Mountain West

Unpublished

Unpublished

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#101 UNLV Rebels

NATIONAL FORECAST

#101

MW West PREDICTION

#4

HEAD COACH: Bobby Hauck, 13-38 (4 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Timm Rosenbach | DEF. COORDINATOR: Tim Hauck

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 101 UNLV.

Previewing UNLV’s Offense for 2014

Replacing a player who began last season as a backup wide receiver will arguably be the biggest key for the Rebels offensively. Caleb Herring took over at quarterback midway through the fourth game of the season and rallied UNLV to its first bowl game and winning season since 2000, breaking a number of school records in the process, including the single-season passing percentage mark (62.9) held for three decades by the legendary Randall Cunningham.

Junior Nick Sherry, who beat out Herring for the starting job as a freshman and also began last season as the starter, is battling junior college transfer Blake Decker for the starting job entering fall camp. Both had their moments during spring practice, but neither was impressive enough for coach Bobby Hauck to hand him the job.

The Rebels also must replace tailback Tim Cornett, a four-year starter who departed as the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,733 yards, second-best in Mountain West history. Projected starter Adonis Smith left the team in early May, leaving senior Shaquille Murray-Lawrence as the likely starter. Murray-Lawrence rushed for 418 yards in a reserve role last fall in his first season after transferring from junior college.

Senior Devante Davis, an NFL prospect who caught 87 passes for 1,290 yards and 14 touchdowns, returns to anchor a veteran wide receiver corps.

The strength of the offense, if not the entire team, is a big, strong and physical offensive line that returns most of its key contributors, including left tackle Brett Boyko.

Previewing UNLV’s Defense for 2014

It’s taken a while, but the Rebels finally have developed some size and decent depth on this side of the ball. Now the question is whether that will translate into improvement statistically after UNLV allowed averages of 31.8 points and 215.5 yards rushing per game.

The Rebels use a 4-3 base defense led by three defensive ends — Sonny Sanitoa, Jordan Sparkman and Siuea Vaesau — who could line up for any team in the conference. But the Rebels must replace both starting tackles.

The linebacking corps, led by Tau Lotulelei, is young but athletic and will likely feature three sophomore starters.

The secondary, which made significant progress under the tutelage of Hauck’s brother, former NFL defensive backs coach Tim Hauck, returns three starters, including junior strong safety Peni Vea, who had a team-high 108 tackles and two interceptions, and senior corner Tajh Hasson, who forced a team-high four fumbles.

Previewing UNLV’s Specialists for 2014

The Rebels must replace placekicker Nolan Kohorst, a four-year starter who kicked 39 career field goals, and they thought they had his replacement when they landed local star Conor Perkins. But shortly after signing his letter of intent, Perkins informed UNLV that he had decided to take a two-year LDS Church mission before enrolling. Jonathan Leiva, a late junior college signee out of Palomar (Calif.) College, will be handed the job in the fall. Junior Logan Yunker returns to handle the punting.

Final Analysis

UNLV learned in the spring that it had failed to meet minimum NCAA Athletic Progress Rate (APR) score requirements of 930 and that the program would be ineligible for postseason competition in 2014, including the Mountain West Championship Game. However, in late June, the program won an appeal and is eligible to play in a bowl in 2014. The Rebels, who ended a 12-year bowl drought with a 36–14 loss to North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year’s Day, hope to be legitimate contenders in the West Division and stand a strong chance of making it to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#118 Hawaii Warriors

NATIONAL FORECAST

#118

MW West PREDICTION

#6

HEAD COACH: Norm Chow, 4-20 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Norm Chow | DEF. COORDINATOR: Kevin Clune

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 118 Hawaii.

Previewing Hawaii’s Offense for 2014: 

Sophomore Ikaika Woolsey is positioned to be Hawaii’s fourth opening-day starting quarterback in as many seasons. Woolsey, who started two games in 2013 and played mostly cameo roles before taking the lead in the spring, gives the Rainbow Warriors their best combination of passing and running, which is why it is his job to lose.

