If there was one position where Nevada could afford to lose a transfer, it was wide receiver.
If there was one wide receiver it wouldn’t want to lose, it’d be McLane Mannix.
But, on Sunday night, Mannix announced he was leaving the Wolf Pack after two stellar seasons, confirming rumors that had been swirling around the program since the team lost to UNLV (there are more rumors swirling around other players, too).
So, what does Mannix's departure mean for the Wolf Pack moving forward? Like we said, Nevada could absorb a defection at receiver more than any other position. Despite the loss of Mannix and Trevion Armstrong, a wide receiver turned tight end who also is transferring, Nevada returns five of its top six receivers in Kaleb Fossum (69/725/1), Romeo Doubs (43/562/2), Elijah Cooks (22/348/6), Brendan O’Leary-Orange (14/214/4) and Daiyan Henley (9/129/0). But only Doubs matched Mannix in athleticism and potential.
Teams had to game plan to stop Mannix, who started fast this season but was eventually slowed as double teams were brought his way. (Mannix averaged five catches for 101 yards with four TDs in his first three games before averaging 3.9 catches for 63.6 yards per game with three TDs in the final nine).
Doubs might be ready to step into that role of “must-stop receiver” next year, his growth from the start of the year to the end being impressive, especially since this was his first season playing the position. Nevada also had another stud in the slot in Fossum, who isn’t as electric as Mannix but is super reliable and a great leader for the group. (And for Wolf Pack fans who might be mad at Mannix for transferring – he cited “family matters” – Fossum transferred in from Washington State, so you win some and lose some).
The Wolf Pack will be fine at wide receiver from a depth perspective. There’s good talent here, and Nevada went into the 2019 recruiting class focused on adding to the position before the Mannix move.
“I talked to Coach Norvell a little bit about it, we need to get more depth at receiver,” offensive coordinator Matt Mumme said during the Wolf Pack’s bye week last month. “We do have some good receivers, but when you look at Mike Leach’s receiver group at Washington State, he’s got 15 scholarship guys.”
Nevada is sitting at eight scholarship receivers plus three scholarship tight ends scheduled to return in 2019. Those numbers are a little light, but there aren’t many wasted scholarships in there. The Wolf Pack has 2019 commitments from Justin Lockhart and Melquan Stovall, prep kids from Junipero Serra in Gardena, Calif. Head coach Jay Norvell knows his wide receivers, so trust in his ability to recruit that position.
Nevada will have talent at wide receiver next season. That’s not a question. The question is whether it will have a true game-breaker, which we saw in spurts from Mannix, who possessed elite speed and football IQ. He'll end up at a Power 5 school because of those assets. Doubs has that potential, too, and I’ve been waiting two years for O’Leary-Orange to break out. Maybe it happens in his senior season.
The Wolf Pack will lose multi-year starting quarterback Ty Gangi after the Arizona Bowl, leaving a likely battle between senior-to-be Cristian Solano and redshirt freshman Carson Strong. Nevada won’t have much experience at the position and will need the supporting cast, namely the receivers and line, to play well to help lessen the learning curve. Nevada just lost its best receiver, and it’s a blow that can’t be overlooked, but it’s not devoid of talent at the position. And with Mannix gone, others will get the opportunity for more snaps and a larger role. Whether somebody is able to step up and thrive while replacing Mannix’s production will be a big story line during the 2019 season. Nevada just lost its best returning player.
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.