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Nevada football 2021 summer position preview: Linebackers

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 year 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 Wolf Pack’s linebacking core, led by All-Conference honoree Lawson Hall, flanked by Daiyan Henley and Lamin Touray. Let’s jump into it!

Previous weeks:

Anyone departing?

Erick Kroll

Kroll entered the transfer portal in January. He did not see the field in any of his three seasons with the Wolf Pack. The former Ventura College transfer, tallying 80 tackles and 20 tackles-for-loss.

Anyone returning?

Josiah Bradley

Bradley played in seven contests after playing in just four games the previous two seasons, making eight tackles, including a 0.5 tackle-for-loss against Wyoming.

Davion Blackwell

A freshman in 2020, Blackwell redshirted. He was the Wolf Pack’s top linebacking recruit from last year’s recruiting class.

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

Lawson Hall

Hall, who’s returning for his sixth collegiate season, was recently named to the Bednarik Award preseason watch list for the 2021 season — annually given to the nation’s best defensive player.

Hall anchors the Wolf Pack’s linebacking core with Lamin Touray and Daiyan Henley (see below). The All-Mountain West second team honoree tallied team highs in total tackles (65) and tackles-for-loss (8.5), adding three sacks. He is, without question, the Wolf Pack’s top linebacker and is poised for another big season.

Nevada v UNLV
Wide receiver Steve Jenkins #84 of the UNLV Rebels runs against linebacker Lamin Touray #10 and defensive back AJ King #25
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Lamin Touray

In 12 games in 2019, Touray recorded 18 tackles without a tackle-for-loss. He surpassed both marks in eight contests last season. Touray made 30 tackles with 3.5 tackles-for-loss, tallying his first (and only) sack of his career on Oct. 31 versus intrastate rival UNLV. He recorded his first interception of the season in Nevada’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory over Tulane.

He will be a contributor next to Henley and Hall next season.

Nevada v UNLV
Linebacker Daiyan Henley #11 of the Nevada Wolf Pack tackles running back Charles Williams #8.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Daiyan Henley

Alongside Hall, Henley was third on the team last year with 49, adding 0.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He posted the second-most assisted tackles (21), nine fewer than Hall. The former receiver played in all nine games with the Wolf Pack last year after appearing in just four in 2019.

Nevada v UNLV
Linebacker Trevor Price #45 and defensive end Daniel Grzesiak #44 of the Nevada Wolf Pack react after Grzesiak made a tackle on a kickoff return in the second half of their game against the UNLV Rebels.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Trevor Price

Price finished with 23 tackles last season with two sacks — both coming against Tulane. He tied Henley for the fourth-most tackles-for-loss on the squad with 3.5.

Naki Mateialona

Mateialona appeared in just two contests last year: Against Wyoming and Fresno State (Dec. 5). The then-freshman linebacker, who originally came to Nevada as a safety, did not record a stat in those two games.

Adam Weynand

As a freshman in 2020, Weynand redshirted.

Peter Montini

Montini played in all but three games, totaling two tackles with a forced fumble against Fresno State. He was the Wolf Pack’s second-best recruit in their 2020 class.

Any new faces?

Drue Watts

He was a three-star recruit, per Watts recorded 205 career tackles — 138 coming solo — with six sacks, eight pass defended, one forced fumble and one interception in three seasons out of Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, Calif. As a junior, he had 131 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss, four sacks and one forced fumble.

Here is what Mountain West Connection’s Mike Wittmann wrote about Watts in Nevada’s 2021 recruiting breakdown.

“Drue played both ways in high school but is sticking at linebacker for Nevada. He plays hard and fast until the whistle, putting all of himself into his hits he makes at full speed. Watts is adept at stopping the run, flying in to fill the gaps and fluidly moving on the field. He diagnoses plays quickly and commits to his assignment right away. Drue brings quickness and athleticism to the MLB spot and is a good fit for the 3-3-5 defense.”

My thoughts:

Nevada’s top two linebackers, Gabriel Sewell and Lucas Weber, graduated entering last season — leaving Lawson Hall as the only member with solidified experience. But the Wolf Pack’s three top linebackers — Hall, Henley and Touray — put together a formidable season, looking to supersede expectations in 2021. The unit combined for just two sacks in eight regular season contests with four in its bowl victory against Tulane. Those regular season marks must improve if the Wolf Pack still want to hold an above-average unit. With another year of continuity and experience within Brian Ward’s defense, the feat should be more than plausible to accomplish.