MENU

Murray's Mailbag: Who should start at quarterback for Nevada in 2019?

Carson Strong
Carson Strong is among three players vying for the starting quarterback job at Nevada. (Nevada athletics)

We have nice potpourri of topics to discuss during this week's Monday Twitter Mailbag, so we might as well jump on it. Thanks, as always, for your questions.

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

1. Yes. I don't think that has changed, and Solano clearly didn't do anything to lose the job during the spring game. He was 13-of-17 for 169 yards with two touchdowns (one pass, one rush) and one interception, which was precipitated by a bad snap. Now, 68 of Solano's yards came on one play, so the other 16 passes went for just 101 yards. But he was solid and has not done anything to give back the job after entering spring as the frontrunner.

2. That being said, Carson Strong and Malik Henry have more upside in my estimation. They come with more risk. Strong takes more chances with the ball, and Henry, while he has fit in with the Wolf Pack so far, has obvious baggage issues as shown on Last Chance U. While most coaches defer to the veteran quarterback, going with Strong or Henry would increase Nevada's potential win total. I do think at least one of them gets at least one start in 2019.

3. No. Nevada only has four scholarship quarterbacks on its roster, which is a pretty low number. I don't see any position changes after Kaymen Cureton moved from quarterback to safety. While Henry is a fine athlete, he's not the caliber of athlete where he should chance positions. He'd probably leave Nevada if the Wolf Pack asked him to do so anyway. He might be the best quarterback on the team. These three will battle it out until the season opener.

Fun little nugget from the 2017 spring game: In that contest, David Cornwell went 22-of-33 for 302 yards with two touchdowns. Ty Gangi went 19-of-35 for 159 yards with two pick-sixs. We know how that story ended. You can only read so much into the spring game, so I don't put a ton of stock in it. But Malik Henry's play this spring has been eye-opening. He looks like the former four-star prep recruit and not the guy who completed 151-of-288 passes (52.4 percent) with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in two years of junior-college ball. His play this spring has made it a three-player race when coming into spring it looked like a two-player race between Solano and Strong.

In terms of potential, I'd probably rank the trio Strong, Henry and then Solano. Age has something to do with that. Strong is a freshman, whereas Henry is a fourth-year junior and Solano a sixth-year senior. The fact he's on the same level as the veterans so young in his career is a big deal. Henry has the best mix of talent with mobility and a strong arm. Nevada botched its last quarterback competition (in 2017) and can't afford to do so again, but with these three, there isn't necessarily a wrong choice. I'd personally go for the higher ceiling, which means Strong or Henry, but Solano played well this spring and has paid his dues.

Still Solano. After the spring game, here's what Norvell said about what has to happen to win the starting quarterback job: "We need a guy to take charge. We need somebody who earns the right to be our quarterback every single day by he way they work, and the summer is a big part of that. How our guys work in the summer and how they work together running our captains practices and throwing the ball every day, whoever emerges out of that group should be a strong player." So leadership is a big part of it, too, which is why Gangi won the job over Cornwell. The coaches have a better grasp on the leadership angle because of the time they spend with the quarterbacks. Solano has displayed those qualities.

If Solano is the quarterback, you'll see a lot more read-option Pistol stuff. He should be carrying the ball 10 times a game to use his legs, which are elite. If Strong is the quarterback, you're not going to see read-option stuff. Henry has a mix of both (arm and legs), although he wouldn't be used as a runner nearly as often as Solano. So there are pretty big differences whether Solano wins the job versus Strong/Henry, where you'd probably see more deep routes. With Solano, it's a lot more similar to Ty Gangi with some read-option plays and a heavy dose of the screen game.

As for Taua, I'll go with 1,212 yards and 12 touchdowns. Lots of 12s.

The tie usually goes to the youngster since that player has a longer future at their given program and typically has more ceiling to get to. This could be a Tyler Lantrip/Cody Fajardo situation where you let the veteran play at the beginning of the season and give the youngster some reps until you think he's fully ready to take over the team. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if any of these three quarterbacks start a game this season, although I still think Solano gets the first crack.