But he won’t lack for competition. Taylor Graham, who started the 2013 season-opener before suffering a shoulder injury in the third game, should be healthy in the fall. Jeremy Higgins, who also has a start on his résumé, and one-time Colorado State signee Beau Reilly will be in the mix.

But there is no doubt who makes the running game go — senior tailback Joey Iosefa, who came back from a foot injury that caused him to miss all or most of eight games to rush for 586 yards and five touchdowns in the final four games. His return coincided with Hawaii’s late-season offensive surge. Steven Lakalaka and Diocemy Saint Juste will spell Iosefa.

The arrival of Quinton Pedroza, a transfer from Utah, adds some much-needed depth to the receiver corps, where Scott Harding, Vasquez Haynes and Keith Kirkwood should be the main targets. If Jordan Pu’u-Robinson can stay healthy — a big if — the tight end position will be a big part of the offense.

In an effort to shore up an offensive line that allowed 43 sacks, the team’s best lineman, two-year starting center Ben Clarke, could find himself at tackle this year. Steady Kody Afusia would move from left guard to center.

Previewing Hawaii's Defense for 2014:

When defensive coordinator Kevin Clune arrived from Utah State, he took on one of the biggest challenges in the country. Clune inherits a defense that ranked among the worst in the nation in several key categories.

The undertaking begins with the switch from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 to take advantage of one of Hawaii’s few strengths on defense, its linebackers. The unit, which has both size and speed, received an additional boost when UCLA transfer Jeremy Castro was granted immediate eligibility. Jerrol Garcia-Williams is a leading returnee, and Julian Gener was off to a big start in 2013 before suffering a season-ending injury.

Second-team All-MW defensive end Beau Yap sets the standard on the defensive line, where sophomore Kennedy Tulimasealii is ready to come into his own and Moses Samia and Marcus Malepeai will also play key roles. The secondary will be built around cornerbacks Ne’Quan Phillips and Dee Maggitt and safeties Marrell Jackson, Trayvon Henderson and Kawika Borden. But depth remains an issue in the pass-happy Mountain West, and redshirt freshman Keelan Ewaliko could make a big contribution.

Previewing Hawaii’s Specialists for 2014:

In his addition to his duties as a wide receiver, Harding is a valuable special teams contributor. The former Australian Rules rugby pro punted and returned punts last season, and for a time he was also a holder on placements. As an ambidextrous rugby-style kicker, his roll-outs kept foes off balance, resulting in three fumbles and helping UH rank 25th nationally in net punting. Placekicker Tyler Hadden converted only 7-of-13 attempts last season, including 2-of-3 from beyond 40 yards. 

Final Analysis

After the worst two-season start (4–20) ever for a Hawaii head coach, the pressure is on for Norm Chow to show major improvement in 2014. That, however, will not be easy. The schedule is difficult — especially early with three Pac-12 opponents in the season’s first month — and there are significant personnel issues on both sides of the ball. The Rainbow Warriors appear headed toward another last-place finish.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#106 New Mexico Lobos

NATIONAL FORECAST

#106

MW Mountain PREDICTION

#6

HEAD COACH: Bob Davie, 7-18 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Bob DeBesse | DEF. COORDINATOR: Kevin Cosgrove

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 106 New Mexico.

Previewing New Mexico’s Offense for 2014

For a team that ran the ball 77 percent of the time in 2013, losing your No. 1 running back is probably not a good thing. But New Mexico remains confident that its triple-option attack out of the Pistol formation will remain potent even without Kasey Carrier, who averaged 1,296 rushing yards the last two seasons. The Lobos’ top returning rusher, Crusoe Gongbay, is facing some legal issues that could jeopardize his senior season. If he’s not available, Jhurell Pressley, one of the team’s fastest players, and Teriyon Gipson will battle in preseason camp for the starting assignment. Pressley averaged 9.4 yards per carry in limited action in 2013.

