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These true freshmen were impressing Nevada's coaches before the shutdown

Tory Horton
True freshman wide receiver Tory Horton had impressed Nevada's coaches before the shutdown. (Nevada athletics)

Before Nevada football's season was shut down Monday when the Mountain West opted to postponed fall sports until at least the spring, some young players had the caught the eye of Wolf Pack offensive coordinator Matt Mumme.

Two true freshmen in particular stood out: wide receiver Tory Horton and running back Avery Morrow.

"I've got two for you," Mumme said when asked last week if any young players had stood out in early practices. "You look at one of them and you say, 'OK. He's young. He looks like a young Romeo (Doubs). He's really skinny. Probably only weighs 150 pounds, but he can run.' That's Tory Horton, who is a wide receiver. But I tell you what, that kid's going to be special. He's made some huge catches in practice already, and he does not act like he's a freshman for one day."

Horton also was mentioned by head coach Jay Norvell as an early standout, and Norvell loves his wide receivers (he wrote a book about the position). Horton's older brother, Tyler, was a two-time first-team All-Mountain West cornerback at Boise State. Tory Horton, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, is the youngest of five brothers. He picked Nevada over offers from Montana and North Colorado, making the Wolf Pack his only FBS offer. But he was a three-sport standout in high school in football, basketball and baseball at Washington Union High in Fresno, and Nevada has had success with under-recruited tall receivers like Elijah Cooks and Romeo Doubs during Norvell tenure.

"The other guy that really shocked me, and this happened like two weeks ago in walkthroughs, was Avery Morrow, a freshman running back from Washington," Mumme said. "And this kid, I'll tell you what, is special. He's going to be a kid to watch. He's a guy who I promise you will get into the rotation this year because of where we sit with Devonte (Lee) and Toa (Taua). He's a guy who is going to be a lot of fun to watch as he grows up."

Morrow is a true freshman from Garfield High in Seattle, a school that produced former Nevada basketball star Marcelus Kemp, who ranks third in program history in scoring. A 6-foot, 205-pounder, Morrow is one of only three scholarship running backs on the team along with Lee and Taua, two experienced juniors. Morrow, whose only other scholarship offer was from Montana State, has the best straight-line speed of the three.

"Avery has great vision and he's got an extra speed that I wasn't aware of, that I didn't necessarily see off high school film," Mumme said. "That's an exciting one to watch grow up. Obviously Toa and Tae are going to get most of the reps, but Avery will have his spots."

Mumme added two more intriguing true freshmen in Jamaal Bell, a wide receiver from Southern California who was a highly rated all-purpose back coming out of high school in the 2019 class (he didn't play last season while improving his academic portfolio), and offensive lineman Jacob Gardner, who has an impressive athletic family lineage (his father played basketball at VMI and his great uncles Jack and Jerry Brisco were professional WWF wrestlers who are in the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame). Bell received more than a half-dozen Pac-12 offers, and Gardner opted Nevada over an offer from San Jose State.

"Jamaal Bell is electrifying with the ball in his hands," Mumme said. "You're talking about a kid with true 4.4(-second 40-yard dash) speed that's going to be special. He's done a lot better job of catching the ball that I thought he'd do coming into his first camp. I've been proud of him there. If you look up front in the Union, Jacob Gardner has established himself up there in the Union. He's rotating in and out at center. It's good to see some young O-lineman making some strides forward."

The Wolf Pack's true freshmen will have to wait to make their college debuts, with that potentially coming in spring 2021 if the MW can cobble together a truncated season later this academic year. If not, they'll have to wait until fall 2021.

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