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Former Nevada starting QB Kaymen Cureton has moved to safety

Kaymen Cureton
Kaymen Cureton has moved from quarterback to safety in advance of the Wolf Pack's spring camp. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

Kaymen Cureton, who started two games at quarterback for Nevada as a true freshman in 2017, has moved to safety in advance of the Wolf Pack's spring camp.

The move was made, offensive coordinator Matt Mumme said during Wednesday's edition of NSN Daily, to increase the number of reps for the team's quarterbacks this spring while giving Cureton a better chance of getting on the field.

"When we went into this offseason, Jay (Norvell) and I were looking in the room and said, 'Man, we have seven quarterbacks in there. How are we going to rep all of these guys?'" said Mumme, who also is the team's quarterbacks coach. "KC had kind of flirted with the idea before the bowl game to (defensive coordinator Jeff) Casteel and Coach Casteel came to me. It wasn't one of those things where I wanted to run KC out of the room. I love KC. He's a great young man, very smart, very intelligent, very physical about the way he goes about playing the game. But he had played some defense in the past. Coach Casteel said, 'If I can get him now it'd be great so he can start learning before the spring.' KC has jumped over there and taken a hold of it."

The Wolf Pack lost all three of its starting safeties this offseason, with four-year starters Asauni Rufus and Dameon Baber graduating and Nephi Sewell transferring to Utah. Nevada also lost its top reserve at the position in Justin Brent, who also graduated. With almost no returning experience at safety, Cureton, who played some defense in his youth, could earn a starting job.

Nevada's safety corps entering spring camp is almost completely filled with players who began their college careers as offensive players. In addition to Cureton, there is Daiyan Henley (a former receiver), Tyson Williams (a former running back), Austin Arnold (a former receiver) and Isaiah Hamilton (a former running back). The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Cureton, who is from Southern California, had reported offers from Alabama, LSU, Oregon and other top programs as a defensive player. But he picked Nevada largely because the Wolf Pack gave him a chance to play quarterback.

Cureton joined Nevada in 2017 and started at quarterback against Idaho State, an FCS team the Wolf Pack lost to, and Washington State, where he played a couple of series before being subbed out. In those two games, Cureton completed 20-of-38 passes for 213 yards with three touchdowns against one interception. He also rushed 22 times for minus-three yards, taking eight sacks in his five quarters of play.

Cureton didn't record a stat last season as Cristian Solano leap-frogged him to back up starter Ty Gangi. For most of the season, Cureton was listed as the co-No. 3 quarterback with Griffin Dahn.

Solano, Dahn and Carson Strong, who redshirted last season as a true freshmen, enter spring as Nevada's three most experienced quarterbacks. Solano is the only one of those players with a start. The senior-to-be completed 22-of-43 passes for 195 yards and three interceptions in a 21-3 loss to Fresno State, the Wolf Pack's first home game without scoring a touchdown since a 14-6 loss to Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 8, 1983. Solano also rushed 23 times for 71 yards against the Bulldogs.

In addition to Solano, Dahn and Strong, the Wolf Pack added true freshman Austin Kirksley and junior-college walk-on Malik Henry, formerly of Florida State and Last Chance U game, at quarterback this offseason.

"We've got a room that's unique," Mumme said. "They're not all the same. That's what I told all of them. I said, 'Guys, each one of you is different. Each one of you has really high positives about you and you've got to take advantage of those and use those once you get to spring ball.' I know it's going to be hard to lose the experience of two years with Ty, but I'm excited to see what these guys can do. I told them to put the gloves on and get out there and have fun and let's get after each other."

Solano will enter spring camp atop the depth chart, but the position is wide open after Nevada lost Gangi, the team's starter for the last 2.5 seasons. Solano is more of a running quarterback than Dahn and Strong, who are both 6-foot-4 or taller with strong arms. Given their different skill-sets, Nevada's Air Raid offense is expected change to some degree depending on who wins the job.

"We'll tweak it a little bit depending on who it is," Mumme said. "We've been playing with Ty the last two years, and Cris kind of fills that void of where he can use his legs like Ty did in the (run-pass option) game and running the ball in some of the run stuff that we do. If we have to go with a guy like Griffin Dahn or Carson Strong, then maybe it's a little more passing than running so they use arms more than they use their feet. It's a great thing to have. We have this dynamic of all of these guys that bring something to that table and we'll see when the smoke clears after 15 practices what it will be."

Whoever wins the job will inherit a group that returns its top four running backs, including Mountain West freshman of the year Toa Taua, and four of its top five wide receivers, with only McLane Mannix, who transferred to Texas Tech, departing that group. The Wolf Pack returns only two starters on the offensive line. After Nevada improved its points per game total from 28.2 in 2017 to 31.1 in 2018, Mumme is hopeful for more progress in his third season in Reno.

"This time last year with Ty I said what I wanted to see out of the offense was for the (players) to take ownership of it," Mumme said. "They did a great job of that. They worked really hard last summer and really hard last offseason for us to end up where we ended up in the nation on offense. This year, I've talked to all of these younger guys, and Solano being a senior, and it's about rhythm. I know you guys believe in the system and understand it and are knowledgeable in it. Now it's about us all going together and having rhythm together as an offensive unit."

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