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Murray's Mailbag: Has Nevada football mismanaged its quarterback position?

Quarterbacks.jpg
Nevada is on its third starting quarterback in six games this season. (Julian Del Gaudio/NSN)

Nevada football made a change at quarterback today with Malik Henry getting the nod against San Jose State. Henry will be the third starting quarterback for Nevada in six games this season. That was one of the main focuses of our questions in this week's iteration of the Monday Twitter Mailbag, but the top focus was San Francisco's nickname. So let's get at it. 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).

Yes, San Fran. That's short for San Francisco.

I don't know what salt has to do with this, but people call it San Fran. I'm a person, and I called it that.

All of the homeless people I met there called it San Fran. I assume they were local.

Nah. I doubt any group of people would be that arrogant to call it "The City." Plus, you're from San Leandro anyway, so that's not local.

No. The City was a reality TV series on MTV in the late 2000s developed as a spin-off from The Hills and was based in New York City. That has nothing to do with San Fran.

My brother lives in San Francisco, and thus is a local. He told me "San Fran" is fine.

Mr. San Fran!

This white man is ANGRY ONLINE!!!!!

Actually, every time we went to a restaurant, I told the maître d', "We love being in San Fran!" and every time the maître d' responded by saying, "We're booked for two hours and don't have any room for you." It was odd because all of the restaurants appeared to have plenty of open seats. Perhaps it was how I was dressed.

Because I wanted to go to San Fran during Nevada's bye week. It's a great place if you want to experience what it would feel like to live in an ant hill with way too many people in way too small of a space.

The two most famous people born in San Fran have to be Steve Jobs and Ansel Adams. Maybe O.J. Simpson, but he did some bad stuff, so he's not allowed on the list. Jack London is from there, too, but he was racist. And William Randolph Hearst was a San Fran native and made a lot of money.

Enough San Fran talk. Let's talk quarterbacks.

I would not call it a "trident of mediocrity." Nevada has only given two quarterbacks meaningful in-game reps, those two being Carson Strong and Cristian Solano. Strong got pretty beat up against Oregon and hasn't been the same quarterback since. He might not be hurt, but he's injured. So it makes sense to bench him if he's going to be playing behind an offensive line that is struggling to pass protect. Solano was fine against UTEP, which is a bad team, but hasn't looked good against better competition like Fresno State last year and Hawaii this year. So it makes sense to go to option three, Malik Henry, who has the most pure talent in the quarterback room.

Henry has the best blend of arm talent and athleticism, which gives Nevada the best chance to win given its current personnel, which includes a struggling offensive line. If Nevada had a good offensive line, it could afford to play Strong because he'd be protected. That's not the case with this group, hence the move. Jay Norvell has said multiple times Nevada has to play the best quarterback to go with the team's current strengths and weaknesses. If Henry plays well the rest of the season, Nevada should reach a bowl. If he doesn't and the Wolf Pack has to make more quarterback changes, it's not going to the postseason. I'd prefer picking one quarterback and sticking with him, but neither Strong nor Solano played well enough against Hawaii to continue to trot them out. The Wolf Pack needs to see what Henry can do. If he can't stabilize the position, it's too late to repair. But Nevada is 3-2 (which is a fine record) and can still salvage its season with good quarterback play.

Nevada did botch the quarterback situation in 2017. Ty Gangi never should have lost the job to Kaymen Cureton. That was a rash move, but it only cost the team one loss (the Idaho State game). If Henry balls out for the rest of the season, fans are going to wonder why he wasn't the starter from the start. If any coach ultimately "fails" at their school, it oftentimes comes down to quarterback. When you have a good quarterback, your team is usually good so you usually get raises and extensions and promotions to bigger schools. Look at Matt Wells' tenure at Utah State. He inherited Chuckie Keeton and his teams were great. Wells was being talked about as a Power 5 candidate. Then Keeton got hurt and was never the same, Utah State's quarterback position was bad and Utah State stopped winning games. Wells was on the hot seat. He was nearing the firing line. Then last year he unleashed quarterback Jordan Love, who was great and Wells went from hot seat to be hired by a Big 12 team (Texas Tech).

