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The big 2015 Nevada football guide: Already building for the future

The 128-team countdown reaches a program that has to replace yet another legend.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. One step forward

Heading into Brian Polian's second year, it's hard to escape this:

  • Nevada's record, last 5 years with Chris Ault: 42-24
  • Nevada's record, last 5 years with anyone else: 20-39

Following a legend is never easy; it is anticipated that you will fail. Polian's first year did nothing to assuage concerns that Nevada will falter once again.

-- The big 2014 Nevada football preview

You can see whatever you want to see.

If you want to be optimistic, you've got evidence.

After regressing for three straight seasons, the Wolf Pack rebounded in 2014, winning seven games, ranking in the S&P+ top 70 in both offense and defense, playing four F/+ top-50 teams and either staying within a touchdown or beating each one.

The pistol offense was as efficient as a Nevada Pistol Offense is supposed to be, the defense mastered the art of bending without breaking, and special teams was a strength. Only a 2-4 record in one-possession games kept the Wolf Pack from winning nine or more games for the first time since the magical 13-1 run of 2010. Despite a bowl dud, the entire team raised its game.

If you want to be pessimistic, you've got evidence, too.

Nevada's offense was almost solely reliant on a good offensive line and the play-making ability of quarterback Cody Fajardo, but Fajardo and three two- or three-year starters up front are gone. And that defense must replace its top three defensive backs, all of whom were instrumental.

Polian's second year after succeeding Chris Ault was encouraging, simply because Nevada won games. When you lose a legend and stumble, there will be a sense of dread. With an experienced two-deep and an awesome quarterback, Polian and his staff were able to engineer a rebound.

Replacing a historic figure like Ault is nearly impossible no matter what. You have to both maintain a level of winning and satisfy those who long for the legend. Alabama replaced Bear Bryant with former Bryant receiver Ray Perkins, and after a second-year stumble, Tide fans never really accepted him, even as he went 19-5-1 in his third and fourth years. When Bill Snyder retired in 2005, Kansas State brought in Ron Prince, a young up-and-comer with no Snyder ties. With Snyder's spectre hanging over, he went 17-20 and was dismissed after three seasons.

Polian was an awful lot like Prince on paper, and his hire in 2013 was confusing. He had spent the last eight seasons as special teams coordinator and/or position coach at Notre Dame, Stanford, and Texas A&M, he had never served as an offensive or defensive coordinator, and he had no ties to Ault or Nevada.

If nothing else, 2014 was a partial vindication. But the squad was senior-heavy, and from this point forward, the bones of the program belong to him. I think those dread fears will return, at least among the pessimist crowd.

Polian will have to turn the team over to youngsters. That could pay off down the line, especially if Polian's ability to identify talent turn out to be a strength and if some linebackers and defensive backs quickly live up to recruiting hype.

But whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, the Wolf Pack will see a lot of change, and that usually results in setbacks.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 4-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 64
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
30-Aug Southern Utah N/A 28-19 W 41% -5.3 91%
5-Sep Washington State 77 24-13 W 48% -1.3 68%
13-Sep at Arizona 28 28-35 L 23% -17.3 9%
27-Sep at San Jose State 116 21-10 W 35% -9.1 54%
4-Oct Boise State 21 46-51 L 44% -3.3 16%
11-Oct Colorado State 49 24-31 L 33% -10.4 9%
18-Oct at BYU 46 42-35 W 76% 16.4 84%
25-Oct at Hawaii 111 26-18 W 54% 2.6 90%
1-Nov San Diego State 76 30-14 W 64% 8.4 66%
15-Nov at Air Force 48 38-45 L 42% -4.6 26%
22-Nov Fresno State 102 20-40 L 16% -22.8 12%
29-Nov at UNLV 118 49-27 W 78% 17.8 100%
20-Dec vs. UL-Lafayette 72 3-16 L 33% -10.2 16%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 28.7 64 30.9 87
Points Per Game 29.2 64 27.2 69

2. Two seasons

Nevada was a confusing team on paper last year. Based on percentile performances, the Wolf Pack played like a top-80 team for the first half of the season, then improved to top-60 in the second half. But some of their more intriguing results came early on.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 6 games): 37% (record: 3-3)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 6 games): 55% (record: 4-2)

The Win Expectancy column above tosses a game's stats (efficiency, explosiveness, field position, turnovers, etc.) into a blender and tells you, "With stats like these, Team A would have won this game approximately X percent of the time." Without luck, you'll generally see that the higher the Win Expectancy, the higher the scoring margin.

Nevada, however, had quite a few closer-than-expected wins and closer-than-expected losses. The Wolf Pack beat Southern Utah by nine points despite 91 percent win expectancy, beat Hawaii by eight at 90 percent, and beat BYU by seven despite 84 percent. They lost two games by seven points despite sub-10 percent win expectancy (Arizona, Colorado State) and lost to Boise State by just five at 16 percent. Unlikely results were the norm.

Nevada and Nevada's stats didn't agree much, but neither did Nevada and logic. After playing strong football against BYU, Hawaii, and San Diego State and narrowly falling on the road against a good Air Force, the Wolf Pack returned home and lost the MWC West with a dud against Fresno State.

Every time you thought you had a read on this team, it changed course. That's a characteristic of young teams, but Nevada wasn't that young.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.81 88 IsoPPP+ 91.6 87
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 41.9% 61 Succ. Rt. + 104.1 56
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.1 53 Def. FP+ 100.0 65
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.8 34 Redzone S&P+ 112.6 36
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 15.6 ACTUAL 16 +0.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 71 76 56 87
RUSHING 38 53 52 53
PASSING 98 80 51 93
Standard Downs 82 45 98
Passing Downs 66 86 60
Q1 Rk 122 1st Down Rk 103
Q2 Rk 73 2nd Down Rk 105
Q3 Rk 40 3rd Down Rk 81
Q4 Rk 51

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Cody Fajardo
239 405 2498 18 11 59.0% 20 4.7% 5.5
Tyler Stewart 6'4, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8398
Dante Mayes 6'2, 190 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7883
Hunter Fralick 6'2, 210 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8225

3. Three candidates

The history of the pistol

While Polian didn't have ties to Nevada, his offensive coordinator did. Nick Rolovich was Ault's final offensive coordinator in Reno, and Polian retained him to make sure that the crowd-pleasing pistol remained.

When you are the birthplace of a popular offense, and that offense gains yards and points, changing the identity might lose plenty of slack with the home crowd. Just ask Brian VanGorder.

With Cody Fajardo running the show, the Nevada offense looked like it was supposed to; the Wolf Pack were a run-first, efficiency-based unit focused on moving the chains. Fajardo finished as one of only two all-time FBS players with 9,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards (the other one: his Nevada predecessor, Colin Kaepernick), and Nevada finished with a top-70 offense.

So what happens without Fajardo? He threw all but one Nevada pass in 2014 (the other by a receiver), and his 7.6 yards per carry (not including sacks) dragged a running game toward respectability despite inefficient running from Don Jackson and James Butler. The bowl loss to UL-Lafayette saw Fajardo trying desperately to get others involved, but the supporting cast seemed completely outmanned. Fifteen carries by Jackson and Butler gained 40 yards, and Fajardo's 14 completions gained 124. Was Fajardo the only thing keeping this offense afloat?

Big Tyler Stewart saw some action in 2013 when Fajardo was hurt and averaged 5.7 yards per pass attempt, but he isn't nearly the same run threat. Sophomore Dante Mayes brings mobility and an unknown arm. And while Hunter Fralick was one of the best quarterbacks in Nevada high school history at Sparks Spanish Springs, he's just a redshirt freshman.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Don Jackson RB 5'10, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8000 216 957 7 4.4 4.7 31.5% 1 0
Cody Fajardo QB
157 1194 13 7.6 7.0 51.6% 1 1
James Butler RB 5'9, 200 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8123 141 639 5 4.5 4.7 32.6% 2 0
Nate McLaurin RB
11 50 0 4.5 2.2 54.5% 0 0
Blake Wright RB 5'10, 200 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7585
Lucas Weber RB 6'1, 195 RSFr. NR NR
Keiton Moore RB 5'11, 200 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000






Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Richy Turner WR-X
110 63 587 57.3% 28.2% 57.3% 5.3 -192 5.3 63.0
Jerico Richardson WR-Z 5'11, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8135 89 56 655 62.9% 22.8% 58.4% 7.4 -25 7.3 70.3
Hasaan Henderson WR-F 6'5, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8263 69 45 579 65.2% 17.7% 56.5% 8.4 37 8.3 62.1
Jarred Gipson TE 6'1, 240 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7300 46 33 291 71.7% 11.8% 54.3% 6.3 -100 6.3 31.2
Kendall Brock WR-X
31 16 138 51.6% 7.9% 71.0% 4.5 -64 4.6 14.8
Don Jackson RB 5'10, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8000 16 13 157 81.3% 4.1% 18.8% 9.8 6 5.4 16.8
Wyatt Demps WR-F 6'4, 200 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8181 12 4 57 33.3% 3.1% 50.0% 4.8 0 4.7 6.1
James Butler RB 5'9, 200 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8123 6 5 13 83.3% 1.5% 83.3% 2.2 -45 3.7 1.4
Brayden Sanchez WR-Z 5'11, 200 Jr. NR NR 3 2 10 66.7% 0.8% 66.7% 3.3 -14 3.8 1.1
Matt Moen TE 6'3, 240 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7585 3 0 0 0.0% 0.8% 66.7% 0.0 -4 0.0 0.0
Patrick Clifford TE
2 2 11 100.0% 0.5% 100.0% 5.5 -12 N/A 1.2
Kameron Richardson WR-F 6'7, 230 Jr. NR NR
Andrew Celis WR 5'11, 185 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8167
Brandon Scott TE 6'3, 225 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7659
Evan Faunce TE 6'4, 240 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7894
Dominic Christian WR 6'1, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8033
Victor Gonzalez WR 6'0, 170 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7578








4. Any playmakers?

Both Don Jackson and James Butler had their moments. Jackson rushed 12 times for 106 yards against SJSU, Butler had seven for 63 against Boise State, and the two combined for 68 carries and 475 yards against SDSU and UNLV.

Take out those four examples, and they averaged just 3.5 yards per carry the rest of the year. They almost never fumbled, and they were able to take pounding between the tackles, which helped Fajardo stay healthy, but their hits were less prominent than their misses.

Of the 102 FBS running backs with at least 140 carries, Butler and Jackson ranked 85th and 87th, respectively, in Opportunity Rate (percentage of carries gaining at least five yards), and while other backs made up for inefficiency with big plays, they didn't have many of those either.

Of the six Nevada players to catch more than five passes, none averaged more than 12.9 yards per catch, and three averaged under 9.5. This team was bereft of big plays, but Fajardo's presence assured occasional efficiency.

Big receiver Hasaan Henderson showed flashes of a high ceiling -- he caught seven passes for 141 yards against Boise State but missed most of the last five games -- but any major upgrade in big-play capability will come from underclassmen, be it sophomore Wyatt Demps, redshirt freshman Andrew Celis, or an incoming freshman like Dominic Christian. Henderson, Jerico Richardson, and Jarred Gipson can provide nice possession options, but someone's going to need to stretch the field, especially if Fajardo's absence wipes away any big plays from the run game.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 108.9 3.05 3.48 38.2% 68.9% 16.9% 130.5 4.7% 5.0%
Rank 38 52 44 76 52 31 31 68 30
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Matt Galas C 37 2014 2nd All-MWC
Kyle Roberts RT
24
Connor Talbott RG
20
Austin Corbett LT 6'4, 280 So. NR NR 12
Jeremy Macauley LG 6'1, 305 Jr. NR NR 12
Joey Anglemire LG 6'3, 280 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7444 10
Adam Khouri LG 6'3, 295 So. NR NR 2
Jacob Henry LT 6'4, 260 Jr. NR NR 0
Nathan Goltry C 6'2, 305 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8333 0
Taylor Evans RT 6'4, 300 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) NR 0
Derrick Stom OL 6'2, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7483

5. A strength gets weaker

Fajardo's improvisation helped Nevada's line stats a, in his ability to both avoid sacks (bowl game notwithstanding) and scramble upfield. Still, this was a strong line that did well in short-yardage situations and prevented losses, even if the running backs didn't always take advantage.

Between replacing all-conference center Matt Galas and both of the starters on the right side, it's hard to imagine this unit keeping up last year's pace. Four players with starting experience (36 career starts) return, but depth and consistency could be issues.

So basically, Nevada's 2015 starting quarterback, whoever that ends up being, will face a Polian-esque situation: replacing a longtime fixture with inexperience around him. There's almost no way this offense pulls off another top-70 ranking. Top-90 might be pretty good.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.77 25 IsoPPP+ 97.1 75
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 46.2% 112 Succ. Rt. + 88.5 113
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.7 49 Off. FP+ 103.0 30
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.1 42 Redzone S&P+ 88.1 113
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.5 ACTUAL 27.0 +3.5
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 102 96 110 75
RUSHING 81 100 101 90
PASSING 112 90 113 64
Standard Downs 104 118 86
Passing Downs 63 71 57
Q1 Rk 55 1st Down Rk 87
Q2 Rk 122 2nd Down Rk 86
Q3 Rk 99 3rd Down Rk 90
Q4 Rk 66

6. Bend ... bend ... bend...

The bowl loss was a perfect encapsulation of Nevada's defense. UL-Lafayette quarterback Terrence Broadway completed 26 of 31 passes, but the Cajuns averaged 5.6 yards per play, stalled repeatedly in scoring situations, and scored 16 points. The Nevada defense did enough to win, even while allowing a ridiculous 84 percent completion rate.

That was the story all year. Nevada allowed a respectable 27.2 points per game and ranked 69th in Def. S&P+ despite ranking in the 110s in Success Rate+. When Nevada got the opportunity to close out drives, the Wolf Pack were usually able to do so.

Most of last year's starting front seven and nearly all of the second string returns, but the Wolf Pack must replace three starting defensive backs who combined for four interceptions, 19 break-ups, and four tackles for loss. We'll see if the bend-don't-break routine can work with some of the key pieces in big-play prevention gone.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 91.1 3.34 3.70 43.0% 75.0% 17.4% 88.4 4.1% 7.8%
Rank 100 116 104 110 104 95 88 81 59
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Brock Hekking DE
13 42.0 5.3% 9.5 5.0 0 0 0 1
Ian Seau DE 6'2, 255 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8800 13 35.5 4.5% 11.0 8.0 1 4 2 0
Rykeem Yates DT 6'2, 270 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 10 30.0 3.8% 10.5 1.5 0 3 2 1
Lenny Jones DE 6'3, 270 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 13 28.5 3.6% 8.5 5.0 2 5 1 0
Salesa Faraimo DT 6'2, 275 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7300 13 25.5 3.2% 3.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Jordan Hanson NT
13 21.0 2.7% 4.0 0.0 0 2 0 0
Dupree Roberts-Jordan DE
13 14.0 1.8% 1.0 0.5 0 2 0 0
Patrick Choudja DE 6'3, 225 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8519 13 8.0 1.0% 2.0 1.0 0 0 1 0
Kevin Sundberg NT 6'1, 290 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7644 4 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jeremy Miller DT 5'11, 300 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7719
Korey Rush DE 6'1, 260 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8514
Malik Reed DE 6'1, 220 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7533
Kori Collons DE 6'5, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8316







7. A good pass rush is great as long as you're forcing passing downs

Nevada's front seven was lacking when it came to down-to-down performance, but the Wolf Pack could pin their ears back. Ends Ian Seau and Lenny Jones were fantastic at rushing the passer (13 sacks) and getting hands on passes (three interceptions, nine breakups). Their respective returns should ease the loss of leading end/mullet hero Brock Hekking.

But if the secondary is going to regress, the front seven is going to have to raise its game and force more passing downs. Last year, opponents passed early and often, and while it rarely resulted in huge plays, it was good for gaining six to 10 yards at a time.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jonathan McNeal LB
13 77.5 9.8% 5.5 0.5 1 4 2 0
Jordan Dobrich LB 6'2, 235 Sr. NR NR 13 71.0 9.0% 3.0 1.0 0 2 0 0
Matthew Lyons LB 6'2, 230 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8447 12 62.5 7.9% 1.5 0.5 0 1 0 1
Bryan Lane Jr. LB 6'4, 220 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 13 53.0 6.7% 5.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Randy Uzoma LB 6'1, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8332 13 15.0 1.9% 1.0 0.0 0 2 2 0
Trevor Taft LB 6'2, 220 Sr. NR NR 13 13.5 1.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Alex Bertrando LB 6'2, 220 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) NR 13 8.5 1.1% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Faigofie Faaituala LB 6'1, 225 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 13 6.5 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ahki Muhammad LB 5'9, 180 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7985 2 3.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Travis Wilson LB 6'1, 200 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7733







Riley Brand LB 6'1, 215 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8156
Gabe Sewell LB 6'0, 230 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8141
Ricky Thomas Jr. LB 6'1, 200 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8044








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Nigel Haikins FS
13 63.0 8.0% 0 0 3 7 1 1
Charles Garrett CB
13 54.0 6.8% 3 1 1 10 1 0
Evan Favors CB
11 48.5 6.1% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Duran Workman SS 6'0, 200 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593 12 47.0 6.0% 3 3 3 1 2 0
Kendall Johnson CB 6'0, 180 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7906 12 19.0 2.4% 0 0 1 3 0 0
Elijah Mitchell CB 5'8, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7826 13 10.5 1.3% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Tere Calloway SS 5'10, 190 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8469 10 10.5 1.3% 1 0 1 0 0 0
L.J. Jackson DB 6'0, 200 Jr. NR NR 10 5.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kaodi Dike FS 6'2, 198 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7826 12 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jaden Sawyer DB 6'0, 190 So. NR NR 13 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Elijah Moody DB 5'11, 175 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893
Asauni Rufus DB 6'0, 185 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7807
Dameon Baber DB 5'11, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8475








8. Starting over in the back

If recruiting rankings can be trusted, Nevada's defense could be awfully promising in years to come. Young ends Patrick Choudja, Korey Rush, and Kori Collons were mid-three-star signees, and all have at least three years of eligibility remaining. Defensive back Dameon Baber was possibly the gem of the 2015 class and could work alongside current sophomores Tere Calloway and Kendall Johnson. And Polian signed three three-star freshman linebackers to accompany redshirt freshman Akhi Muhammad.

We'll have to see what kind of burgeoning tackle talent might or might not exist, but there's potential ... potential that probably won't turn into production in 2015.

There's plenty of experience up front, but the secondary will be starting over with upperclassmen like Duran Workman (the lone returning starter in the back) and Elijah Mitchell being joined by Johnson and Calloway. All four saw decent playing time, but after that, there are no known quantities. And considering how important the secondary's big-play prevention was to last year's bowl run, that's scary.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Alex Boy 6'3, 195 Jr. 59 44.3 6 9 19 47.5%
Brayden Sanchez 5'11, 200 Jr. 5 40.2 2 0 0 0.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Brent Zuzo 5'10, 175 Jr. 74 60.7 26 0 35.1%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Brent Zuzo 5'10, 175 Jr. 43-45 11-13 84.6% 3-5 60.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Elijah Mitchell KR 5'8, 180 Jr. 11 24.8 0
Kendall Brock KR 7 16.6 0
Richy Turner PR 18 9.1 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 29
Field Goal Efficiency 66
Punt Return Efficiency 46
Kick Return Efficiency 63
Punt Efficiency 53
Kickoff Efficiency 19
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 28

9. Special teams is a strength

Despite poor defensive efficiency, Nevada was strong in the field position game because of special teams. The Wolf Pack were in the top 20 in kickoff efficiency (despite a low touchback rate), top-60 in punt efficiency, and solid in both return games. Brent Zuzo was mostly solid in place-kicking, as well. Punt returner Richy Turner is gone, but the legs all return. That will give Nevada some field position margin for error that it might desperately need.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
3-Sep UC Davis NR
12-Sep Arizona 28
19-Sep at Texas A&M 42
26-Sep at Buffalo 114
3-Oct UNLV 118
10-Oct New Mexico 94
17-Oct at Wyoming 113
24-Oct Hawaii 111
7-Nov at Fresno State 102
14-Nov San Jose State 116
21-Nov at Utah State 52
28-Nov at San Diego State 76
Five-Year F/+ Rk -0.4% (58)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 96 / 98
2014 TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 11 / 7.9
2014 TO Luck/Game +1.2
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (6, 6)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 6.4 (0.6)

10. A good time for a light(ish) schedule

Despite a non-conference slate that features Arizona and Texas A&M, Nevada's schedule is light, featuring seven opponents that ranked 102nd or worse last season. So if the Wolf Pack fall into the 80s or so, they'll have a chance at reaching bowl eligibility again.

But make no mistake: they're almost certainly going to fall. The offense must replace an awesome quarterback and three-fifths of a good offensive line, and the defense must start over in the secondary after toeing the bend-don't-break line awfully close.

The size of the drop-off might be telling. If some young players thrive, Nevada could only fall to the 70s or 80s, and the Wolf Pack could be set up for success going forward. But if Fajardo was the only thing keeping Nevada's offense upright, and if the run defense doesn't improve to take some heat off of the secondary, then they could fall far, and Polian could enter his fourth year already in need of a second bounceback.

Honestly, I'm leaning toward the latter.