Here are five questions that must be answered in spring football for the Nevada Wolf Pack:
1) Who will replace departed wide receiver Brandon Wimberly's production?
Every year programs lose seniors that leave a big whole to fill. For Nevada one of those players is Wimberly. Over his career Wimberly was a sure handed possession receiver who was easily the favorite target of Wolf Pack quarterbacks. He will leave a void of 97 receptions for 989 yards with 8 touchdowns to fill. Nevada has three returning receivers who are likely to step up to replace Wimberly. Those are seniors Aaron Bradley and Richy Turner as well as sophomore Hasaan Henderson. But in spring practice a few young guys could make names for themselves and earn playing time. First is 5-10 160lbs redshirt freshman D'Andre Fuller. Last year Fuller was scheduled to play as a true freshman but at the last minute Nevada decided to redshirt him. He could play the slot in three receiver formations. The other young guy would be sophomore Jerico Richardson who was used in only the UNLV game last year where he caught 3 passes for 22 yards. Overall Nevada has a good mix of experience and youth at the receiving core that should be able to replace the loss of Wimberly.
2) Will the defense adjust to a new coordinator?
Last year Scottie Hazelton was brought in as the defensive coordinator by head coach Brian Polian to run the Tampa 2 scheme. This offseason Hazelton bolted to the NFL for a gig with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Nevada's defense last year was one of the worst in the nation due to a combination of youth and the brand new system Hazelton installed. Now the Wolf Pack have their third defensive coordinator in three years with newly hired Scott Boone. Boone runs a base 4-3 defense similar to the Tampa 2, but is a lot more aggressive with blitzes. Can the defensive players adjust and learn a new system quickly? Spring ball will go a long way towards winning games with defense in the fall.
3) Does Don Jackson become Nevada's go to back?
Last year Jackson came to Nevada as a JC transfer and was scheduled to have a big impact at running back immediately as a sophomore. In the first game of the year he split carries evenly with then junior Kendall Brock. All signs pointed to Jackson being a big part of the Wolf Pack offense. But a nagging ankle issue hampered his ability to be a full time running back, leaving those duties to Brock. Before last year, Brock had a total of 14 career carries, but last year he got 185 carries and gained 812 yards with 10 touchdowns. While Brock had a very productive year, his game just does not seem to fit exactly into what Nevada likes to have in its backfield, a big punishing runner who can move piles. Nevada, for the longest time, prided themselves on having a 1,000 rusher, but that did not happen last year with Brock. So can Jackson emerge as the go to back and take carries away from the productive senior Brock? It's probable these two will split carries for the majority of the year, but getting a quick start in spring could earn carries come game day.
4) Will there be any spots for a true freshman to earn playing time on the defensive line?
This group of incoming freshman will be coach Polian's first class of his truly own recruits. Polian has been quoted throughout his tenure as saying that he will play his best players regardless of what year they are, as long as they are ready to compete at the D I level. With this new class of freshman there are two standouts on the defensive line that could possibly earn playing time without having to redshirt in their first year in Patrick Choujda and Korey Rush. Both players obviously won't be at spring ball, but if returning second string guys don't show enough promise, Polian could decide that Choujda and Rush should play immediately. Defensive lineman like Ian Seau, Brock Hekking, and Lenny Jones are in no danger of losing their starting spots, but the lesser-known second and third string players are in danger.
5) Can fan support be kept up from last year?
Last year with a new coach and new athletic director there was a lot of excitement surrounding the program, which led to a huge attendance at the spring game and higher season ticket sales. Coach Polian went around Northern Nevada promoting himself and the program. This year there wont be as much of that because Polian is a returning coach with less to sell. But coming off a 4-8 year, fans may be a bit disappointed and uninterested. Should that be the case? No. Could that be the case? Yes. By the time the spring game rolls around on April 26th it will be apparent what kind of support the team will have in the upcoming 2014 season.