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Murray's Mailbag: Who's the man to beat in Nevada's quarterback competition now?

Carson Strong
Carson Strong has a clearer path to the starting quarterback job at Nevada. (Julian Del Gaudio/Nevada Sports Net)

The Nevada quarterback competition took a turn over the weekend when Cristian Solano was lost to a major injury. That was the top topic of discussion in this week's version of the Monday Mailbag, but he hit on a number of topics, per usual. Let's get to 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).

Cristian Solano's broken hand makes it a two-player race between Carson Strong and Malik Henry, and I'd be surprised if Strong isn't starting the season opener against Purdue. He's the future of the program at quarterback and he's been good in spring and fall camp. He has a special arm and natural leadership skills. He demands a lot from his teammates, which is pretty rare for a redshirt freshman. He's fiery. He's confident. He's talented. He's got the goods, dude. I figured Nevada would go with Solano for the opener partially out of loyalty for his service to the program and partially because Nevada opens the season with two Power 5 programs. I figured it would then move to Strong for the third game (against FCS foe Weber State) as a way to ease him in under better circumstances. This just speeds up the process of getting to Strong, who would open the season against a Big Ten team and a preseason top-15 Pac-12 school if he does get the job. That's not exactly how you'd draw it up for a freshman starter, but I don't think his confidence will be hurt if Nevada starts 0-2. He's a confident guy. My money is on Strong winning the job.

Here's our video breakdown from today's NSN Daily on Strong and Henry.


I thought Strong was exceptional in Nevada's first two practices. On Monday, he was high with a number of throws, which usually leads to interceptions. Strong took most of the reps with the first string Monday, so he's in the lead for sure. One big point of separation could be deep throws. Accuracy on deep throws is very important to head coach Jay Norvell and offensive coordinator Matt Mumme, so hitting those will be key for Strong and Henry, especially in scrimmage situations. Both Strong and Henry have had good moments in camp, but Strong has been a little stronger for me.

Norvell said the following on NSN Daily a couple of weeks ago: "I think our kids know who they're starting to trust, but at the end of the day the team has to win. The guy who gives us the best chance, everybody will know who that is. I remember last year when Clemson and Dabo Swinney started a freshman (Trevor Lawrence) and it wasn't news to the team. The team knew who the best player was, and really the public is the last to know." It's easy to try and draw a correlation between that comment and leaning toward Strong even prior to the Solano injury.

Malik Henry has looked solid. He makes a lot of "wow" throws, but he also needs to improve his accuracy. I thought he played the best of all three quarterbacks in the spring game, so I'm certainly not counting him out. A lot of what he has to prove comes behind closed doors with his study habits, work ethic, leadership skills, ability to take coaching, etc. That was a big knock on him coming out of Last Chance U. He has to check all of those boxes to have the chance to get on the field. If Nevada starts slow, and that's possible with Purdue and Oregon to start the season, fans will be clamoring for Henry like they were for David Cornwell two seasons ago. That will provide a little extra pressure on Strong, but I think he's up to the challenge.

It will look different. Henry is the more athletic of the two. Strong is not a bad athlete. He was a very good basketball player. But he also had a knee surgery that took away his senior season of high school and you're not going to see read-option plays with him keeping the ball too often. I'm with you that Strong behind center will include more traditional Air Raid spread looks and Henry behind center could include more traditional Pistol read options. I think you would have seen that with Solano, too. Strong's strengths dovetail a little better with the original Air Raid concept whereas Henry and Solano's skills matched up with the more Air Pistol look Nevada used last season.

Given Nevada's uncertainties on the offensive line (three new starters), Henry's ability to run would be a plus if he won the job. Norvell has raved about his ability to throw off multiple platforms, crediting that to his baseball background. If Nevada struggles up front, Henry is more equipped to make big plays out of broken plays given his legs. The protection will have to be better if Strong is back there. So there are a lot of things to consider, but it is now Strong's job to lose.

