Nevada Football: Wolf Pack Fall Camp Questions
Fall Camp has opened for Nevada and there are some questions that need to be answered
What Are the Questions Nevada Football Has to Answer During Fall Camp?
The Nevada Wolf Pack opened fall camp on Wednesday of last week and that means that the start of the 2022 season is almost here. It’s time to get excited people because football is almost back.
This fall football camp for Nevada is the first under new Wolf Pack head coach Ken Wilson and the head coaching position is not the only thing that is new for Nevada. The Wolf Pack will be welcoming in new faces at numerous key positions and this season will be one of a lot of changes in Reno.
With the new faces, there are several questions that the Wolf Pack will have to answer before their Week 0 games against New Mexico State on August 27th. And this article will dive into those questions that Nevada will try to answer before their contest against the Aggies of New Mexico State.
Here are some of the questions that Nevada football must deal with before the start of the new season.
Who is going to be QB#1 for Nevada?
Carson Strong put up some impressive passing numbers in his final two seasons at quarterback for Nevada. Strong threw for 63 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions while completing around 70 percent of his passess in his final two seasons in Reno. Strong’s performance was so great that he won back-to-back Mountain West offensive player of the year in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Now Strong is with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and the person who will be the starting QB for Nevada is a mystery.
Nate Cox, the fifth-year senior from Lafayette, Louisiana, appeared to be the favorite to be the starter at quarterback for Nevada as he led the team through spring practices. However, Cox was arrested in June for driving under the influence. Wolf Pack head coach Ken Wilson has not said if Cox will be suspended due to the DUI charge so we will wait and see if that happens.
Should Cox be suspended for the DUI charge, there are some options that Wilson and the Wolf Pack can turn to at quarterback. Former Oklahoma State quarterback Shane Illingsworth can step in to either replace Cox at quarterback should Cox be suspended or even overtake Cox as starting quarterback. Illingsworth has a few years of experience at starting quarterback playing in and starting in a few games for the Cowboys out of the Big 12 conference .
After Illingsworth, the rest of the quarterbacks Nevada has on its roster lack playing experience at the FBS level. Jake Barlage is a JUCO product from Riverside, CA who has not thrown a pass since 2019 at Riverside Community College and AJ Bianco is a true freshman from Honolulu, Hawaii.
All signs point to a showdown during Fall camp between Nate Cox (Who is the tallest QB in FBS at six-foot-nine by the way . Be ready to hear that alot this season) and Shane Illingsworth for the starting QB job for Nevada. The winner will have the arduous task of replacing one of the most productive quarterbacks in Nevada football history.
To quote the bad guy who took Liam Nesson’s daughter in the movie Taken: “Good Luck”.
Who is going to step up at wide receiver outside of Jamaal Bell?
For those who have been hiding under a rock or stopped paying attention to college football after the regular season finale last year, former Wolf Pack head coach Jay Norvell left to take the head coaching job at Colorado State.
Norvell wasn’t the only one who left Reno for Fort Collins, 14 players including a bunch of assistant coaches all left Reno to work for Norvell at CSU. Of those 14 players that left Nevada to play for Colorado State,two of them were wide receivers. Melquan Stovall and Tory Horton are with Norvell at Colorado State while Justin Lockhart and Elijah Cooks transferred to San Jose State.
Those transfers combined with Romeo Doubs and tight end Cole Turner departing Reno for the NFL and Nevada has lost six of its top seven pass catchers from 2022. I am going out on a limb here and say that is a big problem for the Wolf Pack.
So who is going to catch the ball for Nevada in 2022? Well, Jamaal Bell is the Wolf Pack’s top returning receiver with all of 14 catches in 2021. But after Bell, the options for Nevada at wide receiver (and tight end) are unknown entities.