Sometimes it's hard to figure out who the best quarterback on your roster is because they're not live in practice. I mean, Chris Ault was starting Nick Graziano over Colin Kaepernick until Graziano got hurt, and we all know how great Kaepernick ended up being. If Norvell can find his star quarterback, his teams will be good and his job will be fine. The issue here is almost all of the rocks on that front have been turned over and the Wolf Pack is still looking for a keeper at that position (Gangi was inherited from the previous staff). The Wolf Pack better hope Henry is good, although it won't be easy to be great behind this offensive line. If Norvell's tenure ends poorly, it will be because he and his staff couldn't recruit and develop a quarterback because he's done a good job with the skill positions and shored up the run defense. Its quarterback and offensive line that are the question marks.

No. Carson Strong used his redshirt season last year. He can't redshirt again unless it is a medical redshirt. I imagine he'll take some snaps again this season. Jay Norvell remains high on him, calling him "the future of our program." This decision doesn't put an end to Strong's story by any means. Sounds like he's not very healthy right now, and I wouldn't judge a freshman quarterback playing behind this offensive line.

Pretty sure we already settled that first topic. It's San Fran.

As for the Nevada defense, it's going to be a matchup game the rest of the season. I don't see the Wolf Pack having a better-than-average pass defense, so it's going to struggle when it faces good throwing teams. Fortunately for Nevada, the Wolf Pack still plays four teams that don't like to and/or can't throw the ball in New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV and Wyoming. That leaves just three others games: Utah State, San Jose State and Fresno State. Fresno State has had more run plays than pass plays this year. Utah State and San Jose State lean more heavily on the pass. I think you'll see defensive improvement, but that largely will be because of the competition's upcoming strengths and weaknesses. UNLV, Wyoming and New Mexico all rank in the bottom 12 in the nation in team passing efficiency, with UNLV and Wyoming both in the bottom five. The defense has a chance to look good in those games.

This week's test against San Jose State will be interesting because the Spartans throw the ball 56.7 percent of the time and are quite competent at it. In its last seven games, Nevada only faces one team in the top 75 in the nation in passing efficiency, that being San Jose State at 57. So the upcoming schedule will help the Wolf Pack defense, which is much better against the run than against the pass.

I'll have more on this later in the week, but Nevada's game against San Jose State is a "turning point" contest. Either Nevada wins and keeps alive its preseason aspirations or it loses and the season more than likely circles down the drain. If you can't beat San Jose State at home, you're probably not beating Fresno State, San Diego State, Wyoming and Utah State on the road, especially given all the added emphasis the staff has put on rebounding this week. It will be a test of the #NevadaGrit that's become the program's motto. San Jose State is solid. The Spartans likely aren't making a bowl (a win over Nevada would open that possibility), but they're no longer a doormat. They're also not very good (107th in ESPN FPI; 121st in Sagarin; 117th in Football Outsiders). It's not a great sign this is more or less a coin-flip game (Nevada is a 1.5-point favorite). But here we are.

I'll offer my prediction on Thursday, per usual. I need to break the teams down more. But it's probably 55 percent odds in favor of the Wolf Pack. It's hard to predict how Nevada will rebound from a loss like the one it just had to Hawaii. Was it's confidence shattered or will the team draw motivation from the beatdown?

That possibility exists. Nevada basically has a new roster and it certainly has a new coaching staff. First years can be hard to predict. But I'll put some trust in Alford being able to develop the talent on the roster. He's only had two losing seasons in a coaching career that began in 1991. I'll note those two losing seasons came in his first year at Manchester University and his first year at Iowa, so it hasn't always been a smooth start. But Nevada has a decent core of Lindsey Drew, Jazz Johnson, Jalen Harris and Eric Parrish. Those are four solid players. There isn't a lot of depth, so avoiding injuries will be key. But the winning formula is everybody buying into their roles and the sum being better than the parts. I could see anywhere from 13 to 23 wins. There's a wide margin of outcomes.

