Break down two depth chart of Nevada vs. New Mexico State

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The Nevada Wolf Pack Football Team published their first-ever depth chart of the Ken Wilson era on Monday, just days before their 2022 inaugural showdown against the New Mexico Aggies on Saturday at 7 p.m. PT on ESPN2.

Depth map at two depths relative to NMSU
Nevada Athletics

Let’s take a look at the two depth chart and break it down!


Strategist:

Hall: Nate Cox OR Shane Illingworth

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the two-deep depth chart is that Wilson has yet to make a decision on who starts at quarterback between Cox and Illingworth, a Oklahoma State to transfer. Maybe the two get chased in the season opener?

Come back:

Hall: Toa Taua OR Devonte Lee

Another interesting takeaway is that he is yet to name a starting running back, even though Taua has started and received the bulk of the touches for the past four seasons with Lee as a backup. It’s almost certain that Wilson’s offense will focus more on the running game this season, so the two are going to get plenty of reps. I’ll also be curious to see if he uses more two-man back sets, but that’s another conversation for another day.

Receiver X:

Hall: Tyrese Mack

Backup: Dalevon Campbell

Mack, a 5ft 11in wide who transferred from City College of San Francisco before last season, has seen limited action in 2021 – as has **checks notes** all Wolf Pack receivers back. He caught just two passes for 27 yards, but he’ll come in as the team’s starting X-Receiver. Campbell, who transferred from Illinois, is one of his biggest receiving threats at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds.

Receiver A:

Hall: Jamal Bell

Backup: Victor Snow

No surprise here; Bell was the only returning receiver with double-digit FBS-level receptions, hauling 14 for 119 yards and a touchdown. As Receiver A (in the slot), Bell, a speed demon at 5ft 10in, could possibly be his most active movement threat and candidate for receiving jet sweeps and generating plenty of YACs in a open space. Snow, who impressed in the spring game, could be a breakout contender even as a true first-year starter.

Z-receiver:

Hall: BJ Casteel

Backup: Spencer Curtis

Casteel was traded from Arizona, where he caught 90 passes for 880 yards and four touchdowns in four seasons. He’s Nevada’s most experienced receiver at the FBS level and could be the Pack’s top target in 2022.

Tight end:

Hall: Cooper Shults

Backup: Jacob Munro

Shults was traded from Oregon, where he had a catch for 13 yards in those two seasons. He’s a big-bodied target, listed at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds. Nevada is expected to use more 12 and 22 this year, so Shults and Munro — among other tight ends — will be used together more than they did under the Norvell airstrike.

Right tackle:

Hall: Trey Hamilton

Backup: Isaiah World

Until a few weeks ago, that spot was filled by All-Mountain West preseason winner Aaron Frost, its only returning starting lineman. Now it’s the ‘Next Man Up’ mentality for the Pack, who plan to launch Hamilton, a homegrown rookie entering his fifth year with the scheme.

Right guard:

Hall: Kai Arneson

Backup: Jacob Nunez

Arneson and Nunez both started matches on their former FBS programs – Arneson with Oregon and Nunez with Arizona State. Arneson, at 6-foot-7, will start the season there, however.

Center:

Hall: Bryce Peterson

Backup: Andrew Madrigal

Peterson was one of the newest additions to the program, but he started 30 career games at Akron and one of the most experienced OLs on the roster. So that makes sense.

Left Guard:

Hall: Zac Welch

Backup: Joey Capra

Welch played a combined 12 games in his first two years with Nevada; Capra, meanwhile, played eight games from 2020 to 2021 with San Diego State. Both were therefore good candidates, but Welch – who transferred to Nevada after two years with the 2019-20 program – obviously got the starting job.

Left tackle:

Hall: Grant Stark

Backup: Cole Feinauer

Aside from Frost, Starck at left tackle was arguably the second clearest candidate to start The Union. He was one of their top offensive line recruits in their 2020 class and appeared in 10 contests last season.

RUSH:

Hall: marcel walker

Backup: Chris Smalley

Walker and Smalley are both new additions to the program. Walker transferred from Southern Connecticut State, making 17 tackles with four tackles for loss and a pair of sacks; Smalley is a three-star freshman from Douglas High School in Minden, Nevada; he should do a lot of running as a true freshman despite not getting much due to injury near the end of his HS career.

Nose Attack:

Hall: James Hansen

Backup: Christopher Love

This one came as a bit of a surprise to me, as Love had 26 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks last year. Hansen was traded from Utah State, where he played just five career games after playing one season at Riverside Community College.

Defensive tackle:

Hall: Dom Peterson

Backup: Dion Washington

Peterson, one of the team’s six returning starters, was once considered one of Mountain West’s best defensive linemen, and still could be. He’ll eat a lot of blocks and create havoc up front – the only question is: who’s going to help him? Expect the transfer of Liberty William Green Jr. – who didn’t make the two-deep board – to play a part in the middle as well.

Defensive end:

Hall: Louis Cresto

Backup: PJ Huff

Cresto, another transfer from Oregon, joined Nevada end of June. Neither Cresto nor Huff — who transferred from American River College — have plenty of college experience at the FBS level.

WILL linebacker:

Hall: Naki Mateialona

Safeguard: Combs of Stone

Mateialona has just six tackles in his first two seasons with the Pack, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s close to leading the team in tackles by the end of 2022.

MIKE Linebacker:

Initiator: Maurice Wilmer

Backup: Drue Watts

Wilmer appeared in 11 games for Nevada over three seasons, making just one tackle in the Quick Lane Bowl against Western Michigan. He and Watts are both inexperienced, but they have plenty of reps and could become capable supports under Wilson’s tutelage.

Nickel:

Owner: Tyson Williams

Backup: Zeke Robbins

That was probably the biggest surprise for me. After four seasons as a safety, Williams — one of the most productive defensive players on the program in recent memory — will move to the Nickel corner, where he’ll be tasked with more coverage responsibilities. It’s a curious but intriguing move for the 2020 All-Mountain West Honorable Mention winner.

Cornerback:

Incumbents: Isaiah Essissima, Jaden Dedman

Backup: Darion Green-Warren, Zach Lewis

Essissima transferred from WakeForest ahead of last season and did a good job of covering in limited playing time. Dedman played 26 career games with Nevada, but was never able to crack a starting spot in the secondary. These are two worthy starters who will have to replace the production of BerDale Robins. Green-Warren was a four-star transfer from Michigan and should get more playing time in 2022, as will Lewis, who played just one game with a tackle last season.

Free security:

Initiator: Bentlee Sanders

Sanders was one of Nevada’s best corners — operating primarily in the slot — doing a solid job in coverage. He will now be tasked with greater responsibility for free security – he has the acumen and the traits to do so.

Strong security:

Initiator: Aedan Seiuli

Backup: Emany Johnson

Along with the Williams switch, the Pack plan to start Seiuli, who only played one game with a tackle as a freshman last season. Johnson also played in 31 combined games with 77 tackles in that span, so expect him to do a lot of running as the season gets older.

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