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Nevada Football: 2021 Wolf Pack Season Preview and Prediction

Carson Strong, Nevada Wolf Pack Football

Carson Strong, Nevada Wolf Pack Football

Nevada returns 19 starters from last year’s team that went 7-2 and just missed on a trip to the Mountain West title game. Coach Jay Norvell’s squad could be the breakout Group of 5 team this season, especially if the offense continues to progress behind quarterback Carson Strong and receiver Romeo Doubs. The Wolf Pack have marquee non-conference matchups at California and Kansas State on the 2021 slate. Also, a trip to Boise State on Oct. 2 could be a preview of the Mountain West title game.

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2021

Previewing Nevada's Offense for 2021 

A year after Nevada established itself as one of the most lethal offenses in the West, fifth-year head coach Jay Norvell is looking for his "Pack Attack" to take another giant leap forward in 2021. Ten starters return, none more important than junior quarterback Carson Strong. Strong, who won Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year in 2020 with 27 touchdowns and just four interceptions, has put himself on the NFL's radar. And he will have an experienced and electric receiving corps as a junior, led by deep threat Romeo Doubs, another all-conference performer in 2020 with 1,002 yards and nine touchdowns.

Defenses will have a tougher time double-teaming Doubs this year with the return of wideout Elijah Cooks, who had 926 yards receiving in 2019 but played just one quarter in 2020 before injury took away his season. Add sophomore Tory Horton, who emerged late in his freshman year, and all-conference tight end Cole Turner, and the Wolf Pack boast a passing game that should rival any in the country.

Anchored by senior center Tyler Orsini and senior guard Jermaine Ledbetter and boosted by guard Aaron Frost and tackle Jacob Gardner, the offensive line should be a stable force in protecting Strong and springing the running back tandem of Toa Taua, Nevada's lead rusher, and bruising Devonte Lee.

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Previewing Nevada's Defense for 2021 

Led by two-time all-conference lineman Dom Peterson, who returns for his senior season, Nevada's all-senior defensive front should be the strength of coordinator Brian Ward's defense. Peterson will get plenty of help from all-conference teammate Sam Hammond, as well as end Kameron Toomer and tackle Zak Mahannah.

All-conference middle linebacker Lawson Hall leads the Wolf Pack's experienced linebackers, who need to improve as a unit to ease the burden on Nevada's front line and inexperienced secondary. Seniors Lamin Touray and Daiyan Henley will man the outside, while sophomores Peter Montini, Davion Blackwell, and Naki Mateialona add depth.

Corner Berdale Robins is an all-conference candidate who will anchor Nevada's secondary. The unit should get a boost from four-year transfer corners Isaiah Essissima, from Wake Forest, and Bentlee Sanders, from USF.

Previewing Nevada's Specialists for 2021 

All-MW junior Brandon Talton is one of the top placekickers in the nation. The combination of Doubs (punts) and Jamaal Bell (kickoffs) gives Nevada two of the top return men in the league, and the addition of Sanders, who averaged more than 24 yards per kick return at USF, gives Nevada another dangerous specialist. Julian Diaz will handle the punting duties after averaging 46.3 yards in limited duty.

Final Analysis

With all its offensive skill players returning from a team that punished defenses, the Wolf Pack should challenge for the West Division title with points alone. To take the next step, though, Nevada's middle-of-the-pack defense will have to create more turnovers and ease the pressure on Strong and Co. The schedule is tough, with road games at Kansas State, Cal, Boise State and San Diego State. But with its dynamic offense, look for Nevada to vie for the first Mountain West championship in school history.

National Ranking: 50

Podcast: Top 25 Breakdown and Predictions

(Carson Strong photo courtesy of nevadawolfpack.com)