It does not change my outlook on the season. Solano, Strong and Henry were all pretty close in terms of quality for this season, so that depth will pay off. Norvell has said all year the talent he has at quarterback is the highest he's seen in his three years in Reno, and a large part of that is the depth. Losing a potential starting quarterback the last two years could have doomed Nevada, but that's not the case this season. I still see Nevada as a six- or seven-win team, with actually a little more upside with Strong or Henry running the show.

Barring injury, I do think Nevada will roll with Carson Strong all season. If he can get through the first two games (Purdue and Oregon), the next four (Weber State, UTEP, Hawaii, San Jose State, three of which are at home) give him a chance to get things rolling in the right direction, and since he's the future, Nevada should let him play through his mistakes.

I don't ask for a season-ticket number until a couple of days before the season opener. Here are Nevada's season-ticket numbers since 2010.

2010: 11,452

2011: 12,315

2012: 11,864

2013: 12,783 (program record)

2014: 11,846

2015: 11,352

2016: 10,021

2017: 9,174

2018: 8,771

Not a great trend there, though minimal fault of Norvell. Brian Polian's tenure really hurt attendance and the Mackay Stadium renovation and increased prices also took out a good chunk of season-ticket holders. I've anecdotally heard the Wolf Pack is pleased with football season-ticket renewals, but that's probably like an 85 percent renewal rate, so you'd have to obtain 1,316 new season-ticket holders just to break even if that 85 percent figure is accurate. I don't expect a big jump in season-ticket holders this season. My guess is it will more or less be stable. But, yes, with the product on the field getting better, Norvell and crew do deserve more support. The home schedule just isn't very appealing this season. I also understand if rising season-ticket prices in basketball is making fans pick between the two sports, and that pick is relatively easy given the quality of the two programs over the last few years.

Nevada used a good amount of wildcat last season, first with Toa Taua and then with Devonte Lee, who was exceptionally good in short-yardage situations. I expect the team to keep that in the playbook, although Lee is out for the beginning part of the season with a torn ACL, so it will be Taua or Kelton Moore in that formation, with Moore adding the element of throwing since he was a high school quarterback. I don't think the amount of wildcat will go up with Solano hurt, but you'll still see it at times.

While Cody Fajardo has been terrific with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, so much so the team traded its season-opening starting quarterback, I don't think this is a prelude to an NFL audition. For starters, CFL training camps start in May and NFL training camps in July, so you'd have to give up on your CFL career for a chance to make an NFL roster, which would be a long shot to start with. There aren't a lot of stories of CFL quarterbacks moving to the NFL. Who was the last one? Jeff Garcia? It could happen, but I think Fajardo will continue to carve out his niche in the CFL. It'd take a couple of years of really high play to make the jump to the NFL.

Because the United States is basically the only country in the world that ties college educations with athletics. Full-ride scholarships for athletics don't exist in Canada (and basically every other country), so it's just not feasible. The U.S. system of tying high-level amateur sports is highly unusual, so it isn't replicated in other countries. The other countries have it right, though. It's weird that colleges are minor-league systems for pro sports. It doesn't make sense given the purpose of college is to educate people.

1) Nevada has one scholarship still open, but I would guess it doesn't get filled and is saved for a midseason transfer or for the 2020 recruiting class.

2) PG Lindsey Drew, SG Jazz Johnson, SF Jalen Harris, PF Eric Parrish, C K.J. Hymes (power forward and center are the two most open positions)

3) Robby Robinson III. I see Harris and Parrish as breakout guys, but that's obvious. I'll take Robinson as a below-the-radar quality player in 2019-20. His rebounding will be needed.

Firstly, the Atomic FireBalls were a gift to the sports department and I am reporting you to HR for stealing them.

Secondly, thank you for recognizing my expertise in canker sores. I will forgo snitching on you to HR. I believe there could be a correlation between my Atomic FireBall consumption (three per day) and the fact I developed a canker sore last week. Forget about the fact that the canker sore developed in my mid-mouth and I keep the FireBall in my left cheek, two distinctly separate areas. I believe they are related and had to take a small break from Atomic FireBalls (and replaced it with this FireBall) to heal my canker.

