The one part of this team that should scare you is the defense. Nevada hasn’t been known for having the best defense of late. It might be a little too early to call it different but what we have seen this year is a far cry from what we had done at this point just a year ago.
The key player on this defense is #55 Dontay Moch. He will be the WAC’s all time sack leader and tackle’s for a loss record holder by the end of this season. But Dontay does something other than just tackle and make sacks. He commands a double team. In the previous 3 games, teams have been so scared of him that they have double and even triple-teamed him, letting other players go free. If the rest of the defensive line can capitalize on this, it will be a good season for them stats wise.
The linebacking core is now anchored by MLB #52 James-Michael Johnson who made his way from the OLB position. If there was one move that defensive coordinator Andy Buh made that’s making a lot of sense it’s this. James feels at home in this position and has been putting up great numbers. His partner in crime at this level is #33 Brandon Marshall who hasn’t had the numbers he’s capable of lately but is capable of big things. Look for Brandon to come out of this "minor-slump" and really lock down the rest of the linebacking core. A "minor-slump" in the beginning of the season is better than one at the end, so have faith in him.
The secondary position is where Nevada has been tortured. I hope I don’t have to remind you of the long play after long play they gave up last year. This year they have given up a few but substantially less than last year at this point. #8 Marlon Johnson has been playing great at the CB position, he’s the guy who had a pick-6 last week in case you already forgot who he is. #6 Doyle Miller and #20 Duke Williams are also putting up great pressure on opposing receivers and are looking much better than last year. When I re-watched the Cal game, #28 Isaiah Frey had a few stops which could have easily been called pass interference. If he learns to control his hands a little more, this problem will easily be solved and he too is a crucial part of this secondary. #2 Khalid Wooten has also turned his game up and has great hands, look for him to have 3-6 interceptions on the season.
Watch out for #7 Corbin Louks, this Utah transfer could be a huge part of the Wolf Pack defense that we’ve been missing for some time.
When all is said and done, this defense can get the job done. There is one mistake however that they are still making and could cost us precious penalty yards if not games. The secondary has a hard time looking for the ball. The speed is not there to keep up with some of these receivers they have been facing and because of that they are giving up a step or two and getting out of position to make a real play on the ball. If this doesn’t change there will be a lot of penalties. Other offenses have already figured this out as when they get into the redzone they have attempted passing for the touchdown over running for it knowing that our corners will not look back to find the ball. If they fix this, this defense will be a vast improvement from what it was last year. If there is anything holding us back from getting a BCS game, this is it.
Tomorrow I will break down how to get to that BCS game, it's a lot more difficult than you think.