2010 Record | 13-1 (7-1 in WAC)
Returning Starters | 15 (6 on offense, 9 on defense)
Key Losses | QB Colin Kaepernick was incredibly important to this team and to the offense. I thought he was terrific at what he did for the offense. Don't forget about RB Vai Taua, who was an outstanding running back for the Wolfpack who also helped make that offense hum. Defensively, Dontay Moch had 8.5 sacks last year has graduated (he also had 64 tackles) as has second leading tackler LB Kevin Grimes.
Key Additions | I haven't been able to pick up on anything about potential newcomers, but I notice that Nevada recruited three junior college defensive ends: Tyler Houk (6-4/250), Jake Peppard (6-3/245) and Paul Dancy (6-4/260). I'd guess that Nevada fans are hoping that at least one of these JUCO defensive ends work out and are able to contribute this year.
Impact Offensive Player | You'd almost have to pick a running back, especially considering the overall success that the running back has had in the Pistol offense. The quarterback and Kaepernick get all of the headlines, but but Nevada has had a running back rush for over 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns for the past four years. Granted, for the past three years it was Taua doing the damage. Right now, Mike Ball is slated to be the starter and considering Nevada is working in a new quarterback, I'd guess that they rely on their running game a bit more early in the year. Also watch for Stefphon Jefferson, who ran for 137 yards in their spring game.
Impact Defensive Player | This one is tough because there didn't appear to a ton of stars for this team, but overall, the defense was very good last year. The two players that stand out the most are the leading returning tackler LB James-Michael Johnson (88 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles) and CB Isaiah Frey (52 tackles, 14 passes defended and 1 interception). Both players were named to Phil Steele's first team All-WAC.
|Texas St. Bobcats
|@ New Mexico Lobos
|@ Kansas Jayhawks
|Texas A&M Aggies
|Kansas St. Wildcats
|@ Oklahoma Sooners
|Iowa St. Cyclones
|@ Texas Longhorns
|Oklahoma St. Cowboys
|@ Missouri Tigers
vs. Texas Tech | First and foremost, go take a look at Pistol Whipping the WAC who has already taken a look at Texas Tech. Pistol Whipping notes that the Texas Tech team is a tough team to judge and I feel the same way about Nevada in that I think that with the graduation of Kaepernick and Taua, this is a tough offense to read.
Projected starting quarterback Tyler Lantrip was only 8-18 for 108 yards during the spring game. Unless the Nevada defense is incredibly awesome, those numbers are a little discouraging. Lantrip only had 13 pass attempts last year, which isn't a surprise considering Kaepernick's season. Perhaps the best thing that might happen to Texas Tech is that although the defense will be facing the Pistol offense for the first and only time this year, having implemented a part of the offense during the spring should at the very least give the defense some familiarity with defending. Granted, Texas Tech is experimenting, while Nevada runs the offense to perfection. Still, the quarterbacks during the spring had rough days passing, although QB Cody Fajardo did rush for 98 yards, but was only 4-9 for 38 yards passing.
From what I can tell, Nevada returns all, or almost all of their entire offensive line and I think this will be the most significant test for Texas Tech's defensive line. This will be the opportunity to see if the defense will stay at home and play defense that requires you to stay at home. The passing game doesn't completely scare you. WR Brandon Wimberly, who caught 41 passes for 482 yards, was shot during the spring and will not resume his football career. Rishard Matthews does return and was the leading receiver last year, 56 yards for 879 yards and 5 touchdowns. That's your biggest receiving threat.
Offensively, the Red Raiders should have a decent day against Nevada, but keep in mind that Nevada was actually pretty good last year. The Wolfpack was 18th in the nation in rushing defense, 98th in the nation in pass defense, and overall they were 54th in the nation in total defense. And as we all know, it's about how many points you allow the opponent to score, Nevada was 31st in the nation in scoring defense.
I'm not sure how it translates to 2010, but that defense only returns 7 of those starters and if they're close to what they did last year, then this will be the first good test for the offense. Nevada was 24th in the nation in sacks last year and it will be interesting to see if Nevada will be able to get the rush off the edge like they did last year.