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Nevada football 2021 summer position preview: Quarterbacks

Nevada v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

The Nevada Wolf Pack football season is approaching us! Well, kind of.

Their first game isn’t until Sept. 4 in a road contest against California — their first non-conference game since its 37-21 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. Given today’s the first position preview of the 2021 offseason, we will preview Nevada’s quarterback position.

Let’s get into it!

Anyone departing?


Who’s Returning?

Nevada v UNLV
Nevada quarterback Carson Strong (12) runs against the UNLV Rebels in the first half of their game at Allegiant Stadium.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Carson Strong

After barely surpassing the threshold in my top-10 returning players list entering 2020, Strong, the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, took an unprecedented leap. He’s garnered plenty of draft hype this offseason — including two hypothetical top-10 selections for Pro Football Network’s latest mock draft (No. 7: New York Giants) and Sports Illustrated’s latest mock draft (No. 4: Philadelphia Eagles).

And deservedly so. Strong completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 2,858 yards with 27 touchdowns — all were career highs and atop the Mountain West Conference. He posted five 300-yard performances — including a career-high 420-yard performance (with four passing TDs) in the season-opener against Wyoming on Aug. 24. Strong’s start was better than his finish. Four of his five 300-yard outings came within the first four games of the season. But he still finished the season strong (pun intended), tallying 1,341 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions in the team’s final five contests.

The 6-foot-4 signal caller sat out the Silver-and-Blue spring game due to recovering from offseason knee surgery — but should be fully healthy at the season’s start. Strong looks to be the first repeat winner of the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year since San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey took home the award in 2015 and 2016. It goes without saying that he’ll need to be fully healthy to achieve such a feat — and maximize the Wolf Pack’s ceiling.

Nate Cox

Cox is the favorite to enter the season as the second-string quarterback. He appeared in eight contests in his first season with the Wolf Pack, but attempted just two passes for ten yards. Due to Strong’s injury, the 6-foot-9 signal caller took a majority of the team’s snaps with the projected starters in their spring game.

Before Nevada, Cox played his first two seasons at Louisiana Tech and Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kan. While he was at Garden City CC, he completed 51.8 percent of his throws for 1,891 yards with a 12-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Hamish McClure

McClure appeared in four of the nine contests throughout 2020, but didn’t record a single pass attempt. He earned one of the team’s Scout team Player of the Year awards as a redshirt freshman in 2019, going 3-for-3 with 20 yards in a blowout loss to Oregon. McClure will likely begin the season third on the team’s depth chart behind Strong and Cox, barring an injury between the two aforementioned quarterbacks.

Jonah Chong

Chong, a sophomore, redshirted the truncated 2020 campaign. The Honolulu, Hawaii, native was a two-time all-state honorable mention at ‘Iolani High School — tallying over 4,000 passing yards and 43 touchdowns.

Oh, and Chong also completed this ridiculous touchdown pass to wideout Justin Lockhart while performing a somersault:

If Chong sees snaps behind center this season, regardless of your rooting interest or the actual score of the game, let’s collectively root for one of these to occur! Even if he’s technically down by contact, Nevada should automatically be awarded the points anyways...right?!

Jake Barlage

Similarly to Chong, Barlage redshirted in 2020. Prior to his career with the Wolf Pack, Barlage spent one seasons at Riverside Community College in Riverside, Calif. He completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,786 yards, 30 touchdowns to just five interceptions — leading them to a perfect 13-0 record with the program’s first state championship. In the state title game against the College of San Mateo, Barlage went 22-for-31 (71.0 percent) for 286 yards and a touchdown, earning the game’s MVP award.

Any new faces?

Drew Scolari

Scolari, the grandson of Wolf Pack quarterback, head coach and athletic director Chris Ault, reigns from Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, Nev. In three years as a starter, Scolari completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 5,230 yards, 65 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,252 yards on 221 carries (5.7 ypc) with 15 scores. The two-time All Sierra league selection helped lead the Miners to back-to-back state title games in 2019 and 2020.

Here is what Mountain West Connection’s Mike Wittmann has to say about Scolari:

Drew comes to Nevada as a legacy but he has the skills to back up his name as well. He possesses a big arm with nice touch when throwing deep balls. Scolari can make a variety of passes and is great throwing on the run. He can scamper as well, dodging defenders and picking up yards with his legs. Drew has starting potential and can develop in the Nevada system.

Clay Millen

Millen committed to the Wolf Pack in Feb. after decommitting from Arizona due to Kevin Sumlin’s firing in Jan. Millen, the son of former NFL quarterback Hugh Millen, originally chose the Wildcats over Oregon, Oregon State, UNLV, Indiana, Colorado and Florida Atlantic. He is listed as a four-star recruit and the 26th-best pocket passer of the 2021 class, per ESPN’s rankings. He is one of four top-30 pocket passers, per those same rankings, to commit to a non-Power 5 program.

In three seasons with Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Wash., Millen threw for 3,611 yards, 40 touchdowns to just one interception — adding 349 rushing yards and three scores in 20 games. As a junior in 2019-20, he completed 71.1 percent of his passes for 3,145 yards, 34 touchdowns and his lone interception in 13 games.

Here is Wittman’s thoughts on Millen:

Clay is arguably the best recruit in the Mountain West, easily the best recruit coming to Nevada, and probably the best recruit in the Norvell era. He’s incredibly mobile in the pocket, making him difficult to tackle, and he can extend plays with his legs. Millen has a cannon for an arm, displays great touch on his deep passes, and is extremely accurate. He isn’t afraid to staying in the pocket and taking a hit, he steps into his throws and adjusts his passes based on need. Clay is talented enough to play right away and may see some time next year even though he will be backing up Carson Strong.