And I've never been to Sierra Sids, so I'll take Boomtown, which has a great arcade. Best in town when measuring boom for your buck.

You can watch Wolf Pack All Access for our full interview with coach Amanda Levens. That's here. The Wolf Pack added five transfers to go with three freshmen in the 2019 class, so there are a lot of newcomers on the roster. Nevada also lost its top three scorers from last season, so there are some key contributors to replace. This will be Nevada's deepest team in Levens' three seasons. The non-conference schedule also lightens up. After playing four Power 5 schools last season, the team faces only two this year. The rest of the non-conference schedule is very winnable (St. Mary's, Sac State, Utah Valley, Portland State, Chicago State, Stanislaus State, Rio Grande Valley, Cal Poly). That's a bunch of low-major teams. Nevada should improve upon its 12-19 record last season but will probably be projected to finish seventh or eighth in the 11-team Mountain West in the preseason poll. If the transfers are ready to contribute immediately, the Wolf Pack could overachieve that mark. I don't see a 20-win season forthcoming, but Nevada has a good mix of youngsters and veterans and the schedule sets up nicely. Three-point shooting is a concern.

It appears as if JuCo transfer Justin Johnson has decommitted. I'll follow up with him tomorrow.

UNLV will always have the higher ceiling given its tradition (it won a national title, after all), its brand recognition (most people think "Nevada" is in Las Vegas), its recruiting base (there are tons of good players in Las Vegas), its facilities (some of the best in the Mountain West) and its budget. That being said, I'll take Nevada to win more MW titles than UNLV in the next five seasons because UNLV hasn't been all that good since Jerry Tarkanian was ushered out and because Alford has a more established history of winning than Otzelberger, especially in this conference. But I do hope both programs are good. The games are better when you're competing at the top of the conference, and these programs have rarely been good at the same time. Imagine Nevada and UNLV playing for a MW title at Lawlor or Thomas & Mack. That'd be great.

Because the NFL overtime rules are stupid. They go as follows: "If the receiving team scores a touchdown, they win. If the receiving team kicks a field goal, the opposition gets a possession to match. If the score remains tied after that possession, play continues until another score takes place." The thought for Tomlin, I'm assuming, is it's easier to get a defensive stop and kick a field goal than receive the ball and go down the field for a touchdown. I don't know. That's almost certainly overthinking it. I'd just take the ball unless my defense was awesome. But Pittsburgh was down to its third quarterback, so maybe Tomlin thought a field goal would be more achievable than a touchdown with his rookie third-stringer. The NFL should just adopt the college rules except each possession starts at midfield rather than the 25-yard line (with mandatory 2-point attempts after every touchdown). The college rules are perfect.

Per the Internet:

"The fines collected do not go to the NFL, but instead go to programs for former players. The Players Association and the league have agreed to donate fine money through the NFL Foundation to the NFL Player Care Foundation and the Gene Upshaw Players Association’s Players Assistance Trust. The Player Care Foundation, an independent organization dedicated to helping retired players improve their quality of life, provides programs and assistance with medical, emotional, financial, social and community issues. The Gene Upshaw Players Assistance Trust assists former players who are facing financial hardship due to unforeseen crisis, unaffordable medical situations and helps those who wish to go back to school to finish their undergraduate degrees."

For starters, the Bay Area (San Fran, as the locals call it) is a pro sports town. Colleges compete with the Giants, the A's, the Warriors, the Sharks, the Raiders, the 49ers and the Earthquakes for media and fan attention. Then you throw in the fact there are two Pac-12 schools in the area (Stanford and Cal) and San Jose State is somewhere around 10th when it comes to supporting interest among athletic ventures in the Greater Bay Area. San Jose State also has largely been a commuting school, so there's less campus stickiness. Finally, San Jose State rarely wins games, and losing programs don't often get fan support.

