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Nevada football 2020 spring position preview: Linebackers

UNLV v Nevada Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

Before I begin, I want to thank every single first responder, doctor, nurse, health professional and every essential worker around Nevada (where I reside) and the United States who are working to help us keep safe and defeat this pandemic. I hope everyone is, and remains safe during these troubling times.

Now lets get into it.

Nevada Football is coming off its second consecutive 7-win season. The team also reached back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2014-15, With spring football postponed for the foreseeable future, we will be breaking down each position group of the 2020 Nevada football team every Monday.

Today, we will be looking the linebacker corps.

Previous weeks:

3/30: Quarterbacks

4/6: Running backs

4/13: Wide receivers

4/20: Tight ends

4/27: Offensive Lineman

5/4: Defensive Lineman

Anyone departing?

Gabriel Sewell

Purdue v Nevada
Nevada linebacker Gabriel Sewell (7) rushes to take down Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore (4).
Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

Sewell’s departure will leave the biggest hole to fill at the linebacker spot heading into next season. A four-year starter with Nevada, Sewell racked up 282 career tackles, 21.5 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks. He was named to the All-Mountain West Honorable Mention team last season, totaling 54 tackles and 5.5 tackles-for-loss. His breakout year came in his junior season, leading the Pack with 92 tackles. Sewell also finished 2018 with a career-best in tackles-for-loss (7.5) and sacks (3). Sewell was a sideline-to-sideline presence that had a nose for the football. His mark at the MIKE linebacker spot will be tough to replace heading into 2020.

Lucas Weber

Nevada v UNLV
Nevada linebacker Lucas Weber (24) takes down UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers (1).
Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Weber, a sixth-year senior (granted another year of eligibility in 2016 after suffering an ACL injury one game into his sophomore season), played in just six games. He played the first five before suffering an ankle injury. He returned for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl versus Ohio, totaling a season-high four tackles. He finished the season with 15 tackles and one tackle-for-loss. Weber, like Sewell, broke out in 2018, finishing sixth on the team in tackles with 56. He racked up 10.5 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks. He totaled 98 tackles, 13.5 tackles-for-loss, 6.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries in his Wolf Pack career.

Maliek Broady

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 27 San Diego State at Nevada

After transitioning from running back to linebacker at the start of his junior season, Broady recorded 41 total tackles, six tackles-for-loss and four sacks in two seasons as a linebacker. Appearing in 12 of Nevada’s 13 games last year, Broady had a career year — totaling a career-best 22 tackles. He also tied his career mark for sacks (2) with two tackles-for-loss. Broady’s best game came against Utah State last year, where he had a season-high five total tackles with two sacks. As a running back, Broady had seven career carries for 24 yards and a touchdown.

Kyle Adams

San Jose State v Nevada
Linebacker Kyle Adams #52 of the Nevada Wolf Pack laughs with teammates during the game between the Nevada Wolf Pack and the San Jose State Spartans.
Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

In three seasons with the Pack, Adams had 79 total tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble. Last year, Adams posted a career-best 38 total tackles for three tackles-for-loss — earning one of the team’s Hustle awards. Adams had a career-best seven tackles — six solo — versus Wyoming last year. He started in the final seven contests of the season.

Anyone returning?

James Fotofili

Fotofili appeared in 11 games and registered a career-high 12 tackles as a sophomore last season. He had 0.5 sack that was his only tackle-for-loss. As a freshman, Fotofili had eight tackles and 2.5 tackles-for-loss in 12 games. Fotofili was a two-star recruit out of high school per A graduate of Grant High School out of Sacramento, Calif., he racked up 93 tackles, 22 tackles-for-loss, three sacks and forced a fumble as a senior. Fotofili chose the Pack over California, Wyoming and Montana State.

Lawson Hall

UNLV v Nevada
Quarterback Kenyon Oblad #7 of the UNLV Rebels is stopped by defensive end Dom Peterson #99 of the Nevada Wolf Pack and linebacker Lawson Hall #30.
Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

With Arnold and Weber departing, Hall returns as arguably the team’s best linebacker. He broke out as a junior last year. Starting in 11 games, Hall finished third on the team with 56 total tackles, 33 of which were solo. The 6-foot linebacker finished with three tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks. He had two interceptions — the second-most on the team — coming against UTEP and Fresno State. He registered at least six tackles in five games, including a career-best eight tackles twice versus UTEP and Weber State.

Josiah Bradley

Bradley played just one game as a redshirt freshman year last year. In 2018, Bradley played in three games before redshirting. Bradley won four state titles at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. He had 35 tackles, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries in his high school career.

Erick Kroll

Kroll, a former junior college transfer, has not seen the field in his first two seasons with Nevada. Prior to his stint with the Pack, Kroll attended Ventura College in Ventura, Calif. Kroll recorded 25 tackles with a 0.5 tackle-for-loss in his lone season with the Pirates.

