T9C Countdown: #21 Nevada Wolfpack.

Gearing up for the 2009 college football season takes a lot of work. Ranking players, critiquing coaches and drinking massive quantities of beer is tough. That’s why The Nine Commandments is creating its first T9C Top 25 Countdown. To see all of the previous ranked teams, be sure to check the links at the bottom of this post. Be sure to check back daily for the latest.

Colin Kaepernick returns for his third season at the helm of the Wolfpack offense.

Colin Kaepernick returns for his third season at the helm of the Wolfpack offense.

2006 Boise State Broncos. 2007 Hawaii Warriors. 2008 Utah Utes. All BCS bowl crashers in the past few years. Is it possible that the Nevada Wolfpack could become the latest in the non-BCS conference teams to make their way to one of the five big bowl games? It’s very possible with the schedule the WAC team has and the pistol offense the team runs with one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country. But do they deserve it? Would they be able to take down a major conference champion in the Fiesta Bowl or Sugar Bowl? Maybe. These questions are getting a little ahead of themselves when a single game hasn’t even been played yet.

I’ve seen this team play in person. They can get the ball into the end zone whenever they want and can break some great runs right up the middle as well. Any down is a threat to make it to the final ten yards of the field. Kaepernick is more accurate than many give him credit for and with Vai Taua, I don’t know how this team can’t go 10-2 or 11-1… and possibly one win better.

Vai Taua hopes to solidify his role in Nevada's pistol offense.

Vai Taua hopes to solidify his role in Nevada's pistol offense.

Nevada definitely has one of the more balanced and versatile offenses running such an open offense. With Junior Colin Kaepernick, the Wolfpack have a quarterback with the legs of Randall Cunningham and the arm of… well, maybe Randall Cunningham is a good comparison for the fleet footed commander of the offense. Kaepernick is in his third season in the pistol season and has proved his consistency with 2,849 yards passing and 1,130 yards rushing in his second season after a stellar freshman year. I can see Kaepernick making the honorable mention All-American team. He’s that good and should find some kind of home playing on Sunday (some have him going in the first round in next years draft).

There’s nothing wrong with the Wolfpack’s offense. It’s balanced and puts up great numbers in all its games. Their 277.8 yards rushing per game ranked third in the country while their 230.8 yards through the air ranked 47th. Nevada returns Vai Taua, the 5’10” back that stepped up to fill the void of Luke Lippincott after he went down with a torn ACL. His 1,520 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing helped the Wolfpack tremendously, with 8 games rushing for over 100 yards, including a phenomenal 263 yards against Fresno State. Lippincott is back for a sixth year and Courtney Randall is projected #2 on the depth chart and will add backup when needed. If the Wolfpacks rushing game isn’t as good as 2008, it will only be better.

Chris Wellington becomes the #1 receiver for Nevada's inexperienced wide-outs.

Chris Wellington becomes the #1 receiver for Nevada's inexperienced wide-outs.

Nevada losses it’s top two receivers from 2008 but the size and athleticism that Chris Wellington, Brandon Wimberly and Tray Session will help the Wolfpack switch between the run and pass easily. Joe Washington is a highly touted recruit that will see playing time as a receiver and a kick returner that could make a key difference in close games. These are a lot of new guys, but the strong running game should distract defenders, leaving these receivers facing single coverage a lot of the time.

The secondary was dismal against the pass in 2008, giving up 311.6 yards per game, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt because of their pass happy WAC opponents. The tackles were spread around with a lot of players in the mix last season. Strong safety Jonathan Amaya will line up for his last season along with Antoine Thompson at cornerback. Both players bring the experience and toughness the Wolfpack need to be successful. It’s just the rest of this defensive unit that will be questionable (besides the defensive line). Cory Smith is a heralded JUCO recruit that the Nevada coaches will hope can step in and be able to shut down the pass. Isaiah Frey is the second CB in the depth chart but lacks the ability to shut down on the pass, which will come back to hurt the team, in my opinion. There will be a lot of competition in the secondary, but I don’t think they will be able to make that much of a difference from last season.

The defense was strong defending the rush, allowing just 88.6 yards per game. Those numbers may be skewed because of the offensive mentality of the WAC coaches, but the defensive line can get the job done. Chris Slack saw limited time last year, but was able to record 10 tackles, including 2 tackles for loss. He is a bit undersized, but he will be a key to filling the shoes of Mundrae Clifton, the lone starter lost on the d-line. Expect to hear the name of Kevin Basped a lot this season. The All-WAC recorded 10.5 sacks last season, including 18.5 tackles for loss. This guy is big and able to take down any player he wants. Dontay Moch is another name on the d-line that will make a difference. If only Nevada could recruit in the secondary as well as they did on the defensive side of the trench.

Dontay Moch will most likely be playing on Sunday, but could see himself playing in a BCS bowl by seasons end.

Dontay Moch will most likely be playing on Sunday, but could see himself playing in a BCS bowl by seasons end.

This team has the strength to switch between the rush and the pass efficiently and will most likely be the #1 or #2 placed team in the WAC. The secondary absolutely has to show up if they want to become the WAC Champs. If they can take down Boise State in their final game of the regular season, look for a BCS bowl bid.

Vegasinsider over/under: 7.5

9-5 @ Notre Dame
9-12 @ Colorado State
9-25 Missouri (Fri.)
10-3 UNLV
10-9 Louisiana Tech (Fri)
10-17 @ Utah State
10-31 Hawaii
11-8 @ San Jose State
11-14 Fresno State
11-21 @ New Mexico State
11-27 @ Boise State (Fri)

Key Games:
9/5 @ Notre Dame
9/25 Missouri
11/27 @ Boise State

Offense: 7
Defense: 7

Key Players:
QB Colin Kaepernick
RB Vai Taua
WR Chris Wellington
DE Dontay Moch
WR/KR/PR Joe Washington
SS Jonathan Amaya
DT Kevin Basped

The rest of the countdown:
#25 Pitt Panthers
#24 North Carolina Tar Heels
#23 Illinois Illini
#22 Kansas Jayhawks


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One Response to “T9C Countdown: #21 Nevada Wolfpack.”

  1. T9C Countdown: #20 Miami Hurricanes. « The Nine Commandments Says:

    […] of the best: #21 Nevada Wolfpack #22 Kansas Jayhawks #23 Illinois Illini #24 UNC Tar Heels #25 Pitt […]

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