The Nevada football team is close to getting back a pair of offensive weapons who had big impacts as true freshmen last season.
Wide receiver Romeo Doubs, who missed the Wolf Pack’s 19-13 win over Weber State, and running back Devonte Lee, who has missed the team’s first three games as he recovers from a torn ACL, could play against UTEP on Saturday. Doubs is the more likely of the two to suit up, but Lee should also return soon.
“He’s dealing with a day-to-day head injury and so we’re expecting him to be back,” Nevada coach Jay Norvell said of Doubs. “Hoping he can be back on the practice field (Tuesday). We thought he would be back by the end of last week. He’s progressing. Obviously, we want to be careful with him. He has a long season. We don’t want to jeopardize one of our better players, and for us the most important games of the year are our conference games. This is an important game, and we hope Romeo will back by the end of the week and we feel like he will be.”
Doubs caught 43 passes for 562 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman last season, his first year playing receiver after being a quarterback in high school. Doubs was limited to just seven catches for 60 yards in Nevada’s first two games this season and suffered the head injury during the game at Oregon.
Lee was featured as Nevada’s short-yardage back last season during his true freshman campaign. He tore his ACL late in the season and played through the injury before having surgery in the offseason.
In 2018, Lee had 45 carries for 193 yards and a team-high seven rushing touchdowns, largely getting carries out of the wildcat formation. It was originally believed Lee wouldn’t be back until late in the season, but his recovery has progressed much faster. With Nevada deep at running back, the Wolf Pack doesn’t want to rush Lee back to the field, but he could see action against UTEP.
“He’s getting very close,” Norvell said. “We felt like the conference play would be his return date. We’re probably going to stick with that, but he’s certainly available and he’s practicing. We’re just really excited. Originally when the year started we didn’t think we’d get him back until November, but he’s far ahead of that.”
Senior linebacker Maliek Broady, who started Nevada’s first two games but did not play against Weber State with a foot injury, also is expected to return against UTEP.
Brandon Talton honored again
Nevada kicker Brandon Talton was named the Mountain West special teams player of the week for the second time this season after hitting all four of his field-goal attempts in the win over Weber State. Talton accounted for 13 of Nevada’s 19 points and has made all eight of his field-goal attempts in 2019.
“One of our mottos is to be at your best when you’re most needed, and Brandon has just done his job,” Norvell said. “He hasn’t tried to do anything spectacular. He’s so consistent every day in the way he kicks. That’s a credit to a guy being focused and prepared. He gets great height on the ball and that’s been important because the kicks that he’s had have gotten up and gotten off on time. Mature beyond his years.”
Talton is a true freshman who walked on to the Wolf Pack this season. He was awarded a scholarship after hitting a 56-yard field goal to beat Purdue in the season opener. Talton had recruiting interest from a few MW schools but committed to Nevada as a preferred walk-on before the start of his senior year of high school.
“I’m very proud of our coaching staff,” Norvell said. “We did a great job of finding a guy who’s a walk-on and bringing him to our campus and he’s earned a scholarship in a short amount of time. Angus McClure has that area and he made that extra trip of going to Vacaville to check on a kicker, and Tommy Pretty did a great job of following up and getting Brandon to come here.”
Nevada also started a walk-on, Austin Ortega, at long snapper against Weber State. Ortega subbed in for Karson Thomas, who missed the game with an injury.
Nevada looks to up the tempo
The 87 plays the Wolf Pack offense ran against Weber State were the second most in the Norvell era.
Nevada’s high in total plays run under Norvell is 89 in a 30-28 loss to Weber State in 2017. Nevada ran 86 plays last season in a 21-3 loss to Fresno State. The Wolf Pack offense was limited to one touchdown against Weber State, but it played at one of its fastest tempos of the last few years. That was part of the game plan, and the Wolf Pack will try to play faster for the remainder of the season.
“The first two games we were playing some really quality opponents and we kind of wanted to slow the game down,” Norvell said. “Now we want to get in a rhythm and run more plays. I think we ran 95 plays last week (actually 87) and Weber ran 45 (actually 49). We want to continue to run more plays, get the ball to our play-makers more and spread things out. As we go, I see us playing faster and faster.”
Nevada-Hawaii kickoff set
Nevada’s game against Hawaii on Sept. 28 has been selected for an ESPN2 broadcast with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff time at Mackay Stadium. Both teams have gotten off to 2-1 starts this season, with Hawaii beating two Pac-12 teams (Arizona and Oregon State) and Nevada beating a Big Ten squad (Purdue).