That's right...with no SEMO Week in the works, it's time for Nevada Week on the ol' RMN. Let's take a look at where Nevada stands with 11(ish) weeks before the season starts.
Let's start with their 2007 stats. Nevada is a team that returns most of its impact players offensively. Freshman Colin Kaepernick stepped into the starting role mid-season and was a revelation, passing for 2038 yards and a 19-3 TD-INT ratio while rushing for 567 yards (6.1 per carry) and 5 TDs. His New Mexico Bowl performance wasn't too hot, but Nevada is expecting big things from the 6'6 sophomore in the near future. With Kapernick at the helm, this was a much better team later in the season than the one that kicked off 2007 by getting kicked around by Nebraska.
Then-junior Luke Lippincott had a nice year as well, rushing for 1380 yards and 15 TDs. 6'4 WR Marko Mitchell also returns for '08 after an explosive 2007 that saw him catch 47 passes for 1033 yards and 8 TDs.
On defense, their most impressive player was Ezra Butler (87 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 3 INTs), but he is gone.
In all, Nevada games were nothing if not fun in 2007 (dull-as-hell New Mexico Bowl aside). The 'Pack averaged 36.2 PPG while allowing 32.9. They average 489 yards per game while allowing 404. Both they and their opponents had 3rd-down conversion rates of 40% or higher.
The folks at collegesports-fans.com have a nice, succinct summary of Nevada's '08 campaign here.
For a conference that scores a lot of points, the Nevada defense was not that bad. But now key players need to be replaced all over. Matt Hines clogged the middle of the line and got plenty of pressure on the opposing quarterback and linebacker Ezra Butler led the team in tackles. Fellow linebackers Nick Fuhr and Kevin Porter, who is out for the year with an injury, are also gone and the secondary lost playmaker Justin Jackson and corners Paul Pratt and Devon Walker. New faces will have to step into important roles and old faces like Kevin Basped, Josh Mauga and Jerome Johnson will have to become leaders. On paper the secondary is the biggest problem, but the coaching staff hit the junior college level hard to find some immediate contributors. Antoine Thompson and Maurice Harvey should fit in nicely and incoming freshman Thaddeus Brown might be the most talented of them all when all is said and done.
Meanwhile, here's the Spring Football Prospectus (PDF file!) from the Nevada SID.
So with all that information, it's on to the spring game. Here's the official recap of the Silver & Blue Game. To no one's surprise, Kaepernick dominated once again. Obviously this could be due to defensive woes, but...146 rushing yards on 5 carries in a spring game, where the QB's down if he's touched at all, is mighty impressive...especially for a kid this big (6'6, 215). His passing totals (5-for-15, 74 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT) weren't altogether impressive, but 5 yards per pass is palatable when you're averaging 29 yards per carry.
Finally, if you're into day-to-day spring coverage (and I know you are!), check out the following posts from the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Pack Looks Good in Final Scrimmage
Circus catches highlight practice
Loss of Porter significant for Pack
Kevin Porter's absence at linebacker will be felt as much in the locker room and in huddles as it will be on the field next fall.
Porter, who found out Wednesday that his playing days are over because of a neck injury, would have been a great leader for the Pack in a time when it really needed one. Linebacker Joshua Mauga, the senior-to-be and projected four-year starter, might be that guy. He's a great leader by example, but we don't know yet if he's the kind of guy to get in someone's face when needed, like defensive lineman Matt Hines was the last two years.