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Nevada football offseason position preview: Special teams

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Nevada at San Diego State Photo by Alan Smith/Icon Sportswire via 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.

In the final week of the Wolf Pack position previews, we dive into Nevada’s special teams core — one of the best in the conference. Let’s jump into it!

Previous weeks:

Anyone departing?

Eric Fellenzer (Punter)

Fellenzer entered the transfer portal in Feb., but committed to Sacramento State on June 17. He did not see any action from 2018-20.

Anyone returning?

Brandon Talton (Kicker)

Two years removed from earning an All-Mountain West first-team honoree as a freshman, Talton earned All-Conference second-team honors last year. He converted on 15 of his 18 field goal tries, placing second in the Mountain West in field goal percentage behind Boise State’s Jonah Dalmas (87.5) and Wyoming’s John Hoyland (92.9). His 15 field goals were a conference-most. Talton went 28-of-31 on his PATs, too.

He earned preseason honors for the Lou Groza award. He also earned preseason All-Mountain West honors from the conference media (first team), Phil Steele (first team), and Pro Football Focus (third team).(first team), Phil Steele (first team), and Pro Football Focus (third team).

Julian Diaz (Punter)

When they were both healthy, Diaz and Talton were arguably the best one-two special teams duo in the Mountain West. In theory, limiting Diaz’s chances at seeing the field correlates to a winning product. But when asked, Diaz delivered. He was named to the All-Mountain West honorable mention team, despite recording Mountain West-bests in yards per punt (46.3) and total punts traveling 50-plus yards (11). Since he logged just 23 punts in seven contests — due to the Wolf Pack’s highly efficient offense — Diaz didn’t qualify for the national leaderboards; if he did, his 46.3 yards per punt would’ve placed fifth nationally. Diaz planted 11 kicks inside-the-20 with just one touchback.

Matt Freem (Punter)

Freem, Diaz’s backup, saw action in two contests. He totaled six punts while also averaging 46.3 yards per punt. Freem had two kicks travel beyond 50 yards with two landing inside-the-20.

Austin Ortega (Long snapper)

Ortega is the team’s starting long snapper on punts and field goal attempts. He appeared in all nine games last year after playing in just three in 2019.

Matt Killiam (Kicker)

Killiam, a freshman in 2020, handled kickoff duties in three contests. Nine of his 21 kickoffs went for touchbacks.

Nick Barcelos (Long snapper)

Barcelos played in just one game in 2020.

Any new faces?


My thoughts:

As I alluded to above, Diaz and Talton were one of the best punter-kicker duos in the conference. Nevada’s special teams rightfully deserves credit. By virtue of possessing one of the best high-powered Mountain West offenses, they may not see the field as often compared to the field. But both are capable of earning spots on the All-Conference teams together for the second straight year in 2021.