Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.
2009 final record (overall, conference): 8-5, 7-1
Bowl Game: Hawaii Bowl (L 45-10 vs. Southern Methodist)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): NR, NR
Conference finish: 2nd WAC
Offensive rank: 2
Defensive rank: 96
2009 Individual Statistical Leaders
Rushing: Vai Taua, 1,345 yards, 10 TD; Colin Kaepernick, 1,183 yards, 16 TD; Luke Lippincott, 1,049 yards, 9 TD
Passing: Colin Kaepernick, 2,052 yards, 20 TD, 6 INT
Receiving: Brandon Wimberly, 733 yards, 6 TD
Tackles: Jonathon Amaya, 89 total tackles
Sacks: Kevin Basped, 9.5 sacks (8 solo, 3 assisted)
Interceptions: Khalid Wooten, 2 interceptions
2010 Season Outlook
September 11 vs. Colorado State: The Rams aren't a powerhouse by any means and don't reside in an AQ conference, but the Wolf Pack lost to this team a year ago and needs to rebound at home. A four-loss regular season isn't at all bad, but when you have the nation's top rushing attack and you could have very easily made it a three-loss regular season if not for a slip against the nation's 71st ranked rushing defense, it tends to stick with you.
September 17 vs. Cal/September 25 @ BYU: If Nevada is looking for respect from the national media, this is where they'll earn it. Boise State earned their current level of respect by beating teams from AQ conferences (not that BYU is in an AQ conference at this point), particularly in bowl games, but the Wolf Pack can earn a little here if they can take down the Golden Bears or the Cougars.
November 26 vs. Boise State: They can't forget about Fresno State a couple weeks earlier and avoiding a costly conference slip up will be important, but their WAC title hopes will come down to this if they can again get through the conference schedule unscathed. More on this matchup in the 'Season Prediction' section below.
AP: Not Ranked
Coaches': Not Ranked
Luke Lippincott, RB; Alonzo Durham, OT; Kenneth Ackerman, C; Mike Bethea, LB; Jonathon Amaya, S
Key Returning Players
Colin Kaepernick, QB; Vai Taua, RB; Brandon Wimberly, WR; Virgil Green, TE; John Bender, G; Dontay Moch, DE; James-Michael Johnson, LB/span>
Working out of the Pistol, the rushing game was not just the best in the country, it was the best in the country by over 300 yards. Second place Georgia Tech and their famous triple option managed 4,136 yards rushing compared to Nevada's 4,484 yards, and the Yellow Jackets played a game more than the Wolf Pack. Two of the three 1,000 yard rushers from a year ago return to what should again be an outstanding ground game. Vai Taua will again lead the rushing attack from the backfield, while big things are expected of sophomore Mike Ball. While Taua may be a first-team All-WAC performer, Nevada hopes to see Ball surpass 1,000 yards, or come close to it, in a backup performance that would bode well for the future.
IWhile Taua and Ball will see loads of carries, the main man on this offense is quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He's one of the game's top dual threat quarterbacks who in addition to his 1,183 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns also put up 2,052 passing yards and 20 passing touchdowns compared to just six interceptions. What's more, four of those interceptions came in the first two weeks.
The wide receivers also return, giving Kaepernick plenty of options in what should be a more active passing attack. Brandon Wimberly is the star of the show as the team's top deep threat. He put up 755 yards and scored six touchdowns last year as one of the steadiest performers on the team and he could be in for bigger things this season. Tray Session and Chris Wellington were the team's second and third leading receivers, respectively, and also return. Tight end Virgil Green was a second-team All-WAC performer who added 260 yards and five touchdowns in the passing game. He's also a fantastic blocker who should be in for another impressive season.
Making it all come together is an offensive line that, along with Boise State and Fresno State, should be one of the best in the WAC. This unit loses two all star performers in first-team All-WAC tackle Alonzo Durham and second-team All-WAC center Kenneth Ackerman. With three starters returning including guard John Bender and a couple of talented individuals filling the voids left by Durham and Ackerman, this unit should again be solid in leading the way for one of the game's best rushing attacks.
