One of the bright spots that came out of Nevada’s 77-6 loss to Oregon on Saturday was the fact the Wolf Pack came out of the game relatively healthy. Yes, several players, including quarterback Carson Strong and running back Toa Taua got dinged up, but there weren’t any major injuries suffered by Nevada.
Linebacker Maliek Broady was in a boot during Monday’s practice and didn’t suit up and long snapper Karson Thomas also was held out, but coach Jay Norvell was optimistic about their chances of playing against Weber State on Saturday as Nevada looks to bounce back from its most lopsided loss since 1920.
“We’ve had two really physical games,” Norvell said. “We knew going in they’d be very physical. You have to manage that and get through that. Maliek’s a little beat up. Karson’s a little beat us. Trevor Price is a little beat up. We have several kids who are sore and a lot of guys who are playing who are sore today. But that’s football. Usually Mondays they’re pretty sore from the game. As we get closer to game time they’ll be a little bit better. We’re hoping to get Malik Henry back. He had strep throat last week. Cristian Solano will be a little better. We’re pressing him forward. Hopefully Maliek (Broady) will be all right closer to game time.”
Even with Nevada’s roster more or less at full health, Norvell expects to get a few more true freshman on the field, largely in special teams. With a rule change last year, players can appear in four games but still retain their redshirt season. As a result, Norvell wants to see some of his younger players get a chance to play.
Wolf Pack true freshman to play so far this season include DB Kieran Clark, DL Breylon Garcia, DB Jayce Goldey, K Brandon Talton, TE Henry Ikahihifo and DB Maurice Wilmer. That’s six of Nevada’s 27 true freshman.
“We have a lot of freshmen who will probably play this week,” Norvell said. “We have a lot of freshmen that have four games to play. We’re going to use them. We’re going to use them on special teams and if they need to be backups. We brought them here to play and we’ll press them into action and we’ll evaluate after non-conference if we need to redshirt them or not. We recruited a good class and think a lot of them are capable of playing this year, so we’ll press them into action.”
Nevada’s quarterback depth chart
When the Wolf Pack went to its backup quarterback Saturday at Oregon, it wasn’t somebody listed on the depth chart who replaced Carson Strong. Instead, it was somebody who wasn’t even eligible to play 30 hours prior to kickoff.
Hamish McClure, a redshirt freshman transfer from Sac State, got the call to sub in for Strong. McClure is the son of Nevada’s offensive line coach, Angus McClure, and wasn’t cleared by the NCAA to play this season until Friday afternoon.
“He got cleared about 12 o’clock on Friday right before we got on the bus,” Norvell said. “We had to run around campus and get a lot of signatures.”
Henry, who served as the backup against Purdue, didn’t make the Oregon trip because of strep throat. Solano was at the game but returning from a broken throwing hand and Nevada didn’t want to risk re-injuring it in a game in which the offensive line struggled to keep the quarterback upright.
“Cristian is healing up,” Norvell said. “We feel very fortunate Cristian even has a chance to play this year. Giving him an extra week to heal would be best for the long term. We wanted to be smart in that situation. Hamish has some college experience. He played at Sac State and had four games under his belt, so we wanted to take advantage of that."
Other than McClure, the only other healthy quarterback at the Oregon game was true freshman Austin Kirksey, who Norvell said he wants to play this season. At Oregon, he opted for McClure, a walk-on who led Nevada's final three series, each of which ended with a punt. McClure completed 3-of-3 passes for 20 yards and had two carries for minus-nine yards. While Solano and Henry are expected to be back and active this week, Norvell said McClure remains in the picture, too.
“Hamish is a guy we may have to play,” he said. “I really felt at the beginning of the year we’d have to play multiple quarterbacks this year, so it helps to get him a little experience moving forward. We should have Cristian available this week and Malik available this week in case we have to play somebody else.”
Kaiden Bennett, a transfer from Boise State, also has been cleared and is running Nevada’s scout team this week, although he must redshirt following his transfer.
Nevada adds kickoff specialist
Julian Diaz, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound kicker, made his Wolf Pack debut at Oregon. Diaz is a late transfer from American River College who ranked second in the state in kickoff distance. Against Oregon, Diaz had three kickoffs, including one touchback. He averaged 64.3 yards per kickoff. He’s a junior.
Another specialist made his debut against the Ducks. Long snapper Robert Hill, also a junior, is a first-year newcomer who previously spent time at Georgia and Tulsa. Hill subbed in for an injured Thomas, who had one bad snap against the Ducks that resulted in punter Quinton Conaway being tackled about 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Hill was at Tulsa in 2016 and spent time at Georgia in 2018.