The Wolf Pack did go to the transfer portal and brought in players at wide receiver that can contribute this season. BJ Casteel, a former Arizona Wildcat, could step up and start for the Wolf Pack this season. Casteel did catch 33 passes for 386 yards in his final season for Arizona in 2021 so that experience and production could be something to hopefully bolster the Wolf Pack receiver unit
Other wide receivers that transferred to Nevada and are looking to make an impact are Illinois transfer Dalevon Campbell and Oregon transfer Spencer Curtis. Both Campbell and Curtis could see a whole lot of playing time this season and keep an eye out for Victor Snow, the five-foot-eight wide receiver from Webster, New York had a pretty good spring game and could possibly find himself getting serious playing time at wide receiver.
On the tight end front, it’ll be a huge task to replace Cole Turner’s production and it’ll be up to guys like Carlton Brown III, Jacob Munro and Oregon transfer Cooper Shults to at the very least contribute at the tight end position because like the wide receiver unit, Nevada has a whole lot of unknowns that they need to figure out soon.
Who is going to join Aaron Frost on the offensive line ?
Last year, Nevada’s offensive line was abysmal and that may be putting it kindly. The Wolf Pack offensive line was responsible for a low rushing yards per attempt output at 3.0 yards per attempt. The Wolf Pack offensive line also gave up 43 sacks which was a school record.
The Wolf Pack only have one offensive lineman who played full time in 2021 and his name is Aaron Frost. Frost is a two-time All-MW selection and he will be the leader for the offensive line this season as the Wolf Pack try to reestablish “The Union”.
Two things that could help Nevada’s offensive line bounce back from a dismal 2021 season. First, Coach Wilson’s emphasis on running the ball should help an offensive line that at times last season couldn’t protect a cold cup of coffee let alone Carson Strong who was coming off a knee surgery during last offseason.
The second thing that could help the Wolf Pack on the offensive line is the new additions coming to Reno via the transfer portal. Nevada brought in offensive linemen such as Joey Capra (San Diego State), Kai Arenson (Oregon) and Cole Feinauer (Colorado State) to help shore up the offensive line and any one of these lineman can start or add depth to Nevada’s offensive line.
The goal for the Wolf Pack during camp must be to find four lineman to start alongside Aaron Frost and find the depth needed should injuries affect Nevada this season.
Who is going to help out Dom Peterson on the defensive line?
Like the wide receiver unit, the Wolf Pack will have to replace a lot of production from last year’s team. Sam Hammond, Tristan Nichols, Kam Toomer, Dan Grzesiak, Jack Powers and Zak Mahannah are no longer with the Wolf Pack.
Last season, Hammond, Nichols,, Toomer, Grzesiak, Powers and Mahannah combined for 27.5 sacks and 36.5 tackles for loss. That is a whole lot of defensive production no longer in Reno. And now the Wolf Pack will have to start over on the defensive line.
The only holdover from last year’s defensive line is Dom Peterson, who was named to the Bednarik Award watchlist for the top defensive player in the nation. Peterson has been very productive throughout his Wolf Pack career but this season, Nevada will need him to be at his best as their are some talented but unproven players looking to be apart of Nevada’s new defensive line.
The Wolf Pack are hoping that returning players like Christopher Love and Aaron Overton Jr., can step up to bigger roles this season on the defensive line. Also, the Wolf Pack went to the transfer portal to search for some defensive line help and they were able to bring in guys like William Green (Liberty), Louie Cresto (Oregon) and James Hansen (Utah State) to contribute on the defensive line this season.
Who will replace Julian Diaz as Nevada’s punter?
Another position that Nevada is looking to replace a talented player who is not on the roster anymore is at the punter position.
Julian Diaz set a school record in punting by averaging 45.3 yards per attempt. While Diaz was no Ryan Stonehouse or Matt Araiza, Diaz’s punting did help the Wolf Pack when it came to field position last year. Now Diaz is gone and Nevada has opened up fall camp with uncertainty at punter.
Fifth-year senior Matt Freem did a little punting during spring practices so odds are he may get to compete for the punting job during camp. Nevada did recruit Harry Webster who is a punter from Australia so look for him to compete for the punting job against Freem.
The Wolf Pack are a team that is rebuilding on both sides of the ball so a strong punting game to go along with the talented leg of kicker Brandon Talton, who was named to the Lou Groza Award watch list for the nation’s best plackicker, would be a big boost to Nevada’s chances of winning some games in 2022.