Senior Duke Williams and the Pack take on Cal on Saturday
Aug. 27, 2012
Nevada (0-0) vs. Cal (0-0)
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012 – 12:07 p.m. PT
Memorial Stadium – Berkeley, Calif.
RADIO: Wolf Pack Radio Network (Flagship: ESPN Radio 94.5 FM/630 AM) with Ryan Radtke (PxP) and Chris Vargas (analyst). Pre-game show with the broadcast crew begins 90 minutes prior to kickoff.
TV: Pac-12 Networks with Dave Flemming (PxP) and Coy Wire (analyst) with Brooke Olzendam (sidelines).
SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads the all-time series 22-2-1.
LAST MEETING: The Wolf Pack took a 52-31 win over the Bears on Sept. 17, 2010 at Mackay Stadium.
The Nevada football team opens the 2012 season on the road as the Wolf Pack travels to face Cal in the newly renovated Memorial Stadium in Berkeley … Cal owns a large advantage in the series history but this will mark just the third meeting between the teams since 1934 … Nevada won the last meeting, 52-31, in Reno in 2010 and Cal took a 33-15 win the last time these teams met in Berkeley (1996) … The game will be broadcast on the new Pac-12 Networks … The game is the first for Nevada as a member of the Mountain West as the school became a member of the league on July 1 … Nevada coach Chris Ault is 1-0 against Cal in his 28-year career … This marks the second straight season Nevada has opened the year on the road at a Pac-12 team (Oregon, 2011) … Nevada was picked second in the Mountain West in preseason voting by the league’s media, behind Boise State … The Wolf Pack had four players named to the Preseason All-MW team in offensive linemen Jeff Nady and Chris Barker, defensive tackle Jack Reynoso and safety Duke Williams ... Nevada returns 13 starters (6/6/1) from last year’s team that finished second in the WAC and went to the Sheraton Hawai`i Bowl and 31 overall letterwinners.
The 2012 Nevada football season comes with a new look as the Wolf Pack opens a new era in the Mountain West Conference with a revamped coaching staff leading the charge for the Wolf Pack.
Thirteen starters return in 2012 along with 31 overall letterwinners from last season and though this team may not feature a plethora of household names to open the year, the Pack has key experience within nearly every unit and is ready to make a charge at a conference title in its first year in the league.
Hall of Fame head coach Chris Ault, who is the longest-tenured coach in NCAA FBS, enters his 28th season and he has breathed new energy into the program with an offseason restructuring of his coaching staff designed to take his Pistol offense to new heights and strengthen a mostly veteran defensive group.
The changes began with the promotion of veteran defensive mind Mike Bradeson to the coordinator spot, a position he’s held before at previous stops in his solid coaching career. The addition of longtime offensive line coach Darren Hiller to be the “Union” boss should bolster the offensive front and veteran coach Larry Lewis arrives to coach the running backs and spearhead the special teams efforts.
The final piece of the puzzle is perhaps the most important as Ault hired passing-game guru Nick Rolovich, a master of the pass-happy Run-and-Shoot offense, to incorporate his knowledge into the Pistol, which has proven to be one of the most lethal offensive schemes in the country since Ault created the offense in 2005. Rolovich will serve as the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
The road won’t be easy, however, as Nevada steps up in leagues and opens the 2012 slate with a pair of BCS foes, at Cal to open and then playing host to South Florida in the Mackay Stadium opener. The schedule also features non-conference games against Northwestern State and Texas State.
The Mountain West schedule shapes up well for the Pack, which was picked second in the official preseason poll. The other top four teams in the poll – Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State and Wyoming, must all coming to Mackay Stadium in 2012.
The following is a position-by-position preview of the 2012 Nevada football team.
On paper, Nevada has one of the youngest quarterback groups in the nation as two sophomores, a redshirt freshman and three true freshmen make up the unit. But one of those sophomores happens to be Cody Fajardo, who was the WAC Freshman of the Year in 2011 and is coming off a summer which included an invitation to the prestigious Manning Passing Academy.
Fajardo completing an outstanding 68.8 percent of his passes in 2011 for 1,707 yards and six touchdowns with just six interceptions. He was also third on the team in rushing with 694 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns.
He’ll be backed by sophomore Devin Combs and redshirt freshman Tanner Roderick. Highly touted newcomers Tyler Stewart and Hasaan Henderson are part of the true freshman class.
In spring drills, a number of Wolf Pack backs saw action in the Pistol offense, which generally is a single-back scheme. But going into the season, Ault has named his starter in Stefphon Jefferson, a junior who averaged 6.1 yards per carry in 2011 with 429 yards and five touchdowns on 70 carries.
Jefferson will be the featured back to open the year but there are others waiting in the wings. Senior Nick Hale will certainly be in the mix and redshirt freshman Anthony Knight could also see time this year.