Nothing. All three quarterbacks played well, so I don't think it changed anything. But I agree that whoever wins the job has a nice set of skill position players to work with. The offensive line, and especially center, needs some work, but the running backs and receivers on this team are above average for a Mountain West school.

Both Kelton Moore and Jaxson Kincaide dealt with injuries during spring camp, so that's why their reps were limited in the spring game. Moore had eight carries for 29 yards. Kincaide didn't play. Neither injury was major. Nevada didn't want to over-exert Taua, so they threw the ball a lot. I expect to see a more ground-focused offensive attack this season than we saw in the spring game, but getting the quarterbacks reps in the passing game was important, so the extra passes were a good thing.

Jordan Brown will probably be the last Wolf Pack player in the transfer portal to make his decision. His original commitment also took forever. He committed to Nevada on May 11, well after the second signing period opened. Eric Musselman first saw Brown play in the summer of 2013. So that courtship was nearly five years. This one will be shorter, although it could still drag out. I saw Brown on campus twice last week, and assume he would wait until after classes end (early May) before taking any official visits. As noted before, Brown has some legitimately good options, which makes his situation a little different than the other Nevada plays who went into the portal. This thing is pretty unpredictable, though. I wouldn't be surprised if he announced this week he was returning to Nevada and I wouldn't be surprised if it played out for another month. Get ready to hunker down.

Well, Nisré Zouzoua said he today he's coming back. That leaves just Brown, Lindsey Drew and Shamiel Stevenson in the portal, and I could see one of those players in particular announcing a return this week. Brown isn't that player, but I still think he comes back to Nevada in the end. Having to sit out a season is a major deterrent, and the Wolf Pack is positioned to allow Brown to live up to his potential this season. If I were him, I'd play at least one year under Steve Alford and if things aren't working at that point, you can still transfer and have two years of eligibility at your next school. But Brown's minutes and role on Nevada would be big in 2019-20, and Alford has a history of successful bigs.

Nevada is the front runner. The other schools in the mix are Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Wake Forest, Arizona State, Cal, St. Mary's, Oregon, LSU, Pitt, Ohio State, Baylor and Louisiana Lafayette. That's a lot of teams obviously. But until an official visit to another school is made, I'll operate with the belief he is returning to Reno.

Well, he didn't commit, which doesn't mean it went poorly, but that's the end goal. I assume he'd want to take an official visit to Cal first. Nevada, Washington State and Cal are his three finalists, and he's now taken official visits to Reno and Pullman, so a trip to Berkeley before finalizing a decision seems smart. Nevada feels like the favorite to me. Put me at 40 percent Nevada, 30 percent Cal, 30 percent Washington State.

The Wolf Pack did get its first commitment under Alford on Monday in French-American Kane Milling. Here's more on him.

Are we talking about basketball here? I still need to see what happens with the roster. The players matter a whole lot more than the assistant staff, which is still important, but you need players to win. If Nevada retains Jordan Brown, it is the team to beat in the MW.

By giving him a 10-year, fully guaranteed contract. Nevada took on plenty of risk here. The first couple of years are ridiculous bargains at $500,000, but Alford jumps to $1.15 million in year three, tops out at $1.5 million and has security for 10 seasons. Nevada wouldn't be able to buy him out if things went wrong. Stadium's Jeff Goodman gave the deal a "What the Hell" subhead and summed the contract up as follows:

"OK, so I have no issue with Nevada Athletic Director Doug Knuth hiring Steve Alford. But a 10-year contract? C’mon, man. Knuth gave Alford a 10-year deal that runs through 2029. That’s right: a 10-YEAR-DEAL!!!! This makes no sense. It’s not as though Alford had all this leverage, or else he was going to take another gig. Nevada will likely wind up paying for Knuth’s mistake and should take it out of his paycheck somewhere down the line. Let’s say Alford doesn’t work out, and the school wants to make a move on him after three years: They would owe him just shy of $10 million."

The added risk allowed Nevada to get Alford at a lower starting price and a higher buyout if he leaves. Also, the buyout he got for being fired by UCLA probably helped Nevada get a bargain in the early years. But he's being paid at the top of the MW market in years 3-10.