Surprisingly, WebMD doesn't list Atomic FireBalls among the causes for canker sores, so that website is clearly wrong. And this UPI story from 1995 says cinnamon causes mouth sores. Redeemed! So keep it to two Atomic FireBalls per day or less and you should be fine.

I thought this was a funny response from Doug Knuth to an inquiry about student tailgating.

The Nevada Sagebrush has reported alcohol is banned at student tailgates, which has likely played a part in decreased student attendance. Young people like to drink. I know since I used to be a young person. And removing that takes away some motivation to going to a football game. I know Nevada's senior class, guys like Kaleb Fossum and Lucas Weber, have tried to engage students more to support the program entering this season. I think you'll see an uptick in student attendance, but limiting alcohol consumption in student tailgates is a strong limiting reagent. Not right or wrong, but clearly a deterrent.

I don't believe food trucks are allowed in the tailgating area, but I don't tailgate anymore since they took away the free Peccole Park parking several years ago. My favorite food truck is GourMelt.

To a large degree, yes it is. Group of 5 schools can't compare to Power 5 schools when it comes to salary. Take Jim Mastro for example. He's a former Nevada running backs coach. He's now at Oregon as the running backs coach/run game coordinator on a three-year, $1.102 million contract. That's an average of $367,333 per year. That's more than $100,000 more than the offensive and defensive coordinators at Nevada make. It's just a way of life for Group of 5 schools. You're going to lose your top employees. But Nevada's pay is below most Mountain West schools, so it's more drastic for the Wolf Pack.

1. Dodgers Stadium (duh)

2. Wrigley Field (an amazing place)

3. Coors Field (although they took away my flask once)

4. Petco Park (can't beat the weather)

5. Pacific Bell/SBC/AT&T/Oracle Park (hot take: it's a little overrated)

I wanted to name my son "Puma" or "Maps," so I might not be the guy to ask for kids name. I'd go with Talon. Or Tyler if you want to name him after Reed High alum Tyler C. Bickerton, now a deputy prosecutor in Mason County. He keeps crime low in the state of Washington.

Partially because they're named after people: John Mackay and Jake Lawlor. To sell naming rights, you'd have remove the the names of Mackay and Lawlor from the stadiums, which doesn't end the possibility of selling naming rights but does complicate it. Ultimately, if Nevada gets the right price, I do think they'll sell the naming rights. At least they should. But the offer hasn't come yet. New Mexico recently sold naming rights to its football and basketball arena to Dreamstyle Remodeling CEO for $10 million over 10 years. If Nevada got that offer, it couldn't turn it down. Really, anything over $750,000 annually for the pair should get it done.

The five-star recruit was an Eric Musselman/Brandon Dunson recruit and neither are at Nevada right now, so Walker won't be coming, either. I am interested to see if Walker lands at Arkansas with Musselman. He's put a lot of time into Walker, and Musselman needs to show Arkansas fans he can: (a) land top-50 guys; and (b) recruit the state of Arkansas. Landing Walker would check the first box.

I have no good answer to this other than to say I would be played by Stanley Tucci (two great bald Italians). I did search for actors for the Martin twins for some time, but I couldn't find any well known, young, tall African-American actors. There's really a dearth of good roles for such actors to launch them into stardom. I would like a younger Sally Fields for Jenny Bennett, but I'm taking applications for the Martin twins' role.

I've seen maybe two or three James Bonds movies, so I'm not the best to ask, but ...

1. Sean Connery (the OG)

2. Daniel Craig (he was great in Lucky Logan)

3. Pierce Brosnan (a solid run-of-the-mill Bond)

4. Roger Moore (been in more Bond movies than anybody else)

5. Timothy Dalton (not handsome enough to be James Bond)

6. George Lazenby (doesn't warrant a comment)

7. David Niven (doesn't warrant a comment)

I'll assume this is a basketball question because an FBS football team would never play at an FCS football team. As for basketball, UC Davis and Sac State are not strong enough programs to warrant doing a home-and-home series, although a two-for-one might be reasonable. Most Division I teams only play two or three non-conference road games a season and Nevada has targeted higher-RPI teams to boost its strength of schedule in those slots. I wouldn't completely rule out a potential road game at Sac State or UC Davis because the travel is cheap, but there's minimal incentive in terms of building a strong non-league slate. Nevada did play at UC Davis in 2013-14, so it hasn't completely avoided games there.

