If Jay Norvell erred in his first season as coach at Nevada, it was in going away from starting quarterback Ty Gangi too soon. The Wolf Pack's new-look Air Raid offense struggled with and without Gangi early in 2017, but when Gangi returned as starter, Norvell's offense quickly morphed into one of the conference's best. But can a strong recruiting class help get the defense up to speed?
Previewing Nevada Football's Offense for 2018
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With Gangi (2,746 yards, 25 TDs, 11 INTs) back for his senior season, the Wolf Pack offense is poised again to flourish. And the athletic Gangi (233 rushing yards, four TDs) will have loads of skill position help.
The receiver group will be led by sophomore McLane Mannix (778 yards, six TDs), a Freshman All-American last year, and junior Brendan O'Leary-Orange (618 yards, four TDs). A third all-conference candidate could be junior Kaleb Fossum, who missed much of 2017 with injury. Andrew Celis, Trevion Armstrong and Daiyan Henley round out what should be Nevada's best position.
Bruising junior running back Kelton Moore (855 yards, four TDs) emerged midway through 2017 to add a desperately needed run threat. And junior Jaxson Kincaide offers a nice change of pace.
The loss of all-conference tackle Austin Corbett to the NFL leaves a significant hole on the offensive line. But Nevada returns three linemen who started games in 2017, led by center Sean Krepsz. Nevada added five offensive linemen in its 2018 recruiting class, injecting fresh talent to help reinforce the front.
Previewing Nevada Football's Defense for 2018
To run the 3-3-5 stack employed by veteran coordinator Jeff Casteel, Nevada needs to get bigger and more physical, especially up front. That was reflected in the recruiting class, and the Pack will need immediate contributions from the four junior college defensive linemen, including one-time USC nose tackle Kevin Scott.
Two-time All-MW defensive end Malik Reed (6'1", 250) will make the move to linebacker this season, a testament to the Pack's size woes in 2017. Reed joins Gabriel Sewell and Lucas Weber to form a linebacking corps that could make some noise in 2018.
The Pack will need a boost from the safeties in Casteel's system. Free safety Dameon Baber is an all-conference talent who has had three multiple-interception games in his career. Fellow senior Asauni Rufus was en route to an all-conference season before a broken leg sidelined him for the final three games. Sophomore Nephi Sewell, the younger brother of Gabriel, was a pleasant surprise as a true freshman.
Nevada went through spring with only four cornerbacks on the roster and signed just three in its recruiting class. While there's talent on hand -- E.J. Muhammad and Ahki Muhammad (no relation) have plenty of experience, and Daniel Brown and Berdale Robins both saw some action in 2017 -- depth is a concern. Washington graduate transfer Jomon Dotson announced his intention to join the team following spring ball and should compete for snaps right away.
Previewing Nevada Football's Specialists for 2018
Junior Spencer Pettit (8-of-11 field goals) returns as one of the most established kickers in the Mountain West. Junior punter Quinton Conaway struggled at times in 2017 but was solid in the spring. The return game could be explosive, with a mix of Mannix, Fossum and Henley.
Nevada's high-powered offense, a manageable non-conference schedule and a conference slate in which the Wolf Pack's toughest opponents travel to Reno could have Nevada flirting with bowl eligibility. If Nevada's defense can jell, the Wolf Pack have the potential to sneak up the standings and be a factor in the West Division.