What a crazy time for college football!
We’re in the midst of the most substantial realignment period in the sport’s history; at some point, the Mountain West will likely be affected (knock on wood it doesn’t). And speaking of substantial change — even though it’s not as appealing to the average fan — the Nevada Wolf Pack squad had itself quite the offseason.
And it’s not necessarily in the best way. 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 (more below), 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 — beginning with quarterbacks. Let’s jump into it!
Strong leaves behind one of the most prominent quarterback eras in recent memory. He became the fifth player in Mountain West history — joining Bradlee Van Pelt, Andy Dalton, Derek Carr and Donnel Pumphrey — to win the conference’s offensive player of the year award in consecutive seasons. He led the Mountain West in passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage a year ago while surpassing the single season record for most passing touchdowns — previously held by Chris Vargas (34). Strong posted a conference-most nine 300-yard passing performances — the most since Vargas in 1993, tying a program record — and added a pair of 400-yard games, including a career-high 476 yards (with four touchdowns) against Fresno State on Oct. 23. Strong was perhaps the program’s best quarterback since Kaepernick, even with the somewhat unceremonious end to the 2021 season.
In three seasons, McClure played in just seven games while attempting three passes for 20 yards. He was on last year’s roster with another year of eligibility, though he isn’t on this year’s for an undisclosed reason.
Millen, one of the highest-rated quarterback recruits in school history, departs after just one season with the Pack. He just threw two passes as a freshman and was expected to be the up-and-comer behind Strong before following Norvell to Colorado State. The son of former NFL QB Hugh Millen, Clay originally joined Nevada over Indiana, Colorado State and Florida Atlantic, among others.
Scolari, the grandson of former Nevada football head coach and University legend Chris Ault, elected to retire from football earlier this offseason, he told Nevada Sports Net. Scolari did not appear in a game in his only season with the Wolf Pack after helping lead Bishop Manogue — a local high school in Reno, Nev., — to back-to-back Northern 4A championships.
Cox was arrested for DUI in June and no discpline has been made public yet. But if he’s still on the roster come Aug., it will be his third year on the Wolf Pack roster, backing up Strong for the previous two. Last season, he completed 26 of his 43 attempts for 279 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. In his lone start in the Quick Lane Bowl against Western Michigan, he went 12-for-23 for 121 yards, one touchdown and one pick. Cox and Shane Illingworth (more on him below) were the two favorites for the starting quarterback job prior to the arrest.
Chong has not made an appearance in his first two seasons with the Wolf Pack. He graduated from ‘Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawai’i. He was a two-time all-state honorable mention and helped his team make the conference title game in 2019. Chong will be one of the Pack’s backups entering 2022.
Similarly to Chong, Barrage has yet to make an appearance in his two seasons with Nevada. In his one season elsewhere — at Riverside City College, a JUCO — he completed 69.2 percent of his attempts for 2,786 yards, 30 touchdowns and five interceptions. He helped lead Riverside CC to a California state title. In the championship game, he was named the Game’s MVP after completing 22-of-31 attempts for 286 yards and a touchdown — capping off a perfect 13-0 record.
Horning walked on to San Diego State prior to the 2020 season and was buried on the depth chart each of the last two seasons. He transferred to the Wolf Pack in mid-January and participated in spring camp.
Illingworth was one of the Pack’s most heralded transfers this offseason, coming in from Oklahoma State. As a redshirt freshman a year ago, he completed 28-of-50 passes for 385 yards, three touchdowns to one interception. As a true freshman in 2020, Illingworth went 41-for-70 with 554 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He did not participate in spring camp, but Illingworth will still be vying for the starting job come August. Here is what Mountain West Connection’s own Mike Wittmann said about Illingworth in Nevada’s 2022 recruiting breakdown:
Shane comes in as a transfer from Oklahoma State. He appeared in a number of games for the Cowboys last season, which helped him develop. Illingworth is patient in the pocket as he waits for routes to develop and he can air out a deep pass as well as anyone. He is enough of a running threat to be able to lead the run-pass option game effectively. Shane will compete for the starting spot right away and has a good chance of winning it.
Bianco is the lone freshman signal caller in Nevada’s 2022 class, reigning from St. Louis High School in Honolulu. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 210-pounds, and chose the Wolf Pack over Hawai’i, Nebraska and Washington State, among others. The three-star recruit was the state’s ninth-best quarterback and No. 110 quarterback in the nation, per 247sports.com. Here were Wittmann’s thoughts on Bianco:
AJ was once a Hawaii commit but the new Nevada staff was able to convince him to flip once the previous Rainbow Warrior staff was let go. He is a gamer with a huge arm and no fear when he attempts a pass. Bianco keeps his eyes downfield consistently and displays steady accuracy. He is mobile in the pocket and is able to throw well on the run. AJ is a talented quarterback and is seen by many as the QB of the future for the Wolf Pack.