Colin Kaepernick Gone to the 49ers: What Next for the Nevada Wolf Pack?

Michael PatmasCorrespondent IIIJuly 29, 2011

Nevada Fans Filled ATT Park in January
Nevada Fans Filled ATT Park in JanuaryEzra Shaw/Getty Images

As the historic 2010 season fades in to the record books, the upcoming 2011 season is fast approaching.

Nevada had its best year ever in 2010 winning a share of the WAC Championship, dethroning previously unbeaten Boise State, totally demolishing Cal and soundly beating Boston College.

Nevada's quarterback Colin Kaepernick rewrote the NCAA record books becoming the most prolific dual-threat in college football history and was rewarded with an early second-round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers.

Six more Nevada players will join the NFL. Dontay Moch (DE) and Virgil Green (TE) were also drafted while Vai Taua (RB), Doyle Miller (CB), Ryan Colson (DE) and Jose Acuna (OL) signed as free agents.

Most experts think Nevada is in for a rough season. After all, losing seven players to the NFL will pretty well deplete the ranks.

Picked to finish no better than third in the WAC this season, expectations are pretty low for the Pack. The folks in Boise are licking their chops in anticipation of a payback blow out.

While losing so many players is going to be tough for Coach Ault and his staff, the schedule adds another level of challenge. Nevada opens the season with four consecutive road games.

Starting with Oregon, San Jose, Texas Tech and Boise State, before coming home to play UNLV and the rest of the WAC.

It could be a grim season for Nevada fans. But then again, maybe not?

Nevada is returning 14 starters from their championship team. They will likely be led by senior QB Tyler Lantrip, who has been patiently waiting in the wings while Kaepernick was making history.

Lantrip has not seen much playing time, but when he has gotten in games, he has been very effective. He has a strong arm and is quite mobile. He may not have the athleticism of Kaepernick, but he will surprise folks.

Junior running back Mike Ball will get his chance to be the workhorse. When he did get his hands on the ball he was very effective and scored five touch downs in one game.

Some wonder if he will be as good as Vai Taua, but I think he will. Taua's success was the product of his toughness, shifty running style and the pistol offense that gives running backs a head start. They hit the line of scrimmage at full speed.

Linebacker James Michael Johnson is also returning and will make his presence felt for sure. With Dontay Moch bound for the Bengals, Johnson will get the spotlight.

Rishard Matthews will anchor the receiving corps that tragically lost Brandon Wimberley to a bullet. Few can forget Matthews brilliant TD catch against BSU and his kickoff return against BC.

So despite losing so many players, I think Nevada will not be depleted. On the contrary, I think they will be more loaded for bear than folks are expecting.

I was predicting Nevada would beat BSU, and Kaepernick would be a first-round pick when the cognoscenti had the Broncos in a BCS Bowl and Kaepernick playing for the Chicago Bears. I missed the draft call by six picks.

Here's my prediction for the season.  Nevada will give Oregon, Texas Tech and  BSU all they can handle. In fact, I would not be surprised to see an upset somewhere in the first few games against tough non-conference teams.

Having toughened up on the Ducks, Red Raiders and the Broncos, Nevada will handle the rest of the season well. Facing Fresno and Hawaii in Reno, will give the Wolf Pack the edge.

So, I am calling for a 9-3 season and an outright WAC Championship. I nailed it last season. Let's see how close I get this year.