Lamin Touray

Touray totaled a career-best 18 tackles as a redshirt sophomore last year. He tallied a season-high five tackles twice versus UTEP and Wyoming. As a redshirt freshman in 2018, Touray earned both a special teams and a scout award, appearing in just one game. Touray, a graduate of Bishop Alemany High School in Sylmar, Calif., was named to the first team all-league as a junior. As a junior, Touray recorded 103 total tackles and intercepted four passes. He was a three-star recruit per 247Sports — choosing the Pack over San Diego State, Hawai’i and UNLV.

Ryan Madole

Madole appeared in just one game as a redshirt freshman last season. Madole, a local product from Damonte Ranch High School in Reno, Nev., earned two first team all-league honors and was the Sierra League Lineman of the Year in his senior season. As a senior, Madole racked up 160 total tackles, nine tackles-for-loss, five sacks and one interception per

Giovanni Miranda

Miranda appeared in all 13 games last season after redshirting in 2018. Miranda registered 13 total tackles with a career-high three tackles versus Utah State and San Diego State. A teammate of Bradley’s at Saguaro High School, Miranda was a four-time state champion. As a senior, he totaled 37 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

Jack Powers

Powers did not see any snaps last season. In 2018, he appeared in just one game against Portland State prior to redshirting. Powers, a graduate from Granite Bay High School in Granite Bay, Calif., earned first team all-section and all-team honors as a senior.

Trevor Price

Price appeared in seven of Nevada’s 13 games last year. Price, a redshirt sophomore, recorded eight total tackles with one tackle-for-loss. He played in five games in 2018 with two tackles. Price was a two-star recruit from Cedar Ridge High School in Austin, Texas, per 247Sports. He was named the 13-6A Defensive MVP and first team all-state honors, recording 133 tackles in his high school career.

Jace Keema

Keema did not see the field in the first season of his career with Nevada. Keema transferred from the College of Southern Idaho prior to last season. Keema played baseball with the Golden Eagles, not football. The last time Keema played football prior to last season was at Carson High School in Carson City, Nev., where he earned second-team all league honors. Per maxpreps, on the defensive side as a senior, Keema totaled 70 tackles, one fumble recovery and one interception.

Sheldon Wilkinson

Wilkinson appeared in just the regular season finale versus intrastate rival UNLV last year. He was a recipient of one of the team’s Scout Team Player of the Year award. Wilkinson is a graduate of Spring Creek High School in Spring Creek, Nev. He was a first-team all-region honoree as a junior and a first-team all-state honoree as a senior. Wilkinson totaled 146 tackles with one sack as a senior. Wilkinson chose the Wolf Pack over Eastern Oregon.

Any new faces?

Tongiaki “Naki” Mateialona

Moteialona was a three-star recruit out of Compton Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif., per 247Sports. He chose the Wolf Pack over Colorado State, Fresno State, New Mexico and Sacramento State. Mateialona was recruited as a safety but will transition to the linebacker position for the Wolf Pack. He could be a versatile weapon for the Pack defense in the future.

Here is what Mountain West Connection’s recruiting guru Mike Wittmann said about Mateialona in Nevada’s 2020 recruiting breakdown:

Naki played all over the field in high school but Nevada sees him as a linebacker. He is a true playmaker, able to fly all over the field using great game speed. Mateialona is disruptive in the backfield, getting past blockers with ease. He diagnoses plays well, and then gets in great position and delivers powerful hits with his athleticism. Naki could see the field as soon as next season to get some additional talent on the defensive side of the ball.

Davion Blackwell

Blackwell is a three-star recruit from Folsom High School in Folson, Calif. He chose Nevada over Fresno State, San Jose State, Idaho and William & Mary.

Here is what Wittmann said about Blackwell:

Davion is a rangy linebacker who covers a lot of ground in easy strides. He doesn’t over-pursue while chasing down a running back and stays loose and in position to make a tackle. Blackwell picks up well in coverage and can match players with his size and game speed. He is kind of a do it all linebacker who can blitz as well as play in coverage and stop the run. Davion should develop into a prime playmaker in the Wolf Pack defense.

Peter Montini

Montini, a three-star recruit per 247Sports, was a two-time first-team all-league selections at Foothill High School in Pleasanton, Calif. He chose the Pack over, Colorado State, Wyoming and San Jose State.

Here is what Wittmann said about Montini:

Peter was quite a productive running back in high school but will come to Nevada as a linebacker. He has good vision, changes directions easily, and has great speed, all of which he can carry over to the defensive side of the ball. Montini should have no issue keeping with receivers in coverage, although will probably need to develop footwork and other coverage skills. He isn’t afraid of contact and could be a big playmaker once he gets used to defense. That transition will be smoother by taking a redshirt year to focus on learning defense at the college level.

My Thoughts:

The linebacker corps has some question marks heading into 2020. With Sewell, Adams Weber all departing, the Wolf Pack will have some rather big shoes to fill at the linebacker spots. Hall stepped up at the linebacker spot and is hoping to solidify himself as one of the team’s top position players on the defensive side of the ball.