At quarterback, option specialist Cole Gautsche is back with hopes of improving his 44.9 percent completion percentage. Gautsche is a powerful runner who racked up 86.3 yards per game and ran for eight touchdowns, but he has had some concussion issues. Senior Clayton Mitchem subbed for Gautsche when Gautsche was hurt or the option was being stifled last year and had a much better completion percentage (59.3 percent). Mitchem, however, is not as much of a threat to run.

Three starters return on the offensive line, and center Garrett Adcock, who started eight games in 2012, is back from injury. Optimism is high that the Lobos’ strong option attack, which was fourth nationally and first in the Mountain West at 308.8 rushing yards per game, will remain potent.

Six of New Mexico’s top seven pass-catchers return, with Marquis Bundy the top candidate to have a breakout season.

Previewing New Mexico’s Defense for 2014

It was no secret that the focus of the spring was improving a defense that was shredded for 42.8 points per game and gave up 56 or more three times. Coach Bob Davie promoted Kevin Cosgrove as his new coordinator and brought in two new assistants on the defensive side of the ball. Six starters return in the 3-4 scheme, including virtually the entire secondary.

Along the defensive line, senior end Brett Bowers is an all-league candidate after making six sacks. The Lobos are bringing in three run-stuffing junior college defensive tackles to help a defense that surrendered 257.2 yards per game on the ground.

Dakota Cox is back at inside linebacker after leading the team in tackles as a true freshman, and on the outside Javarie Johnson, Donnie White and Tevin Newman showed flashes in 2013.

The secondary hopes to cut down the number of long scoring passes (New Mexico gave up 10 TD receptions of 30-plus yards in 2013). Senior David Guthrie, the team’s third-leading tackler, is trying to play a more aggressive style from his strong safety spot. SaQwan Edwards, a returning starter at cornerback, was suspended from the team in April. His loss would be a big blow for the defense.

Previewing New Mexico’s Specialists for 2014

With both kickers gone, Davie signed Jason Sanders to possibly take over both jobs in the fall. Sanders averaged 45 yards per punt and made 7-of-12 field goals as a high school senior. Zack Rogers (kicker) and Sam Gentry (punter) also got looks in spring practice. Wide receiver Carlos Wiggins led the nation with three kickoff returns for touchdowns and was sixth nationally with a 29.6-yard average.

Final Analysis

Davie has seen mild progress with seven wins in his first two years after taking over a program that went 3–33 in the previous three years. But he and his coaching staff know that there is a long way to go for the Lobos to compete in the upper half of the Mountain West. The offense should again be above average. The relative success of 2014 will be determined by what type of progress the defense can make.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#105 Air Force Falcons

NATIONAL FORECAST

#105

MW Mountain PREDICTION

#5

HEAD COACH: Troy Calhoun, 49-41 (7 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Clay Hendrix | DEF. COORDINATOR: Steve Russ

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 105 Air Force.

Previewing Air Force’s offense for 2014

Nate Romine directed a diverse offense last season, at least by Air Force standards. Romine is the rare Falcons quarterback who is a better passer than runner. The Falcons went to six straight bowl games with a run-oriented offense. They stayed home last season with a 2–10 record employing their more diverse attack.

Coach Troy Calhoun faces a complicated decision for 2014. Does he go with Romine, the superior passer, or Kale Pearson, the superior runner? A run-first attack will keep opposing offenses off the field. The struggle between Romine and Pearson will define the season. Pearson is returning from a surgically repaired right knee, but he’s such a gifted runner that he might return kickoffs if he fails to win the starting quarterback job.

Senior tailback Jon Lee has long been a can’t-miss future star for the Falcons. He boasts sprinter’s speed and strength, and he’s elusive in the open field. But nagging ankle and elbow injuries might prevent Lee from reaching his considerable potential. Broam Hart, who played fullback last season, could switch to tailback while Lee watches, yet again, from the bench.

Under assistant coach Clay Hendrix’s direction, the Falcons’ offensive line consistently ranks as one of the nation’s most athletic. Air Force linemen are often seen decking defenders 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. Center Michael Husar leads what could be a dominating unit.