First, the tournament needs to make it through the upcoming Montreux membership vote for it to continue next year. If that happens, and lets assume it will, it shouldn't have any impact on the American Century Championship attendance. That will remain high as long as Justin Timberlake, Steph Curry and Aaron Rodgers remain in the field. The Barracuda attendance, which is always pretty low, should take a sizable hit, though. People leave town for the Fourth of July weekend. That's not a great date for a PGA Tour event, and it's not like the Barracuda gets to pick its date. I don't see the two tournaments as vying for the same fan base anyhow. The Barracuda is for real golf fans. The ACC is for people who like parties and celebrities.

I cannot, at least not guys who had their names called over the sound system, who hugged their coaches and who had their family on the field per-game. It's a rarity.

Stolen word for word from Nevada play-by-play man John Ramey: "It's for the defensive backs so the position coaches can see where their eyes are/head alignment on film."

As I wrote in a recent Mailbag, Nevada isn't adding hockey. And curling isn't an NCAA sport. So those things aren't happening.

On the food front, I don't like chick peas, garbanzo beans or hummus, so I am done thinking about that topic.

Technically, Kaymen Cureton only started two games at quarterback for Nevada in 2017, but he's a safety right now, currently with the second string. (More on that here).

Nothing new at Mackay Stadium for this season (unless we count the Running of the Wolves for every game). Nothing that I know of at Lawlor, either. Peccole Park and Hixson Field both got huge new scoreboards. And Nevada is moving forward with putting much-needed locker rooms for a handful of sports in the Ramon Sessions Dome. That's the biggest facility improvement going on right now.

It used to be Baskin Robbins in Wingfield Hills, but they overcharged me last week and also didn't fill my cones to the bottom, so I'm not going back there. My favorite Baked Bear location in Sparks recently closed, so cut them out, too. I'll go with Cold Stone Creamery on Plumb for a national brand and Icecycle Creamery on Lakeside for a local company. I wish there were more ice cream trucks that drive around town like there used to be. I never see them anymore.

They should have traded Will Smith and Madison Bumgarner since they're not making the playoffs, but I get why they didn't. It's hard to wave the white flag in Bruce Bochy's last season as manager and it's hard to trade a franchise legend like Bumgarner. But this is not a good team (third-worst run differential in the National League), and the Giants could have bolstered their farm system by trading their two top chips. I did like the additions of Scooter Gennett and Mauricio Dubon long term and shedding Mark Melancon's contract was big, which could help retain Bumgarner, so it wasn't a total loss. Farhan Zaidi is a good ops guy. He comes from the Dodgers, so he has to be.

I wasn't shocked. The only place to upgrade was in the bullpen. I figured the Dodgers would get an eighth-inning guy and a lefty specialist. They got the lefty specialist in Adam Kolarek, but didn't get the setup man. The best pitcher on the market was Pittsburgh's Felipe Vazquez, but the asking price was apparently two of the Dodgers top-four prospect, each of whom rank in the top 50 in MLB. I wouldn't trade two top-50 prospects for a reliever. Relievers aren't bankable from year-to-year and I'm not giving up six years of potential stars to get a player like Vazquez, who might toss, at most, six innings in a playoff series. I would have liked another reliever, but I understand why the Dodgers did what they did. They're already going to move starters Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias to the bullpen for the playoffs and the recently called up Dustin May could end up being as good as Vazquez out of the pen. He could end up being that shutdown eighth-inning guy.

Only twice. I texted him the day after he accepted the Arkansas job to wish him good luck and told him he had to text me "Congratulations" when the Dodgers won the 2019 World Series. He agreed to do so. And then he texted me about a month ago to let me know a couple of his former Pack staffers landed jobs at other schools. Only those two conversations. He gave me the quick "unfollow" on Twitter right after he took the Arkansas job. I was crestfallen, of course.

You're all my favorites. I could never pick among you. See y'all next week.

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