2010 Record: (13-1, 7-1 in WAC)
Head Coach: Chris Ault (219-97-1 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Fight Hunger Bowl: beat Boston College 20-13
9/10: at Oregon
9/17: at San Jose State (2010 result: won 35-13)
9/24: at Texas Tech
10/1: at Boise State (2010 result: won 34-31 OT)
10/8: UNLV (2010 result: won 44-26)
10/15: New Mexico
10/22: Fresno State (2010 result: won 35-34)
10/29: at New Mexico State (2010 result: won 52-6)
11/12: Hawaii (2010 result: lost 27-21)
11/19: Louisiana Tech (2010 result: won 35-17)
11/26: at Utah State (2010 result: won 56-42)
12/3: Idaho (2009 result: won 63-17)
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 41.0 ppg (2nd in WAC, 8th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 292.21 yds/game (1st in WAC, 118th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 226.9 yds/game (5th in WAC, 55th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 519.1 yds/game (2nd in WAC, 4th in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 21.4 ppg (2nd in WAC, 31st in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 120.29 yds/game (2nd in WAC, 3rd in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 243.3 yds/game (5th in WAC, 98th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 363.6 yds/game (3rd in WAC, 54th in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: +0.36 per game (3rd in WAC, 33rd in Nation)
Penalties: 50.9 yds/game (4th in WAC, 54th in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Tyler Lantrip, Sr (8 of 13 for 155 yds, 1 TD)
Rushing: RB Lampford Mark, Sr (56 for 425, 7.5 ypc, 3 TD)
Receiving: WR Rishard Matthews, Sr (55 rec for 873 yds, 5 TD)
Tackles: LB James-Michael Johnson, Sr (88)
Sacks: DT Brett Roy, Sr (8)
Interceptions: 4 tied with 2
Athlon Sports: Poinsettia (vs Air Force)
Phil Steele: Poinsettia (vs Air Force)
Chris Ault has led the Wolfpack to six straight bowl births and three straight winning seasons. Last year was the culmination of everything he had been working for since he returned as the Head Coach in 2004. Nevada went 13-1 and pulled off an upset of then #4 Boise State. Their only loss was a close six point game against Hawaii. This year there is no Boise State in the WAC as they have moved on to the Mountain West. In 2012, Nevada and Fresno State will follow Boise State to the MWC but this year Nevada will fight it out with Fresno State and Hawaii for the WAC title. Chris Ault has is work cut out for him as his Wolfpack are on the road for their first four games of the year and two of those games are against potential Top 10 foes in Oregon and Boise State. Nevada could potentially start 1-3 and then finish with a 9-3 record as their schedule definitely opens up after their meeting with Boise State on October 1st. We caught up with Erik of the Mountain West Connection website to get his take on the 2011 version of the Nevada Wolfpack and life without Colin Kaepernick.
Any preview about Nevada football has to start with this question. Who is going to replace Colin Kaepernick?
The favorite right now to replace Kaepernick is Senior Tyler Lantrip, who has been Colin’s backup for the past three seasons. Lantrip does not have the running ability that Kaepernick has, but he does feature a good arm and can run well enough to work within the pistol. Due to Lantrip being the expected starter, the coaching staff has said that the offense will feature a more passing oriented look this year. Despite the tragic news recently about receiver Brandon Wimberly, The Wolf Pack receiving corps should still be one of the strengths of the team with number one receiver Rishard Matthews returning after a breakout campaign in 2010. Lantrip will be a big drop off, but he played well in limited time last season and certainly has the ability to lead the Pack to some wins.
Behind him is an intriguing crop of young QBs. Red-shirt freshman Cody Fajardo is seen as the favorite to be the eventual starter. Fajardo is of the Kaepernick mold, a run-first QB who possesses plus athleticism. Another is sophomore Mason Magleby, also an impressive athlete with the same type of skills. In addition to those two, the most recent Pack recruiting class featured another highly touted run-oriented QB in Tanner Roderick. Roderick was named Montana’s Gatorade High School Player of the Year in 2010 after setting a number of state records in football and was also one of the state’s top basketball players. Roderick is a name to watch.