The associate head coach title (which Craig Neal got) is the loftiest title an assistant can earn. That's what Johnny Jones had at Nevada. It's basically a way of saying "This guy is at a head coach level, so let's give him a nice title." The "assistant" title is the regular nomenclature. Each Division I team can have three full-time assistants (Neal falls under this category even though he is the "associate head coach"). They're allowed to recruit off campus and coach guys in practices. Directors of operations folks put together travel schedules and basically run the behind-the-scenes, day-to-day stuff. They can't coach during practices or recruit. That's the big difference.

He wasn't offered a position on Nevada's staff, which is understandable but also sucks. Gus Argenal made a push for the Wolf Pack job, so I understand why Steve Alford would cut the ties there. You don't want mixed allegiances from players. The only members of Nevada's staff under Musselman who were offered positions to stay were Brandon Chambers and Brandon Dunson. Chambers will remain Nevada's director of operations while Dunson has taken a job in the Big West. Hopefully Argenal lands on his feet with a Division I assistant job. He's a good coach and good guy who played a key role for the Wolf Pack the last two seasons. Chambers has taken on the role of helping to retain the Wolf Pack players on last year's roster and with five re-committing to Nevada with only one player leaving so far, he's done a good job of that.

My favorite vacations have been to Hawaii, Switzerland, Italy, England, Spain and France, so it's hard to pick one. I like to go to different places each time so I get a new experience rather than vacation in the same location several times.

I think he knew he was leaving Nevada if he got a solid offer this offseason, so I wouldn't say he was frustrated with the recruiting situation. If Musselman was still Nevada's coach, I'm sure he would have reeled in a couple of transfers by now. That was his model. This was the time he struck. He had already landed Shamiel Stevenson, Mike Lewis II and Daryl Edwards, so it's not like his class was empty and he left because he couldn't get players.

Melquan Stovall. Stovall is a true freshman who joined the Wolf Pack this spring after graduating from high school a semester early. You see that fairly often with quarterbacks. Austin Kirksey did so this year at that position for Nevada. You don't see it super often with position players, but Stovall had a good camp and will almost certainly play as a true freshman. I could see him earning a starting job in the slot as soon as this year. Kaleb Fossum has one slot spot locked up. Dominic Christian, Ben Putman and Stovall will battle for the other. Stovall is a 5-9, 180-pound Southern California product. He's been the best freshman in camp short of Carson Strong.

Other freshmen currently on the roster who participated in spring camp who could play significant snaps in 2019 include safety Emany Johnson, cornerback Jaden Dedman and linebackers Giovanni Miranda and Josiah Bradley.

The long-snapping was fine. The regular snapping was not fine. The centers were off line for much of the scrimmage, which has to get fixed. The long-snapping battle is between Wooster's Karson Thomas and Austin Ortega. I think they'll be fine. Nevada was good at the position even before Farnsworth with Tyler Wilson and then Ryan Coulson before that.

I'd rather look at the entire spring camp rather than just the spring game because the sample size is so much larger. The quarterback play in general was a positive development. All three candidates for the job seem capable of running the team and Nevada could be better at that position despite losing a solid player in Ty Gangi, the team's starter for the last 2.5 seasons. Finding the exact right quarterback might prove difficult since there are three options, but there's better depth there than Nevada has seen in years. On defense, Maliek Broady had a good camp. He's a former walk-on running back who could start at linebacker this season. Jade Lewis, a sophomore defensive lineman, had a good camp and could be a starter. Punter Quinton Conaway also looked great.

The women definitely have gone heavy transfer this spring, adding LaPraisjah Johnson (Cochise College), Miki'ala Maio (Salt Lake CC), Nia Alexander (USF) and Marguerite Effa (USC) in the last 15 days. But that is backing up a class of three high school players signed in the November period, so Amanda Levens has still brought in a good chunk of preps in the 2019 class. The Wolf Pack has five key freshmen returning from last season, so it makes some sense to augment the roster with some upper-class transfer with the five freshmen from last year serving as the base of the roster. It also should send the message to those players that just because they played as freshmen doesn't mean they're going to get a lot of minutes next year. Those minutes will have to be earned with some transfer talent coming into the program (all four of the transfers are eligible to play this season). Nevada women's hoops has certainly got into the transfer game more this offseason, but the program will still be built from the high school ranks.

