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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 26, Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 26, ISSUE 6 90 A fter back-to-back seven-win seasons, Coach Brian Polian wanted something to change. And the something is offense. In the offseason, the fourth-year head coach hired Tim Cramsey, a Brian Kelly disciple who had been the offensive co- ordinator at Montana State, as his new OC. And Cramsey, like Kelly did with Oregon, Philadelphia and now the San Francisco 49ers, wants to install a wide- open, up-tempo offense for the Wolf Pack. "The pistol formation will not change but the offense being run out of that formation will be different," said Chris Murray, who covers Nevada for the Reno Gazette-Journal, referring to the Wolf Pack's standard offensive system. "Cramsey, who played and coached at New Hampshire, learned a lot under Kel- ly in college and runs a similar offense. The tempo is one of the big things he preached during spring camp." If it works, the Wolf Pack could have a dynamic offense. It'll be experienced, as Nevada returns 10 of 11 starters, los- ing one of its two thousand-yard rushers but returning junior James Butler, who rushed for 1,153 yards last season. But whether Cramsey's offense hits its peak will depend on quarterback play. And there, the Wolf Pack have a ques- tion. Tyler Stewart struggled at the position at times in 2015, averaging 164.5 yards per game with 15 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. But only once did he throw for more than 230 yards, with his limitations leading to offensive im- balance. Cramsey would like more balance, but in the spring game, he ran 60 rushing plays among the 79 total, leading many to think the Wolf Pack might again be overly reliant on the ground game. And it might have to be, unless Stewart can improve. In the spring, the QB job was open, with a couple inexperienced play- ers trying to win the job, but after the game, Polian announced that the veter- an had retained the job. "He was the quickest to pick up the new scheme and terminology and has excellent attributes, being 6-foot-4, a good athlete, with a strong arm," Mur- ray said. "Stewart will start the opener, but I expect him to be on a shorter leash this season than last year when he start- ed all 13 games. … This season should show us if Stewart was the issue with the passing game last year or if it was a combination of the scheme, offensive line and wide receivers, who struggled to get open." The offense might need to score frequently, because Nevada has some potential defensive issues. The Wolf Pack lost six of its front-seven starters, including two All-Mountain West defen- sive ends, and all three of its linebackers. In the spring, Nevada moved walk-on running back Lucas Weber to linebacker, where he quickly became a starter. Could be telling of the Wolf Pack's need. "The defensive line has tal- ent, but it's young and unprov- en," Murray said. "The lineback- er position is a bigger question mark. The secondary returns all four starters, including two high-level safeties who started as freshmen last year in Dame- on Baber and Asauni Rufus. The back four will have to play well early as the front seven learns on the fly." Nevada might be able to improve on its seven-win seasons in '14 and '15. Al- though the travel schedule is heavy ear- ly — the Wolf Pack go to Notre Dame, Purdue and Hawaii by Oct. 1 — it eases considerably. Murray says the schedule is the fourth-easiest in the country, ac- cording to opponents' winning percent- age last year. "Another seven-win season would be classified as a disappointment by most fans," he said. "The Wolf Pack plays only three teams that had a winning record last season (Notre Dame, San Diego State, New Mexico) and has its easiest non-conference schedule since 2010, when the team went 13-1 and finished No. 11 in the AP top 25." — Kyle Charters John Byrne Nevada doesn't have much experience on its de- fense, so it will lean on sophomore safety Asauni Rufus early this season.

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