After four years of Colin Kaepernick, followed by four years of Cody Fajardo, it hasn’t been too often that Nevada has found itself looking for a new quarterback in the last decade. However, now that Fajardo is gone, Nevada fans and others around the conference are asking, “Who’s that guy?” about Nevada’s QB for the first time in four years.
So, let’s meet our latest Wolf Pack quarterback, or perhaps I should say quarterback candidates. Tyler Stewart is widely considered to be the favorite to win the job, but as of April 15th Bill Polian claims the three-man race is still a “dead heat”. Stewart, a junior, was the backup to Fajardo last year, but since Fajardo was the only quarterback on this team to attempt a pass that doesn’t mean that much. Stewart’s competition is sophomore Dante Mayes and redshirt freshman Hunter Fralick. Polian said that Fralick has been impressive in spring ball, while Mayes has been “better than anticipated”.
No matter who ends up playing quarterback, he will have a solid arsenal of weapons at his disposal. Running backs Don Jackson and James Butler return after combining for almost 1,600 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on the ground last season. There is also a trio of receivers returning who were solid last year, including TE Jarred Gipson. The other two receivers, Jerico Richardson and Hasaan Henderson, both had over 500 yards receiving last year, and Richardson’s 655 receiving yards led the team.
Losing three starters on the line will hurt this offense. As of now, there is a fairly motley crew up front, not that that’s necessarily bad but also probably not what you hope for either. The starters consist of three guys who are either walk-ons or former walk-ons, another coming off of an MCL injury and an interior lineman being forced to play right tackle. Props to all of those guys for winning the job. They clearly earned it, but that has to be at least somewhat of a concern heading into the season.
One source of encouragement for the offensive line is that they should be battle tested by a solid front seven, or actually in Nevada’s case six, every day in practice. The line may have lost the second coming of “The Boz” in Brock Hekking, but the top four tacklers behind him from this defensive line are back, including Ian Seau. Seau, nephew of the late and former Charger great Junior Seau, would have made his uncle proud last season with 11 tackles for loss, 8 sacks and an interception to boot.
The linebacking group, much like the defensive line, may be losing its leading tackler from 2014, Jonathan McNeal, but everyone else returns. Three guys on this unit had over fifty tackles last year. Jordan Dobrich, Matthew Lyons, and Bryan Lane, Jr. combined for 186.5 tackles.
With both corners and a safety gone from last year’s starting group and one other safety moving to linebacker, the secondary’s narrative is in stark contrast to the front six. As a matter of fact, with Duran Workman moving to linebacker, there is no player in this secondary who had twenty or more tackles.
Even with the question marks at offensive line, secondary, and quarterback, this team should still be successful in 2015. In fact, those of you who are Nevada fans already know that this would be even better than last year. I don’t think most people are as optimistic about the Wolf Pack this season, but there is enough there, especially on the defensive front, that I could see some modest improvement, in the record at least. Arizona and Texas A&M will make formidable non-conference foes, but the other two, UC Davis and Buffalo, ought to be winnable. In conference play, the Wolf Pack have the benefit of avoiding Air Force, Boise State, and Colorado State working in their favor.
Credit Cover Photo to Lance Iversen/AP Photo