On the men's side, either men's track and field, lacrosse or hockey.

On the women's side, either beach volleyball, water polo or skiing (again).

If I had to pick one for each, lacrosse and beach volleyball from a fan perspective. Those are fun sports to watch.

Loses money. Usually a good chunk of money. Here are the Wolf Pack's fiscal year numbers for the last nine years.

2010: -$750,000

2011: -$450,000

2012: +$50,000

2013: -$500,000

2014: -$39,450

2015: +$115,000

2016: +$135,000

2017: -$2,000,000

2018: -$900,000

The Wolf Pack owes the university $5.9 million from budget deficits over the years. That's not good. Overall, Nevada typically has the 10th- or 11th-highest budget in the 11-team MW, so it has a small budget to start with. I'm not as familiar with the revenues/deficits of other MW schools, but I know Hawaii, New Mexico and UNLV have been in the red over the years. It's pretty common in college athletics.

Here are the Mountain West standings with three weeks left to go in the season. A reminder that the top four teams in the league make it to the MW Tournament, which will be hosted by Nevada this season.

1. Fresno State, 12-7-1

2. San Jose State, 12-9

3. San Diego State, 11-9

4. UNLV, 12-12

5. Nevada, 11-13

6. Air Force, 9-13

7. New Mexico, 8-12-1

The Wolf Pack is one game off the cutline and has split with UNLV. That could come down to the tiebreaker if they end up tied for the fourth spot. First tiebreaker is head-to-head, but the teams split their season series (3-3). The second tiebreaker is best record against the No. 1 team in the conference, which right now is Fresno State. UNLV is 2-1 against the Bulldogs with three games to play against them. Nevada is 0-0 with three games to play against them.

The Wolf Pack has a little less control over its destiny than the teams above it since Nevada has only six conference games left (so does UNLV). The top three teams in the conference all have nine conference games left. Fresno State is basically in. So is San Diego State. San Jose State is in a good spot, but it has lost 10 in a row and isn't a good team (the Spartans are 6-18 in non-conference games). So they could collapse down the stretch and let both Nevada and UNLV in.

Nevada still plays Fresno State (at home) and San Jose State (on the road). The Wolf Pack probably needs to go 4-2 in those games to have a chance at a tournament berth. It might need to do better. Having three games against SJSU is big. If Nevada sweeps that series, it could play its way into the event. In short, Nevada isn't in a great spot, but there is a little margin for error. It doesn't have to 6-0 over its final six MW games to get into the tournament.

Zero trouble. The odds are higher T.J. Burce gets hired away by his alma mater, Long Beach State, than he gets fired from Nevada. Firstly, baseball coaches rarely get fired for performance. Secondly, he won a MW regular-season title last year. Thirdly, he's only been on the job for four years. Fourthly, the program is at the same level now as it's been for most of the last 20 years. It's not like there's been some big dip since he was hired.

Pitching. Largely starting pitching. The Wolf Pack's starting pitchers gave up 14 runs (11 earned) while logging just 7.2 innings in three games at Air Force. That's an ERA of 16.56. That's not going to work, even at Colorado Springs' crazy altitude. The starting pitching wasn't great against Oregon State, either (a 9.82 ERA), but you were talking about Nevada's No. 4 and 5 starters against the nation's No. 2 team. The Wolf Pack's top three starters struggled even more against Air Force, a very average team. Nevada's starting pitching was a major strength at the start of the season but it hasn't been great over the last month. That'd be my biggest concern as Nevada tries to get a MW Tournament berth.

Baseball is a dumb sport.

In case you missed it, the Reno Aces trailed, 13-5, heading into the bottom of the ninth against the Fresno Grizzlies on Saturday before plating nine runs in the final frame that ended with a walk-off grand slam. Pretty insane. Reno's ninth inning went:

* Walk

* Single

* Groundout

* Single

* Single

* Double

* Single

* Single

* Walk

* Grand slam

And you probably left because the odds of winning a game in which you trail 13-5 heading into the ninth inning are literally 0 percent. Since 1957, there have been 1,945 games in which a major league team trailed by eight runs heading into the ninth inning and that team has won exactly zero times in that situation. Pretty crazy.

