Nevada Football: Previewing The Wolf Pack Defense In 2020
The Nevada Wolf Pack defense in 2019 had their struggles but improved towards the end of the season. Can they continue that improvement in 2020?
Previewing The Wolf Pack Defense In 2020
Similar to the offense, the Nevada Wolf Pack defense experienced some up-and-down moments in 2019. The Wolf Pack in their bad moments gave up 77 points to Oregon and 54 points to Hawaii at home. When the Wolf Pack defense had their good moments, they stifled the San Diego State offense in a historic upset victory late last season. These were the moments of a defense that was mostly young and trying to figure things out.
In 2020, the Wolf Pack brings in a new defense coordinator as Brian Ward comes over from Syracuse. Ward is inheriting a Nevada defense that returns 10 starters from last year’s defense that is looking to build on the good moments. Can the returning defensive starters learn the new defense and improve the defense in order to content for the Mountain West title?
Here is a 2020 preview of the Wolf Pack defense
In 2019, the Wolf Pack defense was one of the better units when it came to stopping the run. Nevada was fifth in the Mountain West in run defense as they gave up an average of only 4.31 yards per carry. Per Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings, the Wolf pack were ranked number 40 in stuff rate (stuff rate is defenders stopping runners at or behind the line of scrimmage) and in power success rate the Wolf Pack were ranked in the top 25 in 2019.
The Wolf Pack defensive line was at its best a good unit and defensive ends Sam Hammond and Dom Peterson were the reasons for the Wolf Pack having a good run defense. Hammond (35 tackles, 11 tackles for loss 1.5 sacks) and Peterson (40 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and nine sacks) both return and are key cogs in the Wolf Pack defensive line. Accompanying Hammond and Peterson, are Chris Green, Kameron Toomer and Tristan Nicholas as these players look to bolster a defensive line that could be one of the best in the Mountain West.
The Wolf Pack could look to improve their consistency when it comes to run defense. In seven wins, the Wolf Pack defense gave up an average of only 2.88 yards per carry but in five losses, the Wolf Pack defense gave up an average of 5.6 yards per carry.
The Wolf Pack defense has the talent to be one of the dominant defensive lines in the Mountain West and maybe even the Group of 5. But to get to that level, the Nevada defensive line must be more consistent in stopping the run.
While the defensive line is returning experienced playmakers, the Wolf Pack linebackers are starting over a little bit in 2020.
The Wolf Pack’s lose four of their top six linebackers from 2019 and two of those four linebackers that are gone include Gabe Sewell and Malik Broady.
The two linebackers that are returning for the Wolf Pack are Lawson Hall and Lamin Touray. In 2019 Hall recorded 56 tackles, three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Hall is without a doubt the leader of the Wolf Pack linebacking unit that needs to step up and play well in 2020.
Joining Hall and Touray in the linebacking group is Gio Miranda, Trevor Price and James Fotofili. The potential for the Wolf Pack linebackers is there for good play but Nevada is going to need the linebacking unit to contribute right away for that potential to be realized.
The Wolf Pack secondary in 2019 was a very porous unit in the Wolf Pack defense. In 2019 the Wolf Pack gave up 31 passing touchdowns and allowed an overall opponent passer rating of 147.47 and gave an average of eight yards per play in the air.
In all these three categories mentioned in the above paragraph, the Wolf Pack were ranked 11th in the Mountain West. Only the New Mexico Lobos had a worse pass defense in the Mountain West than the Wolf Pack in 2019.
However, despite the overall struggles in the secondary, the Wolf Pack secondary did improve late in the season.In terms of defensive passer rating, Nevada improved from 11th in the Mountain West with a defensive passer rating of 165.90 in September to fifth in the conference in November with a defensive passer rating of 136.70.
The reason for the Wolf Pack’s struggles in the secondary in 2019 was due to Nevada starting mostly freshman and sophomores. However, they did get better by the end of the season and now those freshman and sophomores from last year are experienced sophomores and juniors in 2020.
The leaders in the secondary for Nevada are safety Austin Arnold and defensive back Tyson Williiams. Williams led the Wolf Pack in tackles as he recorded 85 tackles in 2019. Williams also led the team in pass break ups as recorded seven pass break-ups and one interception. Austin Arnold recorded 39 tackles while recording four pass break-ups in 2019.
Joining Arnold and Williams is Berndale Robins, Emany Johnson, Mar’Quette Jackson and Jayce Godley.In short, Arnold and Williams anchor a Nevada secondary that looks to continue their improvement from late last season and be one of the better secondary units in the Mountain West.
The Wolf Pack defense in 2019 really was a mirror image of the Wolf Pack offense: Struggled early but played well late in the season. Nevada did find a strong point in their defensive line as Sam Hammond and Dom Peterson played very well in 2019 and could be big time stars in 2020.
The Wolf Pack’s run defense at times was one of the best units in the Mountain West but there were times where that unit did struggle. The Wolf Pack defense, led by new defensive coordinator Brian Ward must find that consistency in run defense in order to go from a sometimes good unit to a great unit all the time.
New defensive coordinator Brian Ward must also help the secondary elevate their play from last season. The Wolf Pack secondary was atrocious early on in the season but by the end of the season played well. Nevada’s secondary gets a big boost in the return of Austin Arnold and Tyson Williams as they lead the way in a Wolf Pack secondary that is looking to improve even more.
The linebackers for Nevada are lacking experience as the top four linebackers from 2019 are gone. It is up to senior Lawson Hall and a few talented but inexperienced players to help out the Wolf Pack front seven in 2020.
For Nevada to contend for a Mountain West championship in 2020, the Wolf Pack defense must continue their consistent, good play from last season and have that carry over to this season. If the Wolf Pack still struggle on defense with a new defensive coordinator then it could be another struggle just to get to bowl eligibility in 2020.