Murray's Mailbag: Time traveling one Nevada football star onto the 2019 roster

Joel Bitonio
Joel Bitonio would be a huge addition to any college team. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

It's been a busy day, so let's get right to it with this week's edition of the Monday Twitter Mailbag. Thanks, as always, for the inquiries.

(Note: If you're not seeing the tweets, it's probably because you're not using Google Chrome. Use Google Chrome).

So if I could bring back any one player from Nevada history and place him on this year's roster? I like that question. My top 10.

1. QB Colin Kaepernick: Kaepernick seemed like a video-game cheat mode during his senior season. He was unstoppable and finished eighth in the Heisman vote. Given Nevada's question marks on the offensive line, his mobility would be huge.

2. FB Marion Motley: The only Pro Football Hall of Famer to play for Nevada, Motley was a beast in the 1940s and his size would still make him a beast several decades later (he was 6-foot-1, 238 pounds). I'd love to see how his game would translate.

3. DE Charles Mann: Mann sometimes gets overlooked when we talk about the best players in program history. He might be the best. The four-time Pro Bowler and three-time NFL champion would wreak havoc in the opposition's backfield.

4. FS Brock Marion: Nevada has issues in the secondary and Marion would help fill them. The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL champion played cornerback and safety at Nevada, so he could fill a variety of needs for the 2019 Wolf Pack.

5. WR Nate Burleson: Nevada has some good weapons in its current receiving corps, but imagine Burleson and Romeo Doubs on the same field. That would be menacing with Carson Strong's gun. I'd also like to see Trevor Insley play modern ball.

6. OT Joel Bitonio: Bitonio is the most dominant offensive lineman I've covered and he'll end up the best lineman in Nevada history. I still remember his senior season game at Boise State. He destroyed the Broncos as much as one lineman can.

7. DE Dontay Moch: My first year covering Nevada football was Moch's senior season, and I took for granted his greatness. That dude was a freak. Speed, power, dominance. He would be a great fit on any defensive line, but defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel would have a field day with his talent.

8. LB DeShone Myles: Speaking of Casteel, he'd love to coach Myles, the Wolf Pack's all-time tackles leader (by a huge margin). Nevada has good linebackers, but none are the caliber of this dude.

9. RB James "Rabbitt" Bradshaw: Just so I can see the leather helmet the 1910s and 1920s star used to wear. At 5-foot-6 and 134-pound, he'd probably get crushed.

10. QBs Chris Vargas/Fred Gatlin: The Vargas and Gatlin days were probably the most fun in program history. Let's bring them back and toggle between the two stars every game until Nevada wins a championship like the school did in the 1980s and 1990s.

The West Division finally pulled even in the head-to-head cross-division battle last season (the two divisions split their cross-over games in 2018). The Mountain had dominated the West for years, but Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State have gotten better in recent seasons while New Mexico, Air Force and Colorado State have gotten worse. We'll see this season if it is a one-year phenomenon. I don't think it is. I think they're pretty even now, although the Mountain Division still spends way more money on its coaching staffs. Four of the top-five paid staffs are in the Mountain. Four of the bottom-five paid staffs are in the West. Until that changes, the Mountain will probably remain slightly ahead of the West. Worth noting the West has won four of the six MW titles since the divisional split in 2013. That should matter for something.

Per the U.S. Department of Education, which gets its numbers from the schools themselves, Purdue spent $27,230,929 on football last season and Nevada spent $10,037,079. Of that $37,268,008, the players' salaries equaled $0.

Assuming a full season, I think Carson Strong will throw about 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this season. I'm not going to guess on the other quarterbacks because I have no idea if they'll play. Nobody does.

1. The Magic Man (Chris Vargas)

2. Tonopah Tornado (Chance Kretschmer)

3. Gatlin Gun (Fred Gatlin)

4. Dream Killer (Malik Reed)

5. The Hawk (Frank Hawkins)

And I head straight from the parking lot to the press box to cover games, with a stop to Lawlor Events Center for the press food mixed in on gamedays. No tailgating for me except for special occasions.

I'm not sure it was a dominant win considering Arizona was 1-yard short of tying the game as time expired, but it was a very impressive win. Anytime you can beat a bowl-quality Power 5 school as a Mountain West program it's a big deal. Hawaii is not the team to beat in the MW. That's Boise State. And it's not the team to beat in the West Division. That's Fresno State. But Hawaii could very well win the West. So could Nevada and San Diego State. The Rainbow Warriors have the best quarterback (Cole McDonald) in the West and the most experience of any team in the league. But it's hard to win for Hawaii to win road games late in the season. All that travel catches up. That's why I have Hawaii fourth in my preseason West rankings, but I would not be shocked if the Rainbow Warriors beat Nevada or won the West. I just don't want to get overly excited like I did last season when Hawaii started 6-1. But Arizona is better than any team Hawaii beat last year, so it's a good sign.