I'd rather have Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. They both have A+ stuff. Clayton Kershaw has lost his A+ stuff. I do have the Dodgers and Astros facing off in the World Series again.

And I'll just drink both of those beers. Why should I only have to choose one when they're both just sitting there for me to drink?

It's definitely an option, but I think Nevada wants to go bigger. It can get $7 million or so in student fees if it can raise $10 million or so on its own. Nevada wants its indoor facility to be more than just a football bubble. It wants it be usable for all sports on campus, which would require the higher price tag. The Wolf Pack could probably put together $2 million for a bubble, but that's a short-term solution to a long-term goal of a department-changing facility. There could be a time when Nevada goes that bubble route, but I don't think it wants to do so right now.

Not sure on that one. Jordan Caroline is training for the draft in Phoenix, so he might not be there. Not sure where the Martin twins are right now. But I imagine most of the cast will be at the event. Maybe Jordan Brown announces that night he's coming back to Nevada. Who knows.

What the hell is a Huggle Hoodie? Is that a ripoff Snuggie? I've had a Snuggie party before. Ended up throwing up at the end of that party. But it appears as if I've never bought an "As Seen on TV" product, although the Perfect Bacon Bowl seems interesting. Cooking bacon in a clean fashion can be a pain.

1. Kap statue outside of Mackay

2. Me moving to Fresno

3. Musselman statue outside of Lawlor

And I'm never moving to Fresno. That's how unlikely a Muss statue is.

I'll take the chocolate chip cookies.

I'm confused by this.

Not a sport. And we do have daily fishing shows on Nevada Sports Net. They actually do well in terms of ratings. People like to watch other people fish. Who knew?

Pretty easy course. There was an nice hill after circling the medical school, but there wasn't anything crazy. I'm used to hills after running the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey several times as well as living on top of a hill the last decade, so my runs usually end with a hill. It was nice to run through the south portion of campus, which has undergone a lot of changes since I left the school in 2007. Nevada has a gem of a campus. It ranks up there with almost any on the West Coast.

As for the final result, I finished 23rd out of 151 finishers, a purposefully homage to Michael Jordan. Here were the full results. I used to run an 8K in nearly the same time as I ran this 5K. My 26-year-old self could have competed for the Grit Run championship. My 36-year-old self had to walk a portion of the race. Sad.

Pretty buff if he did the pushups, but I don't think that's happening. But kudos to NSN's Anthony Resnick and Julian Del Gaudio for finishing fifth and eighth, respectively, in the Grit Run. Can't knock a top-10 finish.

I love the wording of that question. More in the 1,500 range. It was a great ending to the series, although the first two hours were more OK than great. The last hour was awesome and it served as a fitting final chapter for a number of characters. I don't want to say too much to avoid spoilers for people who haven't seen the movie, but it was more good than great whereas I thought Infinity War was great.

Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a game? The previous NBA record was 78 points, which Wilt also held. But that doesn't even do it justice. That's only a 22 percent increase over the previous record. If your numbers are correct, End Game broke the record with a 40 percent increase. As noted above, I liked the movie. Not my favorite Marvel movie, but a great way to wrap up the adventure.

Richard "Dick" Lovelady. His runs allowed per nine innings in his minor-league career was a nice 2.69.

Montreux Golf & Country Club, although I wouldn't mind RedHawk because I live next to the course. Montreux is a long drive, but it would be worth it. And you might be surprised to know my contract did not come with such a membership.

They either have to pay for it or do a trade agreement where the course gets free tickets or free advertising in exchange for the membership.

I've never been to Casa Grande. My top-10 Reno/Sparks Mexican food rankings go:

1. Fiesta Mexicana

2. Carlillos Cocina

3. Los Compadres

4. Speedy Burrito

5. Super Burrito

6. Buenos Grill

7. Murrieta's

8. Bertha Miranda’s

9. Qdoba

10. Chipotle

I do love me some Mexican food. I'm going to go get some now. See y'all next week.

Offbeat News

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER