Murray's Mailbag: 10 most important players to Nevada football's season?

Jay Norvell
Jay Norvell and the Wolf Pack are a couple of months away from staring the 2019 season. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

These things usually start with a Nevada basketball question, but I got a solid Wolf Pack football question, so let's begin the weekly Monday Twitter Mailbag with that sport. Thanks, as always, for your inquiries.

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

I usually do a list of the 10 most important players to the Nevada football team's success on the eve of the season opener, but I guess I can do one now. So, here's the list.

1. QB1: I'm hedging here because Nevada hasn't named a quarterback and there's no clear-cut choice between Cristian Solano, Carson Strong and Malik Henry at the moment. But whoever wins the job will have to play well behind an inexperienced offensive line for Nevada to have a season to remember. Somehow, the Wolf Pack hasn't had an all-conference quarterback since Cody Fajardo in 2012. That's a long time for this program, which has excelled at quarterback over the years.

2. RB Toa Taua: Nevada has solid depth at running back but Taua is a potential game-breaker as we saw in spurts during his rookie season when he was named the MW freshman of the year. A big season from him would take some pressure off whoever wins the quarterback job.

3. DE Dom Peterson: Nevada lost two All-MW pass-rushers in Korey Rush and Malik Reed, who combined for 14 sacks and 28 tackles for loss last season. Peterson has the best chance of filling those shoes as an all-conference pass rusher. He was really good as a redshirt freshman last season.

4. LB Gabe Sewell: Sewell is expected to move to outside linebacker this season, which would give him a chance at more free blitzes. Sewell put his name in the NCAA transfer portal and was going to leave Nevada, but his return to the Wolf Pack gives the Wolf Pack good experience at linebacker.

5. WR Romeo Doubs: Doubs has the most NFL potential of anybody on Nevada's roster, and with McLane Mannix transferring to Texas Tech, somebody needs to emerge as the Wolf Pack's game-breaking target. Doubs was a true freshman last year playing receiver for the first time in his career and he had 43 catches for 562 yards and two TDs. With a little experience under his belt, he could be Nevada's first 1,000-yard receiver since Rishard Matthews in 2011.

6. WR Kaleb Fossum: Fossum also could threaten the 1,000-yard mark. He was one of the nation's top slot receivers last season, tallying 70 catches for 734 yards and one touchdown. Becoming more of a big-play threat should be a goal for 2019. Equally important to his on-field play is his leadership off the field.

7. LB Lucas Weber: Weber is expected to move from outside linebacker to inside linebacker, essentially swapping places with Sewell. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility after last season, so he's a highly experienced player who will be a key piece to Nevada's 2019 defense, which is veteran up front and green in the back.

8. CB Daniel Brown: Brown was arguably the Mountain West's top cornerback last season when he had 53 tackles, 12 pass breakups and one interception return for a touchdown. Nevada's safety corps is a huge question mark, so the Wolf Pack will need good cornerback play led by Brown.

9. OT Jake Nelson: Nelson is the most veteran player on Nevada's offensive line, having started every game of the Jay Norvell era (Malik Reed is the only other player who can say that). Any left tackle is really important to his team, but it's even more so for Nelson given the Wolf Pack's uncertainty on the interior line.

10. WR Elijah Cooks: There are three wideouts on the list, so it shows you how good that position is at Nevada. The big question is whether the Wolf Pack has a quarterback who can get them the ball. But Cooks is a big-play pass-catcher who can stretch the field.

If you want more on Nevada football, here was my post-spring camp recap of the team heading into the 2019 season.

ESPN gave him a one-star rating, which is pretty rare. Usually they'll go unrated if a player is under a two star. But listed him as a three star and the No. 447 recruit in the nation in the 2017 class, so that's a pretty vast difference. Robinson didn't have any Division I offers out of high school and sat out a season before playing at a junior college last year, so he's fairly developed physically. At this stage, Nevada simply needs usable players. The Wolf Pack had eight eligible scholarship players before landing Robinson, so he adds depth and has put up impressive numbers in high school and junior college. Plus, he's 6-foot-8, and Nevada needed size. So, yes, while he might not be a star-level player, he should be a contributing piece and he has three years of eligibility to be developed. I'm probably higher on this commitment than most.

I advocated early on extending a scholarship offer to Jalen Townsell, but Nevada has opted to ask that he remain a walk-on and if a scholarship if available in August, he will get it. I don't think that will keep him in the fold, though. Townsell did have offers from Sacramento State, St. Francis and Texas Southern and interest from East Coast schools this offseason, but I would guess he goes to a junior college and tries to get an offer from a larger West Coast school. As for Cambridge, it looks like he will be a class of 2020 recruit. After adding Robinson, Nevada still has two scholarships remaining. One almost surely will go to a big guy, which will leave one open, potentially for Townsell or for a late 2019 qualifier or to be held for a mid-year transfer.

From what we can gleam from a first recruiting class, Steve Alford is definitely taking a different path toward recruiting than Eric Musselman. He's focusing more on development pieces rather than shooting for high-impact transfers. Musselman landed six players in his four seasons who were all-conference players in their first eligible season with the Wolf Pack. That's a huge number. Alford's recruits (the full list is here) will have to be developed into all-conference players. His additions really have run the gamut so far with two Division I transfers, one junior-college transfer, one American high school addition and one international prep player. But none appear to be first-year all-conference kind of players outside of Desmond Cambridge potentially.

I said last week that I thought we were done with Jordan Brown questions. I was wrong.

It depends on what kind of paperwork he's signed (if any) and whether he has enrolled in summer classes. If he has done neither of those things, he could return to Nevada if the Wolf Pack would take him since a verbal commitment is not binding. If he signed with Arizona, he'd have to get a release from his letter. If he started classes with Arizona, he'd have to sit a season if he opted to transfer again, which wouldn't be an issue if he went to a non-Nevada school because he has to sit out this season anyway.

With the NCAA saying six programs are expected to receive notices of allegations for major rules violations, odds are strong Arizona will get some sort of punishment given the Wildcats have more or less been at the epicenter of the corruption scandal along with Louisville. It could be scholarship reductions, which is an issue because Arizona is already over the NCAA maximum of 13, or a postseason ban. You have to figure Brown weighed that into his original decision to commit to Arizona, so barring them getting hammered, I imagine he'll stick it out.


Lose: Tampa Bay/Gain: Austin


Lose: Memphis/Gain: Las Vegas


Lose: Jacksonville/Gain: London


Lose: Columbus/Gain: Houston

Yes. You're allowed to be a free-agent fan. But I don't see that many teams in the big four sports moving in the next half-decade. You might see one or two in baseball given the Oakland and Tampa Bay situations. Everything else should be pretty quiet.

Fresno = Dog House Grill

Logan = Beehive Pub & Grill

Las Vegas = Metro Pizza

San Jose = La Victoria Taqueria

Honolulu = Noi Thai Cuisine

Colorado Springs = Tucanos Brazilian Grill

Fort Collins = Illegal Pete's

Boise = Sandbar Patio Bar & Grill

Albuquerque = Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen

San Diego = Ghirardelli Chocolate Company

Laramie = Applebee's

I've only been to three of them, so my list would be:

1. Big Island: I liked that there were so many different things to do and explore. The size of the island also lessens the chance of island fever.

2. Maui: We didn't get to explore a lot because we got married here and mostly stayed on the resort, so we'll have to go back and do more stuff.

3. Oahu: Still cool, but Waikiki is a little overwhelming given its size and the traffic is horrible. Still an awesome place, though.

Of course, Hawaii Magazine readers ranked them:

1. Maui

2. Kauai

3. Oahu

4. Hawaii

5. Molokai

So, I am not the average person, I guess.

No, but I don't anticipate Boise State will agree to cut its piece of the pie to an equal revenue share. That'd probably lead to a legal battle given the contract the Broncos signed when it agreed to stay in the Mountain West rather than go to the Big East. The MW only has one more season with its current TV contract, so we should hear something soon. The MW has taken some risks, but I doubt it goes streaming only. Under the current deal, schools get $1.1 million per season. I don't see the schools giving up that kind of money and exposure to regain more control over its kickoff times.

I like the trade more for the Pelicans than the Lakers, but I get why both sides made the deal and it should be a win-win.

When the Raptors traded for one season of Kawhi Leonard, it only had to give up DeMar DeRozan (an All-Star on a huge contract), Jakob Poeltl (a serviceable big) and one late first-round pick (the Raptors also got Danny Green, a key piece to its title team this season). For one season of Anthony Davis, the Lakers had to give up Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the No. 4 pick in this year's draft and two future first-round picks (plus one year of first-round pick swap rights). That's three top-four picks (Ball, Ingram, this year's pick), a quality rotation player (Hart) and two more first-rounders. That's way more than the Spurs had to give up for one season of Leonard.

Now, the Lakers probably feel a lot better about signing Davis long term than the Raptors did about doing so with Leonard, but that's still a massive haul for the Pelicans, who have a perfect point guard for Zion Williamson in Ball and an elite defensive backcourt. It also gets a good scorer and some upside in Ingram, a No. 4 pick this week and two more first-rounders to build around Williamson. The Pelicans could be a playoff team this year despite trading a top-five player in the league. It's a great situation in exchange for player who didn't want to be in New Orleans and wouldn't have been there beyond this season.

As for the Lakers, their free-agent hopes were dimming as Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are hurt and not going to L.A. and Kyrie Irving just signed with Roc Nation, so he's probably signing with New York or Brooklyn, so you're pinning your title hopes on landing Kemba Walker or Jimmy Butler. That's not a good plan. Trading for Davis pairs two of the top-five players in the league on the same team. And while the rest of the roster is thin, if the Lakers make some smart additions in free agency, it could win an NBA title this season. LeBron will be 35 this upcoming season, so you can't waste another year of him, and Davis should spend the prime of his career with the Lakers now.

Win-win trade, with the Lakers taking on more risk than the Pelicans.

You sign a max deal with some team. Why would you accept your $31.5 million one-year deal next year instead of signing a max deal, which would pay him $37 million or $38 million next season? The big question is which team he will sign with, but he's going to sign a max deal. I'd stay in Golden State and sign the super max that will pay him the most rather than go sign with the Knicks, who appear to be the most likely destination outside the Bay Area.

Augusta. It's the most famous golf course in America. But I wouldn't complain if you got me on Pebble Beach for free.

I was going to pick Seattle, but I guess that team doesn't join the league until 2021-22, so I'll take Tampa Bay Lightning over the Nashville Predators in six games with Adam Banks winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Yes, I imagine this will be optional. I don't think Nevada will mandate students must run on the field before the game to get to their seats.

I don't like any of those moves, although Sferrazza wasn't married to Mayor Peter Sferrazza at the time of her Playboy spread, so that's a little more understandable. After my breakup with Peter, I really had a poor self-image, Sferrazza told the AP back in 1989. Playboy restored my self-confidence. So that one makes the most sense, I guess. Anyway, this was a weird question.

I've never watched a full episode of The Simpsons, so don't blame me.

Old-school NES question: I didn't own either of these, but I did play with the Power Pad once for a track and field game, so I'll take the Power Pad.

The Dodgers are exceptional in all facets except for the bullpen. Consider:

* The Dodgers have a 2.76 ERA from their starters, second in the MLB behind Tampa Bay (2.72), which games the system with its openers. Third place is Minnesota with a 3.56 ERA.

* The Dodgers have saved 86 defensive runs, 41 percent more than the second-best team.

* The Dodgers lead MLB in on-base percentage (.345) and are fourth in slugging (.462).

* The Dodgers are fourth in the big leagues in fewest strikeouts (565) and seventh in homers (112), so they have elite power and elite contact skills.

* The Dodgers have both star power and depth and add a strong minor-league system to deal from to bolster the team.

The only weakness is the bullpen, which is still above average with a 4.25 ERA (11th out of 30 MLB teams). On the plus side, the Dodgers' batting average allowed from its relievers is .228 (fourth best in baseball). On the downside is the fact the Dodgers' bullpen has the fewest strikeouts (206) in MLB, so there's not a lot of swing-and-miss stuff back there. Seventeen of the Dodgers' 24 losses have been tagged on the bullpen, so if they fix this issue, it's about as good of a team you can build.

Bullpens in general have struggled this season, in part because they're being taxed more and more with starters logging fewer innings. Per ESPN, relief pitchers are allowing 4.77 runs per game, the highest mark in 12 years. To feel fully comfortable, the Dodgers should add somebody like Brad Hand, Will Smith or Greg Holland, but they also can shift a starter or two to the bullpen for the playoffs. It doesn't really matter since they'll lose in the World Series no matter what they do.

The Dodgers are the best team in the National League by a good margin. The Braves, Cubs, Phillies and Brewers are all in that second tier. You can't predict playoff baseball, but the Dodgers will beat any of those teams in the NLCS if everything remains equal, most likely in six games or fewer.

It's more difficult to be a general manager in baseball now than ever before given the high quality of analytics and management in the league, but I'd still pick now. What did general managers really do back in the 1950s or 1900s before free agency was a thing?

If the Giants aren't going to sign Bumgarner long term (and it does not appear as if they are going to do that), then, yes, they need to trade him. He's having a decent season (3-6, 3.87 ERA, 109 ERA+) but hasn't been an All-Star-caliber pitcher since 2016, so the return won't be huge. He does have a history of success in the playoffs, which might boost his stock a little, but the buying team is only getting him for half a season. The Giants are looking at a best-case scenario of one top-50 prospect and a couple of lottery tickets. A good comparison would be the Yu Darvish return in 2017. The Rangers got Willie Calhoun (a top-50ish prospect), A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis from the Dodgers in that deal. You aren't getting a big haul for Bumgarner given his current level and contract situation.

After Nevada's 82-49 win at Wyoming on Feb. 16, the Wolf Pack gathered in the hotel room of Tre'Shawn Thurman for a game of Parcheesi while they watched the NBA slam dunk and 3-point contest. About 30 minutes into the action, the Sarah McLachlan song "Angel" began playing while photos of injured animals flash across the screen. Yes, the dreaded SPCA animal abuse commercial was airing. The players were so disappointed wretched human beings would harm animals they decided they would no longer put 100 percent into the season because even if they did make it to the Final Four, the banner hung at Lawlor Events Center would be meaningless given some of the conditions these animals are forced to live in. As a result, the team finished the year 5-4 over its final nine contests with a first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament.

And if you want to cry, you can watch that very commercial below.

I have no idea if they're fathers, but my top five sports writers are (in no particular order): Jim Murray, Wright Thompson, Dan Wetzel, Mike Wise and S.L. Price.

My current record as a soccer coach is 2-13-1, so I doubt I'll get above .436 by 2020.

I usually talk to moms more than I talk to dads (a lot of college football and basketball athletes come from single-parent households), but the first name that popped into my head was Jerry Evans Jr.'s dad. I tweeted about him twice, so he made a positive impression on me.

I have not had an especially noteworthy Father's Day meal in my life. I did eat an Italian sausage yesterday, so I guess I'll go with that. I also tried Lead Dog Brewery's Peanut Butter Stout. That was pretty good.

My daddy's name is Bill Murray.

If money isn't a problem, I would spend at least two days in every country in the world. There are 195 countries in the world, so you're talking about a vacation that lasts more than a calendar year. But I can't imagine many people have spent a night in every country in the world, so I think that'd be pretty cool. I'd then write a book about the experience and donate the earnings to the SPCA Sad Animal Commercial People. See y'all next week.

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