It's Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors were picked to finish fourth in the West Division, so it is the lowest-rated team I could see winning its Division. The quarterback and the experience are a big deal. I broke down the experience factor here. Fresno State is vulnerable for sure. I'm just not sure Hawaii can win enough road games to win the West. Hawaii also plays Boise State (in Boise), whereas Nevada, Fresno State and San Diego State don't, so that's a ding against the Rainbow Warriors' chances.

Fresno State is the favorite. I'd give the Bulldogs a 50 percent chance of winning the West, San Diego State 15 percent, Nevada 15 percent, Hawaii 15 percent, UNLV 5 percent and San Jose State the same percent of winning the West as me joining the Dodgers later this month and being named World Series MVP.

To be honest, I think you'll see a lot of the same plays just run out of a spread formation to thin out the box. I'm more bullish on San Diego State after researching the Aztecs last week, but they did end the 2018 season in horrible fashion. The West Division is a tossup for me with four potential winners, which means I wouldn't be shocked if SDSU won the division or finished fourth. The defense will be good, so they'll make a bowl, but the best years of the Rocky Long era might be behind SDSU. I wouldn't throw dirt on the grave yet, though. This will be a telling season.

Probably the Mountain West. Ten of 12 Pac-12 teams won at least three conference games last season while zero lost one or fewer. Four of the 12 MW teams won two games or fewer while three lost one or fewer. The MW had more extremes at the top and bottom than the Pac-12.

So you're asking about former Bishop Manogue running back Peyton Dixon, who was offered a scholarship by Nevada but said the Wolf Pack requested he not put the school's logo on the table when he announced he was signing with MW rival Fresno State last December. So he put the logos of Fresno State, UC Davis, Wyoming and UNLV on the table. The Wolf Pack apparently did not want it to appear he was picking Fresno State over Nevada even though that's what he was doing. He accepted their request to not put the Nevada logo out there. Seems odd, but that's what happened.

Anybody who was booing Andrew Luck is a loser. His freaking body is falling apart. He's in chronic pain. He's suffered, among other things:

* Torn cartilage in 2 ribs

* Partially torn abdomen

* A lacerated kidney that left him peeing blood

* At least 1 concussion

* A torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that cost him a full season

* And an ongoing mysterious calf/ankle issue

It sucks the game lost a talent like Luck before he turned 30, but I understand. Nobody wants to be in pain for the rest of their lives. He didn't want to quit a game he loved. He didn't want to pass up on the potential of making another $300 million. He didn't want to give up on a city and fan base he clearly cared about. His body had had enough. And if fans are going to boo that -- he was almost the only good thing on the team the last several seasons -- they're losers. Get a grip. A person's health is bigger than your fandom. If you life revolves around your favorite team winning a game, you're a loser. Luck is the modern-day Sandy Koufax. Sometimes your body says no más.

(P.S. I wouldn't be shocked if he returned in a year or two. And if the Colts cared about winning, they'd sign Colin Kaepernick).

Punter Quinton Conaway has done some kickoffs in practice and Pettit has as well, but I do think you'll see a kickoff specialist. Not sure if he'll be cleared for this week, but you can always find one dude on campus who can kick it through the back of the end zone like Ramiz Ahmed, who ended up also being a good kicker. Keeping Rondale Moore to single-digit touches in this Purdue game would be huge.

I have San Jose State winning two games, so I'll take Clemson and Alabama losses plus 0.5. They have to lose one game (when they face each other in the playoffs), so you're only asking for one more defeat between the two, which I believe will happen.

It should be eight teams. Each Power 5 conference champion + two wild cards + the top Group of 5 school. Pretty easy.

Clemson. Alabama. Georgia. And Michigan! Taking a risk on Michigan, but maybe this is the year for Old Khaki Pants.

Infinity ... and beyond. A Group of 5 school will never play in a four-team CFP.

While I have not seen anything official on it, I've heard he was offered a position at Notre Dame and took that. He wasn't at practice today. Hard to turn that down. I imagine his former Nevada coach, Brian Polian, had something to do with that.

The NIAA doesn't have the will to take on that battle. That would end up in court, and the NIAA would probably lose (Gorman can afford better lawyers). So there's not much that can be done about it. If Bishop Gorman wants to win a state title in any one specific sport, they can make it happen. Outside of football and boys basketball, things are pretty fair. But in those sports, there isn't much of a glimmer of hope for North teams. I just hope Bishop Manogue doesn't take it to this level locally.

I don't think so. I don't see Churchill County High or Truckee High getting bumped up to 4A.

Begrudgingly I say, "No." There's too much of an investment for start-up teams (expansion fees of $150 million in MLS) to relegate a new team (you could obviously put in a multi-year buffer before they can be relegated). That being said, the tanking in the NBA and MLB, specifically, is off-putting. So while I wouldn't mind teams that aren't trying to win getting sent down a level, I just don't think it is feasible. I don't like that the Astros have been rewarded for tanking. Same might end up being true of the 76ers. While I'm not a fan of the San Francisco Giants, they've at least tried to put decent teams on the field during its current rebuild rather than tanking, which a relegation system would fix.

