The Nevada Wolf Pack football team, who suffered one of the biggest roster turnovers in recent Pack memory, will be kicking off in less than two weeks against the New Mexico State Aggies!
Nevada 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.
Until the start of the season, I will be previewing each unit of its roster each week.
So far, we have done quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, The Union and the defensive line. Today, we preview the linebackers, who will have to replace Daiyan Henley and Lawson Hall — two of their most productive defensive cogs.
New head coach Ken Wilson has plenty of experience coaching up linebackers — but how will he manufacture production. And with who? Only time will tell.
Without further ado, let’s jump into it below!
Touray recorded at least 18 tackles in each of the last three seasons, finishing with 23 last year with one pass deflection after a career-high 30 tackles (with 3.5 TFLs) and one sack in 2020. The 6-foot, 235-pound linebacker capped his Wolf Pack career, which spanned from 2017-21, with 71 combined tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack, two pass deflections and one interception.
Henley, who transferred to Washington State over winter, was arguably Nevada’s most productive defensive player last year. He did not play in Nevada’s bowl game against Western Michigan, but still was the only Pack plalyer to register triple-digit tackles with 103, a clear career-high. He had five double-digit tackle outings, in addition to leading all linebackers nationally in interceptions with four. It’s understandable why he had good hands — originally joining Nevada as a receiver before transitioning to linebacker prior to the 2019 season. Nevertheless, Henley made All-Mountain West second team last season, finishing with 160 career tackles, one tackle-for-loss, four interceptions and four additional pass breakups.
Since the start of 2019, nobody recorded more tackles than Hall with 207. He was second on the squad in combined tackles a year ago — behind the aforementioned Henley — and was a clear staple to the Wolf Pack’s front-six/seven over the last three seasons. Hall was an All-Mountain West honoree twice — including an Honorable Mention honoree a year ago — with 89 tackles, 1.5 sacks and six tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Price was a backup behind Hall and Henley in Brian Ward’s 4-2-5 scheme, but was still an integral part to its unit. He tallied a career-most 47 tackles — more than the 33 he recorded from 2018-20 combined — in 13 games last year, which was the fifth-most on the team. That came in addition to his one sack and one interception against Hawai’i. Price recorded 80 career tackles with 4.5 tackles-for-loss, two sacks, two pass deflections and one interception.
Montini, who followed Norvell to Colorado State, logged four combined tackles in two seasons with the Wolf Pack.
Craig walked-on with the team last year, coming from Rigby, Idaho. He did not log any statistics in 2021.
He’s made one appearance over the last two seasons, but could be more featured this upcoming season. Blackwell was the highest-rated linebacker recruit in its 2020 class. He chose Nevada over offeres fromm William & Mary, Idaho, Fresno State and San Jose State, among others.
Since he joined the program prior to the 2018 season, Bradley’s participated in 21 games. Though he’s logged just 20 career tackles — all coming over the last two seasons, including a career-high 12 last season.
Mateialona transitioned to linebacker as a freshman after originally arriving to campus as a safety out of Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif. He’s appeared in 13 carer games, making six tackles — all coming last year — including two tackles in last year’s Quick Lane Bowl.
Weynand has not made an appearance in his first two seasons at Nevada. He was a four-sport standout at North Oconee High School in Bogart, Ga., however. He chose Nevada over Georgia State, The Citadel and Air Force, among others.
Wilmer appeared in 10 games with Nevada last season, making just one tackle. It’s the only stat he’s logged in three years with the program.
Any new faces?
Walling, an Oregon State transfer, did not appear in a game over his first two seasons with the Beavers. He was a four-year varsity player at McNary High School, where he logged 355 career tackles — including 23 sacks and 57 tackles-for-loss — eventually earning three-star honors as a prospect.
Winston might be Nevada’s most intriguing addition to its linebacking core this offseason, arriving from USC as one of its latest additions. He was a four-star recruit and chose the Trojans over Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame and UCLA, among other power-five programs. Winston will have two years of eligibility with Nevada — logging 10 career tackles with one for loss with the Trojans.
Walker arrives from Southern Connecticut State University, where he played just one season. He made 17 tackles with four tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a pair of sacks.
Here’s what Mountain West Connection’s own Mike Wittmann said about Walker in Nevada’s 2022 recruiting preview:
Marcel is another transfer, this one at linebacker. He played on both sides of the ball in high school, which will help him understand offenses while playing defense. Walker is a high motor player who is relentless in his pursuit of the ball and quick in his ability to react. He comes off the snap with force and is especially skilled in his ability to get into the backfield and stop the run. Marcel provides immediate depth and is a solid pick-up for Nevada.
Thomas, who arrived from the College of the Canyons, led his team in tackles last season with 69. In fact, that was 21 more than any other player. he added eight tackles-for-loss, three sacks and one forced fumble.
Here’s Wittmann on Thomas:
Jonathan is coming to Nevada after some time in junior college. He is a fierce linebacker who is at his best in the box stuffing the run game. Thomas has big size but he moves well laterally and reacts to plays quickly. He can hold his own in coverage and wraps up nicely on tackles. Jonathan checks off a lot of boxes at middle linebacker, where he will play for the Wolf Pack.
Combs arrives from Park City, Utah, where he recorded 157 tackles and earned All-State honorable mention as a senior. He was a two-star recruit and a top-50 recruit out of Utah, per 247sports.com.
Here’s Wittmann on Combs:
Stone is another linebacker coming to Nevada. He plays very comfortably in the box, diagnosing plays quickly and flocking to the ball. Combs is a sound tackler who wraps up ball-carriers and moves well laterally. He also holds his own in coverage and is especially skilled at keeping the ball in front of him and closing in to make a play. Stone projects best at the college level as a middle linebacker who can be a force in defending the run and short-yardage passes.
Maldonado was one of the highest defensive recruits throughout its 2022 class. He was a quarterback at Arcadia High School in Monrovia, Calif., in addition to playing linebacker; he completed 56.7 percent of his attempts for 1,811 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions with 512 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns as a senior. Defensively, he made 42 tackles with 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He was a three-star recruit, per 247Sports.
Smalley, another one of its highly-rated recruits, was a local graduate of Douglas High School in Minden, Nev. As a three-star recruit from 247Sports and ESPN, he was a two-time All-Sierra League first-team honoree — though he hasn’t gotten much action (six combined games) since last spring of 2021 because of injury and the COVID-shortened season.
Here’s Wittmann on Smalley:
Christopher is a versatile athlete coming in to play linebacker. He seemingly moves effortlessly on the field, both side to side and with his straight line speed. Smalley is a physical tackler and equally skilled in both pass-rushing and stopping the run. He covers ground quickly, and finishes plays well. Smalley can impact the field in variety of ways on either side of the ball but profiles best as an outsider linebacker.
Kaupiko, formerly with San Diego State, was a three-star recruit out of Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas, Nev. He was originally recruited by Fresno State, New Mexico, Northern Arizona and Portland State, among others, per 247Sports.com.