In addition to losing Kaepernick, the Wolf Pack also lose 1,600 yard rusher Vai Taua. Who do you see stepping up at RB?
Junior Mike Ball looks to be Nevada’s primary back going into the year. Ball has seen limited playing time at the RB position the last two seasons while working as the team’s primary kickoff returner. Ball possesses the speed and quickness to execute the downhill type runs the pistol looks for out of its backs. The workload, at least initially, will be a lot more than he’s had up until this point, so it remains to be seen whether he can handle it or not. Next in line is senior Lampford Mark, who was Taua’s primary backup last year before tearing his ACL late in the season. He should be healthy enough to begin the year with the Pack, but may not be at 100% and it could take some time before he gets all the way back. I expect to see Ball and Mark split time at RB with Ball seeing the majority of the carries and junior Nick Hale occasionally in the mix. Nevada’s offensive line should be strong again this year, so that will be a big help for whoever it has in the backfield.
For those that don’t follow Nevada football…who are the guys to watch on defense?
Two guys to watch for on Nevada’s defense are 2010 All-WAC selections James Michael-Johnson (MLB) and Isaiah Frey (CB). Michael-Johnson was moved to the middle line backer position from outside linebacker in 2010 and thrived, recording a team leading 88 tackles. Since it was a new position for him it’s possible he could build on that success in 2011. Isaiah Frey is the team’s top corner, and is a key piece to the secondary. Frey only had 1 INT in 2010 so he’s more of a cover corner, but has the ability to shutdown the opposing team’s top receiver. Both players are seniors and will be big keys to the defense.
What do you see as the biggest areas of weakness on this team and who needs to step up and fill those gaps?
Aside from the quarterback position, the defensive end position is the biggest question mark. Gone from last year are star defensive end Dontay Moch and an underrated Ryan Coulson. Moch was a huge playmaker for the Wolf Pack with plus speed/quickness from the DE position and ended up a 3rd round pick in this year’s NFL draft by the Bengals. First year defensive coordinator Andy Buh implemented a very aggressive blitz package and Moch was a key piece to that. So good was Moch, I personally would have had a hard time picking between him and Kaepernick if I were able to choose a senior to come back and play a fifth year. Coulson was a nice solid piece for the defense as well, so replacing those guys is going to be tough. Senior Kaelin Burnett looks to have one of the spots locked down and is a good pass rusher but needs to work on his run defense. The other spot is an open competition with sophomore Sam Foster as the front runner there. Nevada has some interesting youth at the position in guys like freshmen Brock Hekking and Rhykeem Yates, who will both be in the running for the second spot. Nevada returns both its starting DTs from 2010.
Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games this year?
In order of most important I would probably say Texas Tech, Hawaii, Fresno State, and San Jose State. Texas Tech is the first important game for the Pack since a win there would be a huge boost for the team. I wouldn’t call Nevada the favorite by any means, but it is a winnable game and a big name opponent which would give the Pack some media attention. Hawaii and Fresno are the primary contenders for the WAC title, and some revenge after last year’s loss to Hawaii would be nice. San Jose might sound like an odd inclusion but while that game should be winnable, a loss there would be really tough on the team. Getting that win on the road during the brutal stretch of road games to begin the year will be a key lift for the team. It could end up a tough game since the team might still be trying to find its footing. It’s the first must-win on the schedule, though I fully expect them to pull it off. Boise State is, of course, always an important game, but less so now that it is an out of conference match-up.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
My gut feeling is that they’ll end up with an 8-5 record this year, but it’s not out of the question that they can come away with a 10-3 record and a WAC title. Obviously the latter would be seen as a successful season, and it’s what the Pack should be shooting for. So while an 8-5 year would be fine for the program in a rebuilding year, a 10-3 or 9-4 record, possible WAC title, and bowl victory would be seen as a successful season in my eyes.
Next Preview: UConn
Coming in August: CFBZ Top 25 Countdown
2011 Team Previews