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Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Spring superlatives: Nevada

By Graham Watson

Nevada didn’t start the 2009 season the way it wanted to. It was humiliated at Notre Dame and started the season on a three-game slide. The Wolf Pack rebounded to win their next eight games, but still couldn’t get past Boise State, and injuries and academic issues aided in a bowl loss against SMU. This year, confidence is slowly rising as the Wolf Pack attempts to diversify its offense and bring the defense back on par with some of the better teams in the conference.

Here’s a look at the strongest and weakest positions for Nevada this spring:

Strongest position: Running back

Key returners: Senior Vai Taua (172 carries, 1,345 yards, 10 touchdowns), senior Colin Kaepernick (161 carries, 1,183 yards, 16 touchdowns), junior Lampford Mark (59 carries, 376 yards, three touchdowns), sophomore Mike Ball (23 carries, 220 yards, five touchdowns)

Key departures: Luke Lippincott (134 carries, 1,034 yards, nine touchdowns)

The skinny: The Wolf Pack led the country in rushing last season with 344.92 yards per game and became the first team in NCAA history to produce three 1000-yard running backs in the same season. Two of those backs, which included quarterback Colin Kaepernick, return as do Lampford Mark and Mike Ball, who played vital roles when either Vai Taua or Luke Lippincott were out of the lineup. The running game will once again play a huge role in the Wolf Pack’s offense, but coach Chris Ault also wants to balance and get more out of his passing game this year.

Weakest position: Secondary

Key returners: Senior safety Jonathon Amaya (89 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one interception), senior safety Mo Harvey (61 tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception), junior cornerback Doyle Miller (33 tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception), sophomore cornerback Isaiah Frey (29 tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception)

Key departures: None.

The skinny: For the past two years, the Wolf Pack pass defense has been one of the worst in the country. New defensive coordinator Andy Buh was brought in to help fix that and during the spring game, the secondary helped keep the first team out of the end zone. However, the Nevada offense isn’t exactly an aerial threat. The Wolf Pack won’t know what they have until they open the season against Eastern Washington. The Wolf Pack is also going through some turmoil with freshman safety Duke Williams, who was implicated in a fight with a teammate.