tilt worker with a great motor, the junior is big, tough, and has the potential to pose major matchup problems as a big pass catching tight end. He'll mostly see time on special teams.
Watch Out For … the receivers to get to do a bit more. Lost in the shuffle of a great running game, the receivers, who were young and emerging last season, are talented and experienced going into this year. With a veteran passer in Colin Kaepernick to lead the way, the passing attack should be far more productive.
Strength: Experience and speed. All three starters return along with the tight end, Green. Everyone can move with a track team of sprinters; the backups are even faster than the starters. Stretching the field won't be a problem.
Weakness: Backup production. Nevada brought in some terrific JUCO prospects over the last few years in Mathews, Patterson, and Shepherd, and now it's time that they produce. They have the talent and the skill, but they have yet to show much for the Pack.
Outlook: The receivers are always going to play second fiddle in the Pack offense, but the size and speed are there to produce big numbers if the passing game ends up having to take over for a stretch. Wimberly, Session, and Wellington could be the WAC's best trio, even if the stats don't show it, and with almost all of the catches from last year returning, there's reason to be excited about this group.
Unit Rating: 6
Projected Starters: The biggest loss up front will be first-team All-WAC star Alonzo Durham, and now it'll be up to junior Steve Haley to try to produce at the same high level as the team's main tackle. The 6-5, 305-pounder is a good athlete with excellent upside on the outside, and while he could see time at guard if needed, he's a veteran tackle who started the final seven games in place of Mike Gallett. He was a big part of the running game taking off like it did as he became a pounding, steady force.
Along with the loss of Durham, the other big player needing to be replaced up front is at center where Jeff Meads will take over for Kenneth Ackerman. The 6-3, 290-pound junior saw a little bit of action in five games, and now he's overdue to be great. A top recruit even though he suffered a bad knee injury in high school, he's good enough to play either guard spot if he's not a star in the middle.
Back at his spot at the strongside guard after starting every game last year is John Bender , a massive 6-8, 325-pound senior who finally stayed healthy and showed what he could do. In the mix for all-star honors this year, he's a tremendous wall for the ground game and should be the team's anchor. A star recruit, he has played like it even though he hasn't received the recognition. That will change this year.
6-6, 305-pound senior Jose Acuna got the start against Utah State and he's ready to take over the full-time job. A good backup throughout the year, he was the top tackle to step in when needed and the production didn't drop off a lick. The former JUCO transfer is a very strong, very tough veteran who'll shine with more responsibility.
A superstar of the future, and one of the big-time players of the present, is sophomore Chris Barker , a tremendous recruit who was expected to be a part of the show right away, redshirted, and ended up becoming one of the main men last year up front starting every game. At 6-4 and 305 pounds he's a good-sized guard with a defensive lineman's toughness. A good athlete who could've played in the Pac 10, he could become an all-star.
Projected Top Reserves: Expected to get every shot at the starting center job is top JUCO transfer Jordan Mudge , a 6-4, 300-pound mauler who saw time at two different colleges before joining from Bakersfield CC. Steady and athletic, he's a perfect fit for the middle of the Wolf Pack line.
As a redshirt freshman, 6-5, 310-pound Steve Werner saw a little bit of action on the inside just to get his feet wet. Now the sophomore will try to get a little more action as one of the main guards in the mix with an eye on being a starter in 2011. He's a smart, steady run blocker who can come in cold and be fine.
Watch Out For … a battle at center. Mudge is a ready-made option who can step in from the JUCO ranks and be terrific, and if he's the real deal, then Meads could be moved to guard. Throw in the athletic 275-pound Scott Frisbie into the equation, and the Pack has options to replace Ackerman.
Strength: Run blocking. "The Union" (the nickname for the O line) was a machine, and now three starters are back with the two open spots certain to be ably filled. The line was terrific in pass protection, even though it didn't have to do much of it, and paved the way for the nation's top running game.
Weakness: Proven depth. There are several good recruits and good prospects waiting in the wings to step in, the Pack is a factory for O linemen, but part of the success last year was due to consistency. Four of the five spots had the same lineup outside of one game at tackle, and the other tackle spot went a change in the middle of the season. For a line that relies on timing and precision, there will be problems if injuries strike.
Outlook: The line had a nightmare of a time with SMU at the end of the year and with Notre Dame in the beginning, but the rest of the time "The Union" dominated. This has been the WAC's best offensive line (okay, Boise State might have something to say about that) over the last few years, and it should be terrific again even with the loss of two all-stars. As long as everyone stays healthy, this will be one of the team's bigger strengths.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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Nevada Depth Chart
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