Nevada Football: 2021 Cal Preview

Nevada Football: 2021 Cal Preview

Mountain West Football

Nevada Football: 2021 Cal Preview

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Nevada Football: 2021 Cal Preview


Wolf Pack versus battle-tested Bears in Berkeley


Contact/Follow @brandonchukayne & @MWCwire

Moveable object versus unstoppable force?

Sept. 4 at Cal

SP+ Ovr. Rk. (54) / Off. 29.7 (62) / Def. 24.5 (53)

2019 record: (8-5) / 2020 record: (1-3)

Super Senior” count: Ten (10)

Key players:

QB, Chase Garbers

RB, Damien Moore, RB, Christopher Brown Jr.

WO, Kekoa Crawford, WO, Nikko Remigio

TE, Jake Tonges

Offense

Fifteen players a with combined thirty-eight starts return for the Cal offense.

Moveable object versus unstoppable force?

Cal brings back four of five starters to a offensive-line unit that surrendered fifteen (15) sacks in four (4) games. On the other hand, Nevada’s defense returns six (6) “Super Seniors” from a unit that ranked 33rd (out of 128) nationally in points allowed.

Dom Peterson registered a team leading thirteen and a half (13.5) sacks over his past two campaigns. Peterson’s ability to align from the edge or interior with effective production and disruption provides the Wolf Pack defense with immense positional versatility along the front for nearly any situation presented to them regardless of down or distance.

Here we have Peterson utilizing a speed-rush to defy the forces of gravity with the bend and ankle flexion of a natural EDGE prospect, but at almost three-hundred pounds.

Sam Hammond returns for one more campaign as he looks to expand upon his second-team All-Mountain West performance a season ago. The former walk-on shows off the progression of his technical skill-set with the ability to set four to five yards up the field simulating a speed rush before putting his foot in the ground with an inside counter move. Absolutely zero wasted motion as Hammond’s hands, hips, and feet are in near perfect synchronization as he slaps the tackle’s hands down, gets a skinny forty-five degree lean in the hips through contact, and displays the athleticism to bend in the ankles and jive in the hips to split the double team in a phone booth for the eventual sack.

Fourth quarter, third down, red-zone, two-possession game:

Winner, winner Hammond cheese buffet

Cal’s running game mustered up a measly 3.43 yards per carry with only one big-play rush of over thirty yards last season. The Wolf Pack defense allowed 138.2 yards per game on the ground last season, which should not be too much of an issue in their season opener as long as the front four can contain Garbers from using his functional mobility to boot, scoot, and boogie for crucial first downs.

Redshirt “Super Senior” QB Chase Garbers returns for one more go-round looking to reclaim the success from his sophomore campaign that saw him toss fourteen (14) touchdowns to only three (3) interceptions in only eight full contests while leading the Golden Bears to a (7-1) record, including major road upsets in hostile environments over Washington, Ole Miss, Stanford, and UCLA.

Garbers has some of that Cali boy swagger to his game:

Peek-a-boo

A bit of clutch finesse, as well. The more you know.

Defense

Key players:

EDGE, Cameron Goode

ILB, Kuony Deng

CB, Josh Drayden

SAF, Elijah Hicks

Thirteen players with combined thirty-six starts return for the Cal defense.

Again, moveable object versus unstoppable force?

Linebackers are the backbone of the defensive system in Berkeley led by Cameron Goode off the edge and Kuony Deng between the tackles. Goode racked up fourteen and half (14.5) tackles-for-loss and nine and half (9.5) sacks in ’19. He’s a candidate to lead the Pac-12 in sacks this season.

Deng led the Golden Bears in tackles with thirty-one (31) in four games last season. In the previous season, Deng totaled one-hundred twenty-one (121) tackles and was second on the defensive unit with eight (8) passes defended. Eight defended passes from the linebacker position not only quantifies his length, but spatial awareness in zone coverage.

Establishing a short passing game to stretch and stress Cal’s defense horizontally could open up soft spots in the seam for Turner and Stovall to secure some key first-downs without the constant disruption from Deng in the slot. Utilizing the entire width of the field on a consistent basis with quick screens and swings into flat boundary, in theory, should allow for more opportunities for Romeo Doubs over the top as the game progresses.

Strong and the Wolf Pack receivers will need to be in-sync all day long as ball placement and rhythmic timing could mean the difference from a five yard gain and one yard loss, especially when dealing with this type of disciplined athleticism across multiple layers of the defense.

Deng checks all boxes on this play between patient eye disciple, click and close burst, disengaged contact with physically and length through the shed, hat towards the football, and finished with a technically sound sure-tackle.

The eye disciple and patience displayed in the previous clip is all the more impressive after watching Deng instantly diagnose run and absolutely rocket close into the backfield knocking the center into oblivion right into the ball-carrier.

He’ll be playing on Sundays.

As far as Nevada is concerned, Deng could potentially cause a multitude of issues from disrupting timing on vertical concepts and running down screens outside the numbers. Exterior blocking from the wideouts will be a key point of emphasis throughout the spring in preparation for the road trip to the Bay as every single yard after the catch will likely be of the hard earned variety.

In the secondary, shutdown corner Camryn Bynum has decided to forgo his “Super Senior” season opting to enter the NFL Draft.

The cupboard isn’t completely bear in Berkeley with sure-tackling combo safety Elijah Hicks and shut-down corner Josh Drayden returning, both of whom recorded an interception in a shortened four game season last year. Drayden will likely draw the assignment of covering Romeo Doubs in this one. Athletically, Doubs is second-to-none, but if there is one great equalizer in the game of football it is experienced maturity. And, Drayden has it; all of it. The sixth year senior has appeared in thirty-one (31) games for the Golden Bears throughout his collegiate career, in that time, he shared the field with USC’s Juju Smith-Schuster, Ole Miss’ DK Metcalf, and Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr., to name a few.

In the clip below, we have a bit of a two-for-one. Elijah Hicks is simply reading the quarterbacks eyes here as he steps in-front of the crossing receiver to make the interception. A little bootleg flood concept here, Hicks does not even flinch on the play-action flow displaying the discipline of a defensive-back with thirty-five (35) career appearances. At about the four-second mark, #20 Josh Drayden enters the right portion of your screen. Drayden looks smooth through his side shuffle into backpedal with the lateral agility and fluid hip action to change directions in an instant all the while having his eyes queued on the quarterback. Yet, still having spatial awareness for his zone splitting the difference between the shallow crossing tight-end and the wideout a few yards behind him.

What a fun showdown between two skill position groups that are spectacular at what they do best.

Prediction:

Expect a battle of attrition in Berkeley for this non-conference opener with the defense; particularly Nevada’s front four and Cal’s back seven being the deciding factor in what could be a much lower scoring game than anticipated.

Cal by a couple in Overtime sounds about right.

SP+ projections per ESPN’s Bill Connelly


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