The defense won a lot of praise in the spring game by keeping the offense out of the end zone and the hope is that it's a sign of things to come when it really counts. New defensive coordinator Andy Buh was brought in to change the Wolf Pack's defensive fortunes so they can compete with, say, Boise State, who has a pretty good offense themselves in case you haven't heard.
James-Michael Johnson moves to the inside linebacker spot after spending the last season on the strongside, Brandon Marshall moves from the weakside to the strongside and JUCO transfer DeAndre Boughton will take over on the weakside. Meanwhile, WAC Defensive Player of the Year Dontay Moch will resume his role as a phenomenal pass rushing defensive end with Ryan Coulson, who last season split time with last year's sack leader Kevin Basped, playing at the other end spot. Zack Madonick and Brett Roy will man the interior of the line. The defensive line depth leaves a lot to be desired, meaning this unit will likely need to stay healthy to maintain consistency in run defense and in the pass rush, two areas in which they were solid a year ago.
Even with a nice pass rush last season, the Wolf Pack secondary struggled to stop anybody through the air. They ranked next to last in the nation in pass defense and third to last in pass efficiency defense. Nobody picked off more than two passes and they came away with just eight picks in all. Both corners, Isaiah Frey and Doyle Miller, have starting experience and there is potential in safeties Duke Williams and Corbin Louks, but until this unit proves they can stop the air attack, the secondary will remain the Achilles heel of this football team.
Special Teams Overview
Ricky Drake will sit the first two games due to a suspension levied following an arrest in the offseason. He hit six of his nine field goal attempts in 2009 and 60 of his 64 extra point attempts. Nick Rhodes or Anthony Martinez could see time in Drake's place for the first two matchups against Eastern Washington and Colorado State. Brad Langley will again handle punting duties after again showing that he's one of the WAC's top punters last season. He averaged 41.1 yards per try a year ago and will again be a valuable part of the special teams.
Mike Ball averaged 24.8 yards per kick return a year ago and will return to that role in 2010. Where the Wolf Pack needs help, however, is in the punt return game. The team averaged less than four yards per punt return a year ago, and their primary punt returner, Antoine Thompson, managed just four total yards on nine attempts a season ago. Rishard Mathews is expected to get the first crack at the job.
Head Coach: Chris Ault
Chris Ault has been a significant part of the Wolf Pack family for some time. He's been the head coach on three different occasions. His first stint at the helm came from 1976 to 1992. His second stint came in 1994 and 1995 and then his third stint as the head coach began in 2004 and continues through our present time. He's won a few Big Sky Conference titles, a couple Big West titles and shared the WAC title in 2005. Coming off of a 7-1 conference record with the one loss coming against Boise State, Ault's Wolf Pack looks to take the next step in 2010 with one of the best offenses in the country. He's a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and is one of just five active coaches to amass 200 wins in his career (Joe Paterno, Frank Beamer, Jim Tressel and Mack Brown).
Top 2011 Draft Prospects
Colin Kaepernick, QB; Vai Taua, RB; Virgil Green, TE; John Bender, G; Dontay Moch, LB
Nobody is questioning Nevada's outstanding offensive prowess, but if this team wants to win the WAC, they absolutely have to shore up in pass defense. Why? Aside from the obvious desire to improve in all aspects of the game, they have to get past Boise State to win the conference and their passing game is pretty good.
The Broncos have a good ground game as well, but if Nevada cannot stop Kellen Moore and the Boise State passing game, it may not matter how many rushing yards the Wolf Pack can muster with the Broncos passing game ripping the secondary to shreds. The season won't boil down to just a single game, as Nevada is likely to drop a game or two here and there and the non-conference schedule will be key in earning national respect with matchups against Cal and at BYU, but the key to a WAC title is a win over the Broncos. - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.