Nevada saw its streak of consecutive bowl appearances stop at four in 2022. Last season the Wolfpack went 2-10 and had its worst offensive output in quite some time. The offense managed 18.8 points per game last season, which is the school's second-worst scoring output since 1992.
Wolf Pack head coach Ken Wilson is going into his 2nd season at the helm and brought in a lot of talented transfers. Whether it was via graduation or the transfer portal, an eye-popping 45 players left the program. In 2023 this team is in a very different situation and ready to get out of the basement of the Mountain West.
Nevada Football 2023 PREVIEW
THE CONF.: Mountain West Conference (NOTE: MWC got rid of the divisions this spring)
2022 RECORD: 2-10 last season and did not make a bowl game.
CONF. FINISH: 0-8 last season and last in the West Division.
HEAD COACH: Ken Wilson at Nevada, 2-10. Going into his 2nd year at the helm.
FIVE ALL-STAR CANDIDATES: Sean Dollars Jr./RB (460 all-purpose yards and a touchdown at Oregon); Drue Watts So./LB (57 Tackles, 3 sacks, 6 TFL, and 1 interception); Isaiah Essissima Sr./CB (35 tackles, 9 pass breakups, 2 interceptions); Brendon Lewis So./QB (in 2021 had 1500 yards passing and 10 touchdowns to 3 interceptions). Brandon Talton Jr./K (Hit 10-12 FGs last season and set the MWC career record with 68 made FGs in his career).
THE NEWCOMER: Sean Dollars Jr./RB (transfer from Oregon): Coming out of high school, Dollars was a four-star recruit. He is the highest-rated recruit Wilson has brought to Reno. At Oregon, Dollars carried the ball 46 times for 316 yards and added 18 receptions for 144 yards and a score. Dollars looks to be the feature back in the Wolf Pack offense.
Coach Wilson in the offseason raided the PAC-12 for talent. Especially when it comes to the offensive skill positions. It was mentioned in the newcomer portion of this preview but there is a lot of excitement and buzz for a player like Sean Dollars. Dollars has a great blend of speed and power. He doesn't shy away from contact. The Wolf Pack also added a transfer from Cal a 6-foot-7 TE Keleki Latu that should give QB Brendon Lewis a big target in the middle of the field. The WRs should have more experience this fall but it is an open competition to see who will become a true No. 1 WR.
The offensive line has been under massive reconstruction. Between players graduating and losing talented players to the transfer portal this group has to gel quickly and improve upon the 3.15 yards-per-carry pace from last season and can't give up 79 sacks again. If this line can create lanes for RB Sean Dollars and protect QB Brendon Lewis, this offense should get back on track.
Wilson is known for defense when it comes to defense. This side of the ball is exciting. First, you have to start with the wrecker that is LB Drue Watts. The LB unit as a whole is a pack of wolves you don't want on your trail. Naki Mateialona had 53 tackles and 2 sacks, Eli'jah Winston is strong, and Oregon transfer Jackson DeLuke toround out the group.
You look to the defensive backfield and there is talent there as well. You have to start with the corners Jaden Dedman and Isaiah Essissima, who can lock down the outside. Between both players, they had 17 pass breakups. They do need to come down with more interceptions. Dedman did not have an interception last season. The back seven feels like the strength for this team as we find out how everybody else gels.
THE KEY GAME AND WHY
The conference opener against Fresno State. The Bulldogs will be a tough opponent once again and are the defending conference champs. This is a good test for the Wolf Pack defense to try and shut down and limit the high-powered offense of Fresno State. The offense will have had four games to figure out what works and what doesn't work. Can Brendon Lewis and Sean Dollars get points on the board for the Wolf Pack? When these two teams meet it is usually a high-scoring affair.
THE TOUGHEST GAME AND WHY
At the end of the year against Wyoming. Both teams are known for stout defenses. Nevada may also be playing for bowl eligibility here. This game could be the one they need to grab that sixth win to make them bowl-eligible. Wyoming is good against the run and Nevada will have to have made significant progression in the passing game.
THE CHANCES OF MAKING CONF. TITLE GAME
Nevada does avoid some of the powerhouses in the conference this year. The Wolf Pack won't play Air Force, San Jose State, or Boise State. They have some winnable games in conference play but this is a team that isn't quite ready yet to take that step into the conference title game. The offense will have to really wow people in order to get Nevada into the Mountain West title game.
The Wolf Pack will improve in 2023. After a 2-10 season, it's easy to say that they will win 3 games and call that improvement but with what Nevada has added this past offseason there should be a four to five win improvement in 2023. This defense will keep this team in ball games, but they need to add more turnovers.
The offense has new starters. Dollars is a really exciting player and could easily be over 1,000 yards rushing this season. Everything will depend on offense will start with production from the offensive line. The ceiling for Nevada is eight wins and the floor is four wins. It should get back into a bowl game in 2023.
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