Monday, July 10, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Nevada Wolfpack

Nevada Wolfpack
Nevada has become a program lost in the wilderness the last few seasons, and there were a ton of issues with the Brian Polian era. He has now moved on, claiming that this was an untenable situation because of budget and facility issues, and now the Wolfpack have looked to long time assistant Jay Norvell to try and right things. Of course the question begs, why has he not received a head coaching job until now? Was this the right hire, or did Nevada simply go out and get someone on the cheap? We will find out soon enough, as the Pack continues to try and stop what has become a long and slow slide to the bottom of the very weak West division of the MWC.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
With a QB battle brewing, the important thing to note is that the Wolfpack has some experience coming back at receiver this fall. Wyatt Demps caught 53 passes to lead the team last season, and finished the season with 686 yards and eight scores. He will be the most important piece of the puzzle in most cases. Andrew Cellis moves up one spot on the depth chart after catching 23 passes last fall.
The line could end up being OK this season, as four upperclassmen are projected for starting nods in LT Austin Corbett, LG Ziad Damanhoury, C Sean Krepsz, and RT Jake Nelson.
Spencer Pettit was solid at PK last fall, hitting 7/9 FG attempts, and will be the full time kicker in 2017.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
David Cornwell transferred over from Alabama, and was a formerly high ranked recruit for the Crimson Tide. He never could quite get over the hump at Alabama, and so now is looking to try his hand at the Nevada QB job. Ty Gangi is back after starting some games last season as well, but neither is what I would call a perfect option at this point. Cornwell is all potential, while Gangi struggled at times to move the ball.
The run game also took a massive hit just last week when James Butler, who is coming off of back to back 1300 yard seasons, has announced that he will be transferring to Iowa. That leaves Jaxson Kinkade, a sophomore, as the only back with any real experience after rushing 78 times for just 334 yards last fall. He hardly showed any big play potential last fall, and that is a major issue.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Pack will be going with a 3-3-5 defense this fall. Malik Reed returns at one DE spot after leading the team last fall with 9.5 TFLs and five sacks. The opposite DE spot is open, but Korey Rush should settle in there after playing fairly well as a rotational player last fall. Hausio Sakuna will start at NT, and showed some flashers last season as a freshman.
The Safeties ought to be fun to watch this season, as they are one of the more active units in the MWC. Jaden Sawyer, Asauni Rufus, and Dameon Baber will all be back after decent showings last fall. Rufus finished second on the team in tackles with 95 (67 solos), and forced three fumbles. Baber finished with 73 total tackles, broke up three passes, and forced two fumbles, and Sawyer finished with 49 tackles and six PBUs. Sawyer also led the team with two INTs.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The LBs are hardly the most active unit in the league. Travis Wilson and Austin Palhaus will start outside, while Gabe Sewell will start in the middle. Sewell is the best of the bunch, with 78 tackles last season, including 5.5 for loss. Wilson and Paulhaus combined for 59 between them.The middle of the field will need some work this fall, and that could be a big problem, as two thirds of the line in front of them will be breaking in as new starters as well.
The CB position is looking a bit weakened this fall, as Kendall Johnson and Elijah Moody project to start. They combined for just three PBUs last fall, and the Wolfpack secondary as a while generated just five INTs all season.
The punting job is wide open after the departure of the very successful Alex Boy, who averaged well over 43 yards per punt a year ago.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 at Northwestern, 9/9 Toledo, 9/16 Idaho State, 9/23 at Washington State, 9/30 at Fresno State, 10/7 Hawaii, 10/14 at Colorado State, 10/20 Air Force, 11/4 at Boise State, 11/11 San Jose State, 11/18 at San Diego State, 11/25 UNLV
Final Overview
I will admit that I am not a big fan of the Jay Norvell hire out of the gate, but one never knows. This will be his first ever FBS head coaching job, and so he has a ton to prove, despite that he has been an assistant for what feels like forever. This program has been on a downward slide for some time now, and the Brian Polian era ended in disaster, despite beating hated rival UNLV to close out last season by 35 points. Polian had few good things to say when he walked away from this program, so Norvell is walking into a tenuous situation. Nevada has won before, and can win again, but how far off it is from seeing those times again remains to be seen. I see four wins on the board, at best.

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