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What to think of Nevada’s two-deep depth chart ahead of its season-opener versus New Mexico State

The first depth chart of the Ken Wilson era has been released! What should we takeaway?

Syndication: Reno Gazette Journal JASON BEAN/RGJ / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Nevada Wolf Pack football team released their first ever depth chart of the Ken Wilson era Monday, mere days ahead of their inaugural 2022 showdown against the New Mexico Aggies on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. PT on ESPN2.

Two-deep depth chart against NMSU
Nevada Athletics

Let’s take a look at the two-deep depth chart and break it down!


Starter: Nate Cox OR Shane Illingworth

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the two-deep depth chart is that Wilson has yet to make a decision on who starts at quarterback between Cox and Illingworth, an Oklahoma State transfer. Maybe both get run in the season opener?

Running back:

Starter: Toa Taua OR Devonte Lee

Another interesting takeaway is that he has yet to name a starting running back, even though Taua’s started and received the bulk of the touches over the last four seasons with Lee as his backup. It’s all but certain that Wilson’s offense will focus more on the run game this season, so both are going to get plenty of reps. I’ll also be curious to see if he uses more two-running back sets, but that’s another conversation for another day.


Starter: Tyrese Mack

Backup: Dalevon Campbell

Mack , a 5-foot-11 wideout that transferred from City College of San Francisco ahead of last season, saw limited action in 2021 — as did **checks notes** all of the returning Wolf Pack receivers. He only caught two passes for 27 yards, but will enter as the team’s starting X-Receiver. Campbell, who transferred from Illinois, is one of its biggest receiving threats at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds.


Starter: Jamaal Bell

Backup: Victor Snow

No surprise here; Bell was the only returning receiver with double digit receptions at the FBS level, hauling in 14 for 119 yards and one touchdown. As the A-Receiver (in the slot), Bell, a speed demon at 5-foot-10, could presumably be its most active motion threat and candidate to receive jet sweeps and generate plenty YAC in open space. Snow, who impressed in the spring game, could be a breakout candidate, even as a true freshman walk-on.


Starter: B.J. Casteel

Backup: Spencer Curtis

Casteel transferred in from Arizona, where he caught 90 passes for 880 yards and four touchdowns in four seasons. He is Nevada’s most experienced receiver at the FBS level and could the Pack’s top target in 2022.

Tight end:

Starter: Cooper Shults

Backup: Jacob Munro

Shults transferred in from Oregon, where he made one catch for 13 yards over those two seasons. He’s a big-body target, listed at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds. Nevada is expected to use more 12 and 22 personnel this year, so Shults and Munro — among the other tight ends — will be used more together than they did under Norvell’s Air Raid.

Right Tackle:

Starter: Trey Hamilton

Backup: Isaiah World

Up until a couple of weeks ago, this spot was held down by preseason All-Mountain West honoree Aaron Frost, its only returning starting lineman. Now, it’s “Next Man Up” mentality for the Pack, who plan to start Hamilton, a local recruit entering his fifth year with the program.

Right Guard:

Starter: Kai Arneson

Backup: Jacob Nunez

Both Arneson and Nunez have started games at their former FBS programs — Arneson with Oregon and Nunez with Arizona State. Arneson, at 6-foot-7, will start the season there, however.


Starter: Bryce Peterson

Backup: Andrew Madrigal

Peterson was one of the latest adds to the program, but he’s started 30 career games at Akron is one of the most experienced OL on the roster. So this makes sense.

Left Guard:

Starter: Zac Welch

Backup: Joey Capra

Welch played in 12 combined games over his first two years with Nevada; Capra, meanwhile, played in eight games from 2020-21 with San Diego State. So both were good candidates, but Welch — who transferred back to Nevada after two years with the program from 2019-20 — evidently secured the starting job.

Left Tackle:

Starter: Grant Starck

Backup: Cole Feinauer

Other than Frost, Starck at left tackle was arguably the second-most clear candidate to start on The Union. He was one of their top offensive line recruits in their 2020 class and appeared in 10 contests last season.


Starter: Marcel Walker

Backup: Chris Smalley

Walker and Smalley are both new additions to the program. Walker transferred from Southern Connecticut State, making 17 tackles with four tackles for loss and a pair of sacks; Smalley is a three-star recruit from Douglas High School in Minden, Nev.; he’s projected to get plenty of run as a true freshman despite not getting much due to injury towards the tail-end of his HS career.

Nose Tackle:

Starter: James Hansen

Backup: Christopher Love

This one was a bit of a surprise to me, since Love racked up 26 tackles, three tackles-for-loss and two sacks last year. Hansen transferred from Utah State, where he played only five career games after playing one season at Riverside Community College.

Defensive Tackle:

Starter: Dom Peterson

Backup: Dion Washington

Peterson, one of the team’s six returning starters, was once-regarded as one of the top defensive lineman in the Mountain West, and still might be truthfully. He will eat up plenty of blocks and create havoc up front — the only question is: Who will help him? Expect Liberty transfer William Green Jr. — who didn’t make the two-deep chart — to play a part in the middle as well.

Defensive End:

Starter: Louie Cresto

Backup: PJ Huff

Cresto, another transfer from Oregon, joined Nevada in late June. Cresto, nor Huff — who transferred from American River College — have much collegiate experience at the FBS level.

WILL linebacker:

Starter: Naki Mateialona

Backup: Stone Combs

Mateialona totaled just six tackles across his first two seasons with the Pack, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s near the team lead in tackles by the end of 2022.

MIKE Linebacker:

Starter: Maurice Wilmer

Backup: Drue Watts

Wilmer’s appeared in 11 games with Nevada over three seasons, making just one tackle in the Quick Lane Bowl against Western Michigan. He and Watts are both inexperienced, but with get plenty of reps and could develop into capable ‘backers under Wilson’s tutelage.


Starter: Tyson Williams

Backup: Zeke Robbins

This.....was probably the biggest surprise to me. After four seasons at strong safety, Williams — one of the program’s most productive defensive players in recent memory — will transition to Nickel corner, where he will be tasked with more responsibility in coverage. This is a curious, yet intriguing move for the 2020 All-Mountain West Honorable Mention honoree.


Starters: Isaiah Essissima, Jaden Dedman

Backup: Darion Green-Warren, Zach Lewis

Essissima transferred from Wake Forest before last season and did a good job in coverage in limited playing time. Dedman has played in 26 career games with Nevada, but could never solidify a starting spot in the secondary. They’re two worthy starters who will have to replace the production from BerDale Robins. Green-Warren was a four-star transfer from Michigan and should get more playing time in 2022, as should Lewis, who played just one game with one tackle last season.

Free safety:

Starter: Bentlee Sanders

Sanders was one of Nevada’s top corner — primarily operating in the slot — doing a solid job in coverage. He will now be tasked with a more ball-hawking responsibility at free safety — he has the acumen and traits to do it.

Strong Safety:

Starter: Aedan Seiuli

Backup: Emany Johnson

In conjunction with Williams’ change, the Pack plan to start Seiuli, who appeared in just one game with one tackle as a freshman last season. Johnson has played in 31 combined games with 77 tackles over that span as well, so expect him to get plenty of run as the season ages.