Nevada not afraid of tough schedule
This is the 10th story in a series on UH's opponents
Nevada plays four preseason top-25 teams this year, starting with a road game at No. 20 Nebraska this week -- and it does so without its most acclaimed defensive player, outside linebacker Ezra Butler.
The Star-Bulletin will preview Hawaii's opponents every day until the start of the season.
Aug. 20: Northern Colorado
Aug. 21: LaTech
Aug. 22: UNLV
Aug. 23: Charleston Southern
Aug. 24: Idaho
Aug. 25: Utah State
Aug. 26: San Jose State
Aug. 27: New Mexico State
Yesterday: Fresno State
Tomorrow: Boise State
Butler (6-2, 248) led the Western Athletic Conference with 17.5 tackles-for-loss in 2006. He is among seven returning defensive starters on a team that went 8-5 last year, including a 21-20 bowl game loss to Miami.
Butler was suspended for one game for breaking a team rule.
Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault has proven over the years that he doesn't put up with nonsense, even from star players. That's one of the reasons Nevada has so many game-tested players, even backloaded at some positions. In past years, many young players have been thrown into battle when veterans didn't live up to Ault's demands of off-field discipline.
The secondary is a good example, where senior Paul Pratt (5-10, 185) has started games dating back to his freshman year, and four safeties have started at some point.
Up front, Nevada has experience in second-year team captain Matt Hines (6-1, 285) and Erics Clark (6-6, 270). Linebacker Joshua Mauga (6-2, 245) was in on 56 tackles and picked off three passes.
"We were a good defense last year, but when we broke down they were major breakdowns," Ault said.
There's some rebuilding to do on offense, with quarterback Jeff Rowe, running back Robert Hubbard and receiver Caleb Spencer -- the Pack's leading passer, rusher and pass catcher -- all gone.
Fortunately, the core of the offensive line is back in center Dominic Green (6-3, 295) and guard Charles Manu (6-3, 300), along with tight end Adam Bishop (6-4, 245).
Running back Luke Lippincott (6-2, 215) rushed for 456 yards and more is expected from him this fall as a junior.
Sophomore Nick Graziano (6-1, 220) will start Saturday, Ault said, and freshman Colin Kaepernick (6-6, 205) will play situationally.
"They're both bright spots in the program," he said.
Don't look for the coach to cut the playbook too much while Rowe's replacements learns the "Pistol" offense.
"We are not changing our offensive philosophy," Ault said. "We have to expand it."
Special teams are a plus, especially with Dwayne Sanders (5-10, 175) back. He led the WAC in kickoff returns.
2006 results (8-5)
|at Fresno State
|at Arizona State
|San Jose State
|New Mexico State
|at La. Tech
* MPC Computers Bowl
||at Boise State
||at Utah State
||at New Mexico St.
||at San Jose State