Nevada is playing at UTEP this season. El Paso is in Texas. It played at Texas A&M in 2015. It played at Texas State in 2012. It played at Texas Tech in 2011. It has a future game at Texas State in 2023. It gets to the state of Texas pretty often considering the Wolf Pack only plays two non-conference road games per season.

Every fan base has great fans. Every fan base has bad fans. I do believe Wolf Pack fans can be a little more mouthy that other bases, to the point it even turns off other Nevada supporters. Utah State's fans have always been very nice to me but: (a) cussed out Brian Polian's wife after the 2016 football games and (b) upset Boise State basketball player Nick Duncan enough that he flipped them off. Like I said, there's good and bad in every base. On the whole, New Mexico's basketball fans and Boise State's football fans are the best in the MW. SDSU's basketball fans are great, too, although Eric Musselman's wife, Danyelle, didn't go to the game at San Diego last season because of supposed poor treatment at Viejas, so everybody has a different experience.

The only way he'd return to Lawlor Events Center is if he's coaching a school in the conference, so your San Diego State fit makes sense (he also owns a home in the area). I could see that as a fit if things at Arkansas don't work out. I imagine it would be a mixed reaction with more cheers than boos. Time heals all wounds, they say. Some people would still be mad, but others would appreciate what he did for Nevada. It also depends somewhat on how the Wolf Pack is doing. If things keep going up, they're probably be more appreciative than if things fall apart.

I don't understand this question. But I'll assume it's a Tecmo Super Bowl question and I'll take Christian Okoye over the rest of those backs combined. He was a beast, second only to Bo Jackson, on Tecmo. I also looked up Ickey Woods' career. It's shocking he only played in 37 NFL games. I thought he had a much longer career. RIP the Ickey Shuffle.

DC Defenders is the worst name. The LA Wildcats' logo is the worst. Wildcats is a crappy name, too. I'll take the under on 2.5 seasons. I just don't see how a third football league successfully exists in the United States with the NFL and college football soaking up so much time and media attention. It's also odd to me the XFL put so many teams in NFL cities (Los Angeles, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Washington D.C., Houston, New York, Dallas). There has to be some football fatigue that sets in.

The Raiders did just waive Doug Martin, which increases his chances, but it's still probably practice squad. Josh Jacobs is making the roster. Jalen Richard, too. Keith Smith or Alec Ingold at fullback. So he's battling with DeAndre Washington and Mack Brown for one or two spots. He really needs the Raiders to keep five backs to have a chance. They'll probably keep four. He does have the most carries on the team this preseason: 34 attempts for 117 yards (3.4 yards per carry) with a long of 8.

Not that I know of. He donated a good chunk of money back in the day to renovate the locker room and attended Mike Bradeson's funeral service in Reno in July.

From my story last September:

In November, TMCC expects to break ground on its $14 million athletic facility project that will include a 20,000-square-foot fitness center and a full-length soccer field that will include a track and bleacher seating. Both are on the east side of the school’s main campus. The project is being funded by a $5 per credit student fee ($4.50 for the construction of the facilities; 50 cents to operate the programs) as well as roughly $1.5 million of leftover money from a previous capital fund, Hilgersom said.

So the students agreed to a fee to fund athletics, including a beautiful $3 million soccer field that is somehow the best in town -- better than a Division I soccer program (Nevada) and USL team (Reno 1868 FC). There was no such student fee at WNC, which meant cutting an excellent baseball program.

No. The Wolf Pack women's soccer teams usually plays a couple of games at Moana every season because it is a grass field and some opponents will only play on grass (Mackay Stadium is FieldTurf). Nevada only has one game at Moana this season, however.

The Icelandic League.

Yes, because the Nike deal paid Nevada $400,000 per year and the Adidas one around $900,000 annually. That's a big difference. Take the money.

I've never done a beer bong. I'm a beer pong sort of man.

Ballin' on a budget!

Any school can contact a player in the portal. That's why they put their name in the portal. To signal to schools they can contact them.







Let's go Depoali Diamondbacks! (I'll also note empathy is an underrated quality that we need more of these days).

Antonio Brown will produce. He's really good. In the last six seasons, he's averaged 114 catches, 1,524 yards and 11 touchdowns per season. He's playing with a lesser quarterback this season, so maybe those numbers are more like 100/1,200/9, but he'll produce. The Raiders, meanwhile, will go 6-10 or 7-9.

I will spill the details on my tombstone. Until then, everybody must wait. So everyone will know what happened in 60 years. I'm pretty virile and will last a few more decades. Until then, it's a mystery. See y'all next week.

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