When watching wide receiver Jalen Robinette, the question arises: Why did this big, fast, gifted pass-catcher decide to play for a running team? If Romine wins the quarterback job, Robinette will become one of the Mountain West’s most dangerous receivers. Sam Gagliano could serve as an effective sidekick to Robinette but must solve his habit of dropping passes.

Previewing Air Force’s defense for 2014

The Falcons return seven defensive starters, but here’s the key question of the 2014 season: Is that good news? Air Force’s defense was comically inept last season, surrendering averages of 40.0 points and 490.3 yards of total offense per game.

There is hope. Joey Nichol, if healthy, and Spencer Proctor lead an aggressive group of linebackers, and Weston Steelhammer, Christian Spears and Dexter Walker bring attitude at safety.

The Falcons need to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback. No one on the Falcons’ defensive front weighs more than 265 pounds. Air Force employed three down linemen during most of last season but tinkered with formations in the offseason. The Falcons could surprise opponents with a 2-5 alignment in the fall.

Previewing Air Force’s specialists for 2014

Will Conant owns an accurate (11-of-13 last season) and powerful leg. He should rank among the Mountain West’s top placekickers. The punting job is wide open.

Final Analysis

Calhoun arrived in 2007 to rescue a program that struggled in the final years of Fisher DeBerry’s guidance. He revived the Falcons with players recruited by DeBerry, but the program has gradually regressed with players recruited by Calhoun, who has lost 14 of his last 17 games. Lack of talent and size were the glaring problems last season. The 2014 team is more experienced but still lacks the talent to thrive in the Mountain West. Calhoun needs the running attack to dominate once again. Pearson runs with the speed and elusiveness of a tailback, and he’s capable of leading the Air Force offense — which ranked last in the Mountain West last season in yards per game — back to prominence.

However, for this team to flirt with a winning record, the defense — which gave up an astounding 51 touchdowns in eight Mountain West games — must show significant improvement.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#103 San Jose State Spartans

NATIONAL FORECAST

#103

MW West PREDICTION

#5

HEAD COACH: Ron Caragher, 6-6 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jimmie Dougherty | DEF. COORDINATOR: Greg Robinson

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 103 San Jose State.

Previewing San Jose State’s Offense for 2014

The big question heading into fall camp is who will replace record-setting David Fales — the first player in school history to pass for over 4,000 yards in back-to-back seasons — at quarterback. Senior Blake Jurich and junior Joe Gray both backed up Fales and battled for the No. 1 job in spring practice, but coach Ron Caragher says that the competition will carry over until fall camp.

The Spartans also must replace the two top receivers statistically in school history in Chandler Jones and Noel Grigsby. Jones, a first-team All-Mountain West pick, set a school record with 15 touchdown receptions in 2013, including a single-game record-tying three in the upset of Fresno State. But the cupboard is hardly bare. Tyler Winston returns after earning Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors with 58 receptions for 858 yards and five touchdowns, and senior Jabari Carr has 120 career receptions. Tight end Billy Freeman is another weapon, earning honorable mention All-Mountain West recognition as a freshman when he caught 27 passes.

Jarrod Lawson anchors a deep group of running backs that includes fellow sophomores Thomas Tucker and Tim Crawley. The trio combined for 1,345 yards and eight touchdowns and 65 receptions and four more scores.

Center David Peterson and left tackle Wes Schweitzer return to anchor an offensive line that must replace three starters, including second-team All-Mountain West guard Nicholas Kaspar.

Previewing San Jose State’s Defense for 2014

Caragher’s biggest recruiting coup might been landing highly respected Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator. Robinson will oversee the transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3. He brings five decades of NFL and FBS coaching experience, serving as defensive coordinator for the two-time Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos and Rose Bowl champion Texas Longhorns.

Robinson has four veteran defensive linemen returning, led by tackle Travis Raciti, a three-year starter who was a first-team All-WAC choice in 2012.

The Spartans must replace first-team All-Mountain West pick Keith Smith at linebacker, but they add Vince Buhagiar, who missed the 2013 season following right shoulder surgery after earning first-team All-WAC honors as a junior. Sophomore Christian Tago, who had 90 tackles (10.5 tackles for a loss) and four sacks, also returns.

