Ault has Wolf Pack believing
The coach wants Nevada to be considered a WAC contender every year
FIFTH IN A SERIES » Most college football coaches talk about improving upon the previous season.
Not Chris Ault of Nevada. At least not this year.
"The key challenge is to sustain," Ault said.
The Wolf Pack went 9-3 last year and tied for first in the Western Athletic Conference with a 7-1 mark. Nevada capped it off with a 49-48 overtime victory over Central Florida in the Hawaii Bowl.
Sure, there's some room for improvement. But Ault is more concerned with showing 2005 wasn't a fluke and that Nevada deserves mention among the WAC's perennial contenders.
Ault was steaming mad after the Pack went 5-7 in 2004. It was the Pack's first losing season under him (he hadn't been football coach since 1987), and he said the team lacked "Nevada-tude."
He also made adjustments to more than team demeanor and morale last year. Ault credits the switches to a 3-4 defense and the "pistol" offense, where the quarterback lines up halfway between under center and shotgun formation.
The key pistolero is back in quarterback Jeff Rowe. He passed for 2,925 yards and 21 touchdowns while learning the new scheme.
His favorite target is Caleb Spencer. The Kamehameha graduate led the Pack with 67 catches, 884 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
Ault is concerned about depth at running back. Robert Hubbard was fine (719 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns) as a backup to graduated All-WAC performer B.J. Mitchell. The question is how much pounding he can take as an every-down back.
Charles Manu, Barrett Reznick, Jimmy Wadhams and Dominic Green have started within the past two years on the offensive line and are back, but both starting tackles need replacing.
Ezra Butler is one of the top defensive playmakers. He is a 6-foot-2, 250-pound outside linebacker, who came to Nevada 35 pounds heavier and expecting to play defensive tackle. He's from South Africa and England, and grew up playing soccer and cricket. Butler was second for the Pack with 75 tackles last year.
"We think he will be one of the best players in this conference," Ault said.
The same might be said for All-WAC cornerback Joe Garcia. He had a nose for the ball (four picks) as well as the ballcarrier (team-leading 48 solo tackles) last fall.
"He might also be the punt returner," Ault said. "He's certainly a key player on defense."
Nose tackle Matt Hines controls things up front.
Kicker Brett Jaekle is the team's leading returning scorer and Thomas Barcia is the new punter.