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The State of Play - Mountain West Conference: Nevada (2013 Preview)

The State of Play – Mountain West Conference: Nevada (2013 Preview)

With the hiring and firing of coaches, plus the charade that is National Signing Day, behind us, the never-ending world of college football moves to its next stage – training camp! Yes, with spring been and gone, a new fervor settles over each school as the hope that comes with a new year settles in. The seniors are gone, but a new batch of starters is ready to step in and prove their worth. Or not, whatever the case may be. So read on and find out where each team stands.

Brock Hekking

2012 Record: 7-6, 4-4 MWC

 

Offensive MVP: RB Stephon Jefferson – Rushing 375-1883-24, Receiving 22-170-1.

 

Defensive MVP: CB Khalid Wooten – 53 Tackles, 2 for loss, 15 PBUs, 2 Interceptions (1 TD).

 

 

What to Expect in 2013:

 

 

Chris Ault’s final season at the helm of the Wolfpack was a disappointment, despite winning seven games and making a bowl. After starting 6-1, with a 1-point loss to South Florida the only blemish, the defense fell apart down the stretch, and the prolific offense couldn’t keep pace as the team finished 1-5. New HC Brian Polian will endeavour to maintain the status quo as best he can, and he’ll have some talent to work with on both sides of the ball, but plenty of key losses too. On offense, the biggest loss is Jefferson, who burst out of relative anonymity to finish second in the FBS in rushing. He jumped ship to the NFL a year early. Also gone are three starting linemen, two of whom (Jeff Nady and Chris Barker) were all-conference picks. TE Nate Sudfeld (45-598-8) was a major contributor in the passing attack. The good news is ace QB Cody Fajardo is back – he’s a fine dual-threat who threw for 2786 yards and 20 TDs (9 Ints), while running for 1121 yards and 12 TDs. He returns his top three wide receivers, led by Brandon Wimberly, who accounted for 175 receptions, 2064 yards and 11 TDs. Kolby Arendse (13-196-0) will attempt to replace Sudfeld; he started nine games last season. JUCO Don Jackson will replace Jefferson, and has looked great in camp. Kendall Brock will back him up. C Matt Galas and Joel Bitonio, who’s moving from right to left tackle, return. They’ll be joined by LG Connor Talbott, RG Rogelio Moreno (JUCO) and RT Braxton Isaac, none of whom have much, if any, experience. The line is the biggest concern on the offense.

 

 

The opposite applies to the defense, as the line should be the strength with all four starters back. The unit struggled through a learning year, but look like they should be a lot better for it. DE Brock Hekking was the best of the bunch with 75 tackles and 8 sacks, but fellow end Lenny Jones was no slouch with 5. Neither Jack Reynoso and Jordan Hanson quite possesses the size for the interior, but they have enough experience and ability to be more productive. The line will have to excel, as three new linebackers could be problematic. Jordan Dobrich has the middle locked up, but Burton De Koning, Matthew Lyons and Jonathan McNeal are locked up in a battle for the two outside spots. All have the talent to excel, but lack the experience to back it up. The same concern exists in the secondary, with only Charles Garrett back. He was solid at corner, but he’s taking over at SS. The free safety will be Bryson Keeton, who has looked good in limited chances, but has to show he can do it in extended duty. Markus Smith saw some action at corner last season, and will take one corner spot, while special-teamer Evan Favors takes the other.

 

 

Kicker Allen Hardison wasn’t called on much, but he made 9 of his 10 attempts, although he only hit one from over 40 yards. Colin Ditsworth, who made only 1 of his 3 attempts, will try to replace Hardison. Punter Chase Tenpenny has a strong leg, but needs to work on his accuracy. Wooten is a loss as a punt returner, so Brock has big shoes to fill. He was a solid kick returner last season. The coverage units didn’t allow any TDs, but they need work.

 

 

Nevada’s failings down the stretch highlighted what needed to be worked on this offseason, and they may not have the pieces in place to improve upon last season’s shoddy defense. When you lose three games where you had double-digit leads with 5 minutes left, and you can’t fix it, you have problems. The offense should roll though, even with the departures, as Nevada always seems to insert new pieces into their Pistol puzzle and it just keeps working. The schedule is tough, with an OOC that includes trips to UCLA and Florida State, and a home date with BYU. The conference slate has the Wolfpack travelling to all three top league contenders – San Diego State, Boise State and Fresno State. The X-factor is Polian; can he overcome his inexperience as a head man and keep the Wolfpack in the Mountain West hunt? Eight wins would be a good result.

 

 

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