The secondary loses standout cornerback Bene Benwikere, who had 14 career interceptions, but returns four players with starting experience, led by junior cornerback Jimmy Pruitt.

Previewing San Jose State’s Specialists for 2014

This area once again figures to be one of the strongest in the Mountain West. The Spartans last year shared the national lead in blocked kicks with seven. Junior kicker Austin Lopez has made 39-of-44 of his career field-goal attempts, including an NCAA-record-tying 23 in a row to start his career.

Final Analysis

The Spartans, who will be trying for their third consecutive .500 or better record for the first time since 1989-92, will enter the season with a big chip on their shoulders after getting bypassed for a bowl game despite a 6–6 record and impressive season-ending upset of then-undefeated Fresno State. Seventeen players with starting experience return, and the schedule, outside of early non-conference road games at Auburn and Minnesota, is favorable. Three of the first four Mountain West games are at home, including two against teams — UNLV and Colorado State — that San Jose State defeated on the road a year ago. If Gray or Jurich emerges as a quality option at quarterback and Robinson can fix a defense that ranked 103rd nationally in points allowed (35.1 ppg), the Spartans have enough returning talent to be a factor in the West Division.




Unpublished

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#94 Wyoming Cowboys

NATIONAL FORECAST

#94

MW Mountain PREDICTION

#4

HEAD COACH: Craig Bohl, First Year | OFF. COORDINATOR: Brent Vigen | DEF. COORDINATOR: Steve Stanard

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 94 Wyoming.

Previewing Wyoming’s Offense for 2014

There are several changes in store as first-year coach Craig Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen will go with a pro-style attack instead of the spread offense the team ran the previous five seasons with coach Dave Christensen.

The first step is to find a quarterback, and redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard is the leading candidate. He is the most experienced option on the roster, but he has played in only seven games (with one start) since he arrived in 2011.

“I feel comfortable. It’s just about going out there and executing,” Kirkegaard says.
The competition will continue through fall camp, with sophomore Tom Thornton and senior Sam Stratton on Kirkegaard’s heels.

Bohl wants a power run game, and Wyoming could have the right pieces. Junior Shaun Wick led the team last season with 979 yards and nine touchdowns. Sophomore D.J. May returns after missing last season with a torn pectoral muscle, but he led the team in rushing as a true freshman in 2012 with 374 yards. The offensive line is experienced — all five projected first-teamers have starting experience. That group is anchored by junior right guard Jake Jones, who has started every game of his career.

The Cowboys also have a deep and experienced receiving corps, led by senior Dominic Rufran, who led the team last season with 75 catches for 960 yards and was second with eight touchdowns. Three of the top four wide receivers from last season return.

Wyoming will use tight ends and fullbacks for the first time in five seasons. Expect those positions to have more of an emphasis in the run game.

Previewing Wyoming’s Defense for 2014

Wyoming returns eight starters from a unit that gave up 220.2 rushing yards, 261.8 passing yards and 36.7 points per game last season. The Cowboys were mostly a 3-4 team the last five seasons but will make the transition to a 4-3 squad under Bohl.
The starting group along the line has impressed Bohl, led by junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough. He was a first-team All-Mountain West selection last season with 89 tackles and team-best marks with 12 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks.

Senior middle linebacker Jordan Stanton was among the nation’s leaders in tackles last season (134), but part of that was a product of the defense being on the field for so many snaps. Senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha was all over the field during the spring, and he could thrive in the 4-3.

In the secondary, senior cornerback Blair Burns looks to regain his form after being named a Freshman All-American in 2011. Senior Darrenn White provides experience at free safety.

Previewing Wyoming’s Specialists for 2014

The Cowboys’ kicking game is in decent shape thanks to the return of senior placekicker Stuart Williams and sophomore punter Ethan Wood. Wyoming attempted only seven field goals in 2013, the fewest in the nation. The Pokes ranked in the bottom third of the league in both kickoff returns (last) and punt returns (ninth).

Final Analysis

Wyoming hired a proven winner in Bohl, who led North Dakota State to three consecutive FCS national titles. But the transition in all phases of the game will take time. The Cowboys lost to five teams that finished above them in the conference standings by nearly 30 points per contest last season. This season’s schedule does them no favors, with road games at Oregon and Michigan State in September. Anything close to a .500 record should be considered a success.

“We made good progress during the course of the spring, but we are not anything to where we are a finished product,” Bohl says.




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#82 Nevada Wolf Pack

NATIONAL FORECAST

#82

MW West PREDICTION

#2

HEAD COACH: Brian Polian , 4-8 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Nick Rolovich | DEF. COORDINATOR: Scott Boone, Bill Teerlinck

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 82 Nevada.

Previewing Nevada’s Offense for 2014

Nevada’s famed Pistol offense struggled in the first season under head coach Brian Polian and second-year offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich. After years of being among the nation’s leaders in rushing offense and scoring, Nevada averaged only 26.9 points per game a season ago. And though Nevada improved as the season progressed, the Wolf Pack averaged a lackluster 3.8 yards per carry and dropped to No. 51 in the nation with 179.0 rushing yards per game. One of the major culprits: An offensive line that, despite the efforts of top lineman Joel Bitonio, struggled mightily. Four starters return on the line, but the bad news is that Bitonio isn’t one of them.

The good news is that the Wolf Pack still return eight starters on offense. The most important returnee in Nevada’s quarterback-dependent offense is dual-threat senior Cody Fajardo. Fajardo played with nagging leg injuries for much of last year, and his rushing yards were cut nearly in half to 621 yards, even as his passing numbers remained consistent. The all-conference-caliber quarterback must stay healthy this season to open up the running game.

A strong frontline receiving corps led by senior Richy Turner (61 catches, 755 yards) and 6'5", 230-pound sophomore Hasaan Henderson (29 catches, 326 yards), should help take the pressure off Fajardo. Incoming freshmen Andrew Celis and Wyatt Demps could also contribute.

Senior running back Kendall Brock (812 yards) and junior Don Jackson (332) are capable of carrying Nevada’s running game. But incoming freshman James Butler is an intriguing prospect who could battle for carries.

Previewing Nevada’s Defense for 2014

On paper, the Pack have one of the better defensive lines in the Mountain West, led by all-league end Brock Hekking. The duo of Ian Seau (nephew of Junior Seau) and Lenny Jones at the other end spot and the inside tandem of Jordan Hanson and Rykeem Yates should make for a solid unit. Yet this group was abysmal against the run in 2013, to the tune of 258.5 yards per game, and improvement is paramount.

The linebacking corps has four mainstays for three spots, as incoming defensive co-coordinator Scott Boone, one of the top DCs at the FCS level last year at William & Mary, will retain the Pack’s 4-3 front. Jonathan McNeal and Jordan Dobrich are dependable, while Matthew Lyons played very well at times in 2013. But the key may be athletic junior Bryan Lane Jr., who has split time at linebacker and safety in recent years.

Per usual at Nevada, the secondary appears shaky. Senior Charles Garrett is one of the top corners in the league, but he needs help. Safety Kaodi Dike and undersized corner Elijah Mitchell played last year as true freshmen, and senior corner Evan Favors needs to be a factor. Junior college transfer safety Duran Workman could be a starter right off the bat.

Previewing Nevada’s Specialists for 2014

Nevada loses a weapon in punter Chase Tenpenny, who averaged 44.5 yards per kick last season. Placekicker Brent Zuzo appears dependable after a solid freshman season in which he hit 14-of-17 field goals and 33-of-36 extra points. The Pack need a spark in the return game, and speedster D’Andre Fuller might just provide it.

Final Analysis 

With 16 returning starters, including Fajardo, Nevada should improve over last season. The Wolf Pack’s 2014 slate lightens up from a brutal 2013. Mountain West heavyweights Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State and San Diego State all come to Reno. If the Wolf Pack improve substantially on defense and solve their second-half woes, they should make a bowl game and contend for the West Division title.




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