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Nevada football 2022 summer position preview: Running Backs

Positional continuity! It’s a miracle!

Syndication: Reno Gazette Journal
Nevada running back Toa Taua (35) poised to have a bounce back senior season in 2022.

What a crazy time for college football!

We’re **still** in the midst of the most substantial realignment period in the sport’s history; at some point, the Mountain West will likely be affected. It hasn’t yet!

It’s not the only thing that has or might substantially changed since last year. Let’s talk about the Nevada Wolf Pack football team for just a second. Whew.

It lost its head coach to in-conference foe Colorado State as well as a bevy of transfers. Its top three skill threats — Carson Strong, Cole Turner and Romeo Doubs — elected to go to the NFL and the Pack return less than 30 percent of its production from a year, the lowest in the nation, per ESPN.

Now until the start of the season, I will be previewing each unit of its roster. We already did the quarterbacks — let’s transition to the running back position, where it returns its top two rushers from a year ago as it moves away from the air-raid. Let’s jump into it!

Anyone departing?

Avery Morrow

Morrow, Nevada’s third-string tailback a year ago, was Nevada’s lone departure at the position — following Norvell to Colorado State. As a sophomore in 2021, he rushed for 121 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown; he logged five carries for 88 yards and one score in the team’s regular season finale against Colorado State, ironically enough. In two seasons with Nevada, he combined for 210 yards (on 19 carries) with two touchdowns, adding 12 catches for 81 yards. The Wolf Pack were his only Division-I offer out of Garfield High School in Seattle, Wash.

Who’s returning?

NCAA Football: Quick Lane Bowl-Nevada at Western Michigan
Nevada Wolf Pack running back Toa Taua (35) carries the ball in the first half against the Western Michigan Broncos during the 2021 Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Toa Taua

Nevada will return its top two rushers from a year ago. Taua spearheads the group. He topped the team in carries (139), rushing yards (704) and rushing touchdowns (5). Though last year, he wasn’t generally involved in the offense much and ran behind a subpar offensive line. Taua was more involved more in the air-raid attack, catching a career-most 36 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown. With Ken Wilson at the helm, expect Taua to see many more touches in the run game — closer to his 196 carries in 2019 than his 139-carry total in 2021.

NCAA Football: Nevada at Boise State
Nevada Wolf Pack running back Devonte Lee (2) scores during play in the first half against Boise State Broncos at Albertsons Stadium.
Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Devonte Lee

Lee was the Wolf Pack’s second-leading rusher a year ago and is expected to back up Taua yet again in 2022. Like Taua, he is also expected to be involved more in the offense after conjuring a majority of his touches in short down-and-distance situations. He totaled 78 carries for 246 yards and four rushing touchdowns, catching 19 passes for 98 yards and an additional receiving score. Over his Wolf Pack career, he’s 32 yards shy of 1,200 yards on 4.3 yards per carry — expect him to creep up into 1,500-1,600 career rushing yards in 2022, should he stay healthy.

Ty Collins

Collins did not appear as a freshman in 2021. At North Forney High School in Forney, Texas, Collins — listed at 5-foot-10, 210-pounds — tallied north of 2,500 yards for 29 combined rushing touchdowns on 6.4 yards per carry as a junior and senior.

Jacques Badolato-Birdsell

Badolato-Birdsell appeared in one game, but did not record a stat. The 5-foot-10, 195-pount tailback was an All-State tailback and led Camas High School (Camas, Wash.,) to a state title as a junior, when he rushed for north of 1,600 yards.

Zion Burns

Burns is transitioning from defensive back, where he made just one appearance as a freshman last season. He rushed for more than 3,000 yards and 38 touchdowns while earning two-time first-team All-Region at Paston Butte High School in Arizona, however.

Terrell Johnson

Johnson’s appeared in four combined games for the Wolf Pack over the last two seasons after not seeing the field in his first season — in 2019 — with Nevada. He transferred from Southwestern College in San Diego, Calif., where he played two seasons — helping his team to a conference title in 2017.

Dylan Overstreet

As a freshman, Overstreet played in just one game with three carries for five yards. His senior season at Casa Roble High School in Orangevile, Calif., was limited to just four games. Overstreet rushed for 823 yards and 11 touchdowns over those four games, however, earning the Sacramento Bee’s Small School Player of the Year award.

Wesley Kommer

Kommer was one of my standouts during the spring game, which you can check out here. In his first two years with the Wolf Pack, he’s combined to play nine games. At Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., he rushed for 2,031 yards and 37 touchdowns (!!!) as a senior and nearly 4,500 yards and 62 rushing scores in three seasons.

Any new faces?

Cross Patton

Patton is a speedy 5-foot-6 tailback that followed Wilson from Oregon. He appeared in six combined games in 2020-21, but did not record any stats at running back. Here’s what Mountain West Connection site manager and recruiting guru Mike Wittmann said about Patton for Nevada’s 2022 recruting preview:

“Cross is one of many players transferring in from Oregon. He is a small, compact running back who is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball. Patton is a shifty runner who is constantly keeping his feet moving and is difficult to bring down once he gets going. He is also an effective receiver and challenging for linebackers to cover out of the backfield. Cross should see snaps immediately next season and be a diverse weapon for the Wolf Pack.”