Senior Brandon Wimberly returns after missing all of 2011 and he’ll be counted on to set the pace for a young receiving corps overall. Wimberly was the 2009 WAC Freshman of the Year and an all-WAC selection in 2010. He enters 2012 with a streak of 27 straight games with a reception – all 27 games of his career. Sophomore Aaron Bradley likely has another of the receiving positions locked up after emerging late in the 2011 season as a dependable target. Bradley caught 28 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns during his freshman season.
Beyond Wimberly and Bradley there is a lot of young talent but not a lot of proven experience. The only other receiver with a catch at the FBS level is sophomore Necho Beard, who should factor in the depth this year, and sophomore Kendall Brock, a versatile athlete who spent most of his true freshman season playing multiple positions. Brock is a full-time receiver now and could emerge. Also vying for time will be junior Joseph Huber, sophomore Parker Vail and sophomore transfer Richy Turner, among others.
The Wolf Pack was dealt a blow in the offseason when juco transfer Nigel Westbrooks, a February signee, tore his ACL. He will redshirt in 2012 and return next season.
The Wolf Pack three veteran players leading this position entering the season. One of the most intriguing players to watch this year is senior Zach Sudfeld, who received a sixth-year of eligibility from the NCAA after missing most of 2011 with a broken ankle suffered in the opener. Sudfeld had a strong spring leading the team in receptions and yards in the spring game and could be a force this year.
The Pack also brings back junior Kolby Arendse, who took over for Sudfeld last year, and junior Stephen Jeffers, who might be the best blocker of the trio. Arendse caught 26 passes for 340 yards and two scores in 2011.
This year’s Union has the potential to be a force with three returning starters, including a pair of all-conference honorees. Senior Chris Barker has started all 40 games of his collegiate career and he’ll hold down one of the guard spots again this year. Next to him is senior Jeff Nady, a three-year starter who will hold down one of the tackle spots. Barker and Nady form one of the top guard-tackle duos in the West.
On the other side of the line, junior Joel Bitonio returns after starting as a sophomore last year. Bitonio could emerge as a dark-horse postseason honors candidate. Entering camp, the center position was up for grabs between sophomore Matt Galas and redshirt freshman Connor Talbott and both should see time this year. The other guard spot will likely be manned by senior Alex Pinto, a former walk-on who is one of the strongest players on the roster.
The depth is a bit young but there is talent waiting to emerge. Sophomore transfer Abel De Haro impressed in fall camp and will factor in the depth. Sophomores Kyle Roberts and Kyle Papendorf and redshirt freshman Sebastian Tretola are also competing for playing time.
One of more interesting battles of fall camp and the early part of the season is to see who will emerge on the defensive front. The only upperclassmen in the depth on the front are senior Mark Avery, who has played in a handful of games in his career, and junior Jack Reynoso and Sam Foster. Reynoso is a proven commodity at one of the tackle spots but he is returning from a broken leg suffered late in the 2011 season.
Foster is battling with sophomores Brock Hekking, Jake Peppard and Tyler Houk and redshirt freshman Lenny Jones for the starting job at the two defensive end spots. Sophomore Jordan Hanson and redshirt freshman Rykeem Yates are among those fighting for time in the interior. And the addition of the versatile juco transfer Cortez Woods, who could likely play inside or out on the front, could make things interesting.
Nevada lost two linebackers to the NFL Draft after last season but it doesn’t look like there will be much drop-off in 2012. Senior Albert Rosette started last year as defensive end but has returned to his natural position at middle linebacker and will start. The outside linebacker spots will likely be held by senior Jeremiah Green and DeAndre Boughton. Green has a breakout season in 2011 and Boughton, who had a promising 2010 season, missed all of 2011 with a broken leg.
The Pack feels it has depth at the position this year with senior Dray Bell also fighting for a starting job and promising redshirt freshmen Jordan Dobrich and Burton De Koning also figuring into the rotation. A couple of transfers in Danny DeCarlo and Jonathan McNeal could also see time, both in the linebacking corps and on special teams.
The strength of the secondary lies in the middle where senior safeties Duke Williams and Marlon Johnson return and could be amongst the best at their respective positions in the conference this year. Senior Ty Thompson should also see the field at times at one of the safety spots and redshirt freshman Bryan Lane Jr switch from linebacker to safety going into fall camp.
At the cornerback positions, senior Khalid Wooten is an all-conference caliber player and has one of the starting jobs locked down. Sophomore Charles Garrett, who played safety last year, will battle for the other starting job along with sophomore Evan Favors, redshirt freshman Bryson Keeton and juco transfer Markus Smith. Transfers Nigel Haikins and Arthur Forrest II could also factor into the secondary depth.
Junior Chase Tenpenny will be looked upon to take over the punting duties for the Wolf Pack. Tenpenny redshirted last year after earning All-America honors as a junior college player. Junior Anthony Martinez will battle with senior Allen Hardison and sophomore Colin Ditsworth for the kicking duties. Hardison will likely be the kickoff specialist but all three of the kickers saw time on kicking opportunities a year ago as injuries ravaged the kicking game in 2011.
Wooten and Brock will likely factor into the return game but a host of other players might also see time, including Williams, Huber and Turner.