Jay Norvell got off to a slow start in 2017, going 3-9, but last year everything came together and in just his second year at the program, he led Nevada to an 8-5 record, their best year since the famous 2010 Colin Kaepernick team that beat then-#3 Boise State and finished 11th in the AP poll at 13-1.
Norvell has recruited strongly and though they lose some key pieces this year, this very much feels like a “laying the groundwork” type of year before they have a chance to surpass that eight win mark in 2020.
The offense had an up-and-down year for a unit that relied heavily on underclassmen. Freshman Toa Taua was the starter at running back, and he picked up 4.9 yards per carry. His backup, Kelton Moore, averaged 4.8. Both will return for 2019 but the line does lose three starters.
One time four-star Florida State signee Malik Henry has made his way to Nevada by way of Last Chance U, he will have to fend off redshirt freshman Carson Strong and senior Christian Solano for the job, but that seems likely.
Whoever the QB is will have a lot to throw to as the receiving corps is pretty loaded with everyone other than slot McLane Mannix returning. Kaleb Fossum was awesome last year and returns, and the Wold Pack bring back two deep threats in Elijah Cooks and Brendan O’Leary-Orange.
The receiving group is talented but there are issues on the line and a big question mark at QB. If Henry or someone else shows out there this offense might not miss a beat.
After an awesome year in 2018, a ton of talent on the defense is gone between Malik Reed, Korey Rush, and Dameon Barber. That doesn’t mean there isn’t talent returning as well though. CB Daniel Brown racked up 11 PBUs last year, and his dancing partner, EJ Muhammad, also returns after being out for the year last year. LB Gabriel Sewell was one of the top run-stopping backs in the Mountain West and is back, and end Dom Peterson totaled three sacks and 7.5 TFL.
LB Josiah Bradley and DB Teyjohn Herrington, who redshirted last year, are both key recruits from the 2018 class that could show out in 2019 and are names to keep an eye on.
A handful of freshmen come in in the secondary, and while five of the top seven tacklers are gone this should be a solid defense once again.
I think that this team will take a step back, but probably not as big of one as could be expected from the returning starter numbers.
Most of the toughest opponents that the Wolf Pack face will be on the road, meaning they’ve got a lot of easy games at home, which can be a good or bad thing, it certainly reduces variance (just three games are projected within six points). This feels like a six or seven win year that lays the groundwork for a breakout year in 2020, as most of the team should be back.
|Date||Opponent||Opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|12-Oct||San Jose State||116||11.5|
|19-Oct||at Utah State||73||-6.1|
|9-Nov||at San Diego State||66||-6.8|
|23-Nov||at Fresno State||51||-9.6|
Average Projected Record: 6.4 wins, 5.6 losses (4.1 wins, 3.9 losses)