Countdown to Kickoff 2009: The Pre-Season Top 50—No. 41 Nevada Wolfpack

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Countdown to Kickoff 2009: The Pre-Season Top 50—No. 41 Nevada Wolfpack

Spring practice has wrapped up across the country and we are a little over three months away from kickoff. To make the time go a little faster, I will count down my top 50 teams one team at a time.


No. 42  Arizona State Sun Devils

No. 41  NEVADA WOLF PACK

Reno is buzzing with excitement about a Nevada football program that seems to be on the precipice of an exciting year.

Coach Chris Ault has 198 victories during his 24 seasons with the Wolf Pack making him the sixth most winningest coach among active FBS coaches.  But it is the play of Nevada's outstanding quarterback Colin Kaepernick that has fans talking about busting the BCS.

In 2008, Kaepernick, the WAC Offensive Player of the Year, became the fifth player in FBS history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 in the same season.

With Kaepernick pulling the trigger, Nevada set team records for rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, first downs rushing, and total offense in a season last year.  The Wolf Pack finished fifth nationally in total offense and third in rushing offense.

This season, the Pack will try to do it again.  Only this time, they'd like a few more wins to go with all those records.

With Kaepernick, running back Vai Taua, and most of the offensive line coming back, Nevada could be poised to improve on its offensive output from last year.

Ault's innovative Pistol offense racks up yardage, points and accolades, but that's not enough in a league dripping with offense.

Though the Pack has dropped consecutive heartbreakers to Boise State, the game has already been circled by many as the unofficial WAC championship game.

The WAC certainly feels that the game will be meaningful, scheduling the showdown in the final week of the regular season.

But Nevada must improve on defense and special teams if it expects to challenge Boise State for the WAC title.

The Wolf Pack stuffed the run last year, ranking sixth nationally, but they could not stop the pass, allowing 311.6 yards per game.

The focus heading into the fall will be on stopping the pass.  Defensive ends Kevin Basped (18.5 tackles for loss) and Dontay Moch (17.5 tackles for loss) led a defensive effort that had 100 tackles for loss in 2008.

Getting improvement from a secondary that had many new faces last year is vital.  Five redshirt players from last year—Ahmad Wood, Khalid Wooten, Marlon Johnson, Mose Denton and Thaddeus Brown—are all competing for roles in the Wolf Pack secondary.

Now in his second season, defensive coordinator Nigel Burton is hoping a simpler defensive scheme will result in better execution. 

"It has been intense. The heat was turned up by the coaches. Yes, there is a difference... They were competitive. We've got to be more competitive," coach Ault told the Reno Gazette.

It won't take long to see how much more competitive the Pack is.  Nevada will face both Notre Dame and Missouri to start the season.

 

KEEP AN EYE ON

Wide Receivers:  With the graduation of Mike McCoy and Marko Mitchell, Nevada is looking at several newcomers at wide receiver. Malcolm Shepherd, Brandon Wimberly, Maurice Patterson, and L.J. Washington all made contributions during spring practice as the Wolf Pack focused on the passing game.

Chris Slack:  The Wolf Pack is expected to have one of the best defensive lines in the league.  Production from the 6-5, 270-pound sophomore—who stood out this spring—would help in that quest.

Scott Frisbie:  Coaches were impressed with Frisbie's effort this spring and now the sophomore is in the mix for a starting spot at guard.

 

UP NEXT:  The SEC checks in at No. 40.  Can this once dominant program return to glory under a new, young head coach?

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