With the North not really having a power team this year, The Las Vegas All-Stars (aka Bishop Gorman High) will almost certainly destroy the Northern representative. But at least there's some uncertainty on who will win the North. Damonte Ranch, Spanish Springs and Bishop Manogue all have a chance, and I wouldn't completely count Reed out either.

No. The decision to play Tua Tagovailoa won Alabama a national title in 2017 and Tagovailoa has been amazing the last two seasons (he's completing 76.4 percent of his passes and has 1,718 yards, 23 touchdowns and zero picks this season). Alabama had two great quarterbacks and had to pick one. They picked the right one, by the way. But it's nice to see Jalen Hurts having a great season with Oklahoma. Sooners coach Lincoln Riley is getting more out of Hurts than Saban's staff did. And I think Hurts would pick a national championship over a Heisman Trophy. More than anything, he'd pick being a first-round draft pick, I'd guess. Almost all college players are most focused on having a pro career, and I can't blame them.

The only podcast I listen to is The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz. It's one of the best things ESPN does.

Nevada versus members of the Big 12 when those schools were in the Big 12.

* Lost to Nebraska, 52-10, on Sept. 1, 2007

* Lost to Texas Tech, 35-19, on Sept. 6, 2008

* Lost to Missouri, 69-17, on Sept. 13, 2008

* Lost to Missouri, 31-21, on Sept. 25, 2009

* Lost to Texas Tech, 35-34, on Sept. 24, 2011

So Nevada will go into that Kansas State game 0-5 all-time against the Big 12.

Nevada has 11 known commitments in its 2020 class, including four offensive linemen. Those linemen are Frank Poso, Grant Starck, Jacob Gardner and RJ Taylor. You can read more on each commit here. That being said, you probably get the least "instant impact" at offensive line than any other position on the field. It's hard to step in and be a good offensive linemen during your first couple of years on campus.

I was probably a little bit of Zack Morris, A.C Slater and Screech mixed together. But I always wanted to be Kelly Kapowski.

Because our parents told us it was important to root for specific laundry worn by players paid to work in our city, so we also decide to root for that laundry when we get older.

My wife and I stayed at the Westin when we were in Maui getting married, so we mostly just ate there since we got free food as part of our marriage package. I would have much better recommendations for the big island. I'm sorry I've let you down on this one. But enjoy your trip! I will say the pool at the Westin is worth sneaking into (and it's easy to sneak into off the beach).

That looks like "Skateboard Dad," and he appears to be the worst by a large margin.

You're definitely going to have to tie her right arm behind her back from birth until she is 5. If that seems too severe, you can buy her a right-handed mitt so her natural instinct to throw a ball is with her left arm. I do think this is something you can teach. My son throws with both arms with about the same strength, but I'll let him be a righty because that seems more natural for him. Congrats on the upcoming addition! I hope you have a little Cat Osterman.

I have a little different take on this topic. I'm very confident in my cornhole game, so I'll take -- how do we saw this -- the least good cornholer on staff on my team so we have a competitive, even battle on our hands rather than a series of skunks. Based on what I saw at The Eddy during NSN's one-year birthday party, I'll take Julian Del Gaudio on my squad. Our team name will be "The Del Murrays," and we will win every game on the strength of my cornholing skills. I am more confident in my cornhole ability than anything on this Earth that I do.

If "the whole town knows" then why would I have to "come clean" to explain what happened? The rumors that have been circulating about that are about as accurate as San Francisco locals enjoying their city being called "San Fran." That being said, calling yourself The City is dumb, too, so I'm going to call it San Fran just to upset all the locals, Anyway, see y'all next week!

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