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Nevada football summer 2021 position preview: Wide receivers

Nevada v UNLV Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada’s first game isn’t until Sept. 4 in a road contest against California — their first non-conference game since its 37-21 victory against Texas El-Paso on Sept. 21, 2019.

After finishing the season 7-2 — capped-off by a 38-27 win over Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl — the Pack look to replicate their successful season. But before the regular season begins, let’s preview the roster.

This week, we dive into the wide receivers. Let’s get into it!

Previous weeks:

Anyone departing?

Isaac Jernagin

Jernagin was arrested earlier this month after getting arrested for six felony drug charges, Nevada Sports Net first reported. He was dismissed from the team. Jernagin, who was a freshman last season, appeared in all nine games with one catch for four yards, plus returning six kicks for 134 yards.

Who’s returning?

Jamaal Bell

As a freshman in 2020, Bell was Nevada’s top kick returner. He also saw time at receiver, tallying three catches for 37 yards. His lone receiving touchdown grab came on a 21-yard grab in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Tulane.

Will Barnard

After receiving no action as a sophomore in 2019, Barnard saw the field in three games in the truncated 2020 season. His lone catch went for three yards against Hawai’i on Nov. 28.

San Jose State v Nevada
Nevada wide receiver Elijah Cooks (4) looks to fans after scoring a touchdown against the San Jose State Spartans in 2019.
Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

Elijah Cooks

A season removed from recording team highs and finishing top-10 in the conference in catches (76), receiving yards (926) and receiving touchdowns (8), Cooks’ season was limited to just one half in its season-opener due to injury. On Nov. 9, Cooks underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. He did not appear in the Pack’s Silver-and-Blue spring game, but should be healthy for the start of the regular season. It wouldn’t be surprising if the 6-foot-4 wideout earned postseason All-Mountain West honors for the first time of his career this upcoming season.

Nevada v UNLV
Nevada wide receiver Romeo Doubs (7) scores a touchdown on a 65-yard pass against UNLV
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Romeo Doubs

In Cooks’ absence, who was the Wolf Pack’s best receiver? Doubs, by a long shot; heck, he was one of the nation’s best receivers, though it’s difficult to judge because of the uneven schedule around the nation.

Doubs topped the Mountain West — and No. 11 nationally — in receiving yards (1,002) and tied Nevada’s tight end Cole Turner for the most touchdowns (9). He also stood atop the team leaderboard in receptions (58) and yards per reception (17.3). Doubs’ herculean-type year was topped-off by earning All-Mountain West first team honors a season after earning an All-Mountain West honorable mention honor. Doubs’ start to 2020 was much stronger than his finish. He recorded five straight 115-yard performances in the team’s first five games — totaling all nine of his touchdowns in that span. That’s unprecedented, but Doubs tailed off and had 22 catches for 224 yards in the final four games combined. Is that bad per say? Not by any means. Secondary's refused to let Doubs beat them by repeatedly dispatching multiple guys onto him and playing prevent defense, thus opening up secondary options for Carson Strong underneath. Provided that both Turner and Cooks remain healthy, it makes the task of doubling Doubs downfield more difficult because they both pose a similar threat.

Jeshua Fixel

After redshirting in 2019, Fixel, a native of Sparks, Nev., did not see the field in 2020.

Syndication: Reno Gazette Journal
Nevada’s Tory Horton (20) catches a TD pass against Wyoming.
JASON BEAN via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Tory Horton

Horton was Nevada’s breakout freshman receiver and got off to a good start — caught their first touchdown of the season on a 26-yard grab in the left-corner of the end zone! Horton finished the season with 20 catches and finished third on the team in receiving yards (336) and receiving touchdowns (5). His only 100-yard performance on the season came on Dec. 5 versus Fresno State — recording a Doubs-esque five catch-148 yard-three touchdown stat line in the Wolf Pack’s 11-point victory.

Nevada v UNLV
Justin Lockhart #17 of the Nevada Wolf Pack runs for yardage after a catch against the UNLV Rebels.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Justin Lockhart

Lockhart finished above Horton in receptions with 27, totaling 227 yards and two receiving touchdowns. Each of those aforementioned stats were career marks. His first Wolf Pack touchdown came on a four-yard haul in their second game of the season against UNLV.

Jeremiah Gradovitz

Gradovitz redshirted the COVID-shortened 2020 season as a freshman.

Aaron Smith

Like Gradovitz, Smith, a freshman in 2020, redshirted.

Charles Ross

The 6-foot-1 wideout appeared in eight games. Ross tallied four catches for 37 yards, including a career-high 21 yards on two catches in the Pack’s third game of the season versus Utah State.

Nevada v Hawaii
Melquan Stovall #1 of the Nevada Wolf Pack runs with the ball after making a catch during the third quarter against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.
Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Melquan Stovall

Stovall was one of the team’s top slot targets. He finished third on the team in receptions in 2020, trailing tight end Cole Turner (49) and Doubs. Stovall hauled-in a career-high 33 catches for 250 yards without a touchdown. Nonetheless, he had at least four catches in six of his eight games and five with three or more, including a season-high seven catches (for 37 yards) in the regular season finale against San Jose State.

Carson Walters

Walters has not seen action in two consecutive seasons, though he did win one of the team’s Scout Team Player of the Year awards in 2019.

Any new faces?

Dazure Paggett

Paggett chose the Wolf Pack over Lake Erie College and Southwest Minnesota State, per A three-star recruit of Lincoln High School in San Diego, Calif., he tallied 23 catches for 616 yards and four touchdowns in the last two seasons. In just two games this season, he had three receptions for 76 yards.

Here is what Mountain West Connection’s own Mike Wittmann said about Paggett in Nevada’s 2021 recruiting breakdown.

Dazure has the big play ability to excel in the Wolf Pack air-raid system. He has great straight-line speed and if he gets behind the secondary, it’s a big play every time. Paggett can make a quick cut to gain a step on his man and he possesses reliable hands when catching a jump ball. He is at his best working the sideline but is almost just as dangerous over the middle of the field. Dazure will be a great fit in Nevada’s system and should put up big yards.

Tyrese Mack

Mack is a transfer from Utah State, where he spent just one season. Prior to his residency in the Mountain West, Mack played two seasons at City College of San Francisco — where he tallied 33 career catches for 601 yards and five scores. Mack is the brother of the brother of Wolf Pack defensive back Tyriq Mack, who’s in his second season with the team.

Marquis Spiker

Spiker, a four-star recruit out of high school, is a transfer from Washington. He did not appear in the Huskies’ COVID-shortened 2020 season after appearing in 10 of their 13 games a year prior. In 2019, he had three catches for 67 yards.

My thoughts:

You want to talk about depth? Nevada’s receiving core is, without question, its deepest position group and it’s arguably the deepest it’s had in the last decade. Reiterating what I’ve said continuously since the end of the last season when alluding to this upcoming receiving core: Secondary's are going to have to pick their poison. Who do they double? Who do they not double? Which of the two stalwarts are they going to let beat them: Cooks or Doubs? These are overarching questions they’re going to ask. That’s not even mentioning Horton, Lockhart and Stovall — who are all very quality secondary options. Jay Norvell and Matt Mumme will mix-and-match different receiver groupings with Cooks and Doubs as the top target. I’d be remiss to mention Turner — the Wolf Pack’s third-best target — though he’s a tight end (spoiler: that’s coming next week!) Don’t be surprised if multiple Pack wideouts crack the All-Mountain West team come December.