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Nevada position preview: Offensive line in need of massive improvement

Tyler Orsini and the Wolf Pack offense line return a lot of experience in 2020. (Byrne Photo/Nevada athletics)
Tyler Orsini and the Wolf Pack offense line return a lot of experience in 2020. (Byrne Photo/Nevada athletics)
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The Nevada football season will begin Oct. 24 with a home game against Wyoming. We'll preview each of the Wolf Pack's position groups before the season begins. Today’s position: Offensive line.

Player breakdown

Projected starters

LT Jacob Gardner: This position was held by Miles Beach, who recently retired instead of playing his senior season. Beach was one of Nevada's best offensive linemen, so this is a major loss. Gardner is a true freshman who has drawn rave reviews by the Wolf Pack coaching staff. While it's not ideal to start a true freshman at left tackle, this is one possible alignment.

LG Gray Davis: Davis started seven of 13 games last season and is entering his fourth season in the program, having played in 25 of 26 games the last two years. At 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, he has good size and will battle with senior captain Jermaine Ledbetter at left guard. The interior of Nevada's offensive line is the biggest area that needs to improve.

C Tyler Orsini: Orsini split time with Nathan Edwards as Nevada's starting center last season, with Edwards actually drawing more starts. But Orsini earned the job midway through the season and started four games before a foot injury knocked him out late in the year. The staff seems to feel more comfortable with Orsini, a junior-college transfer who is a senior.

RG Nate Brown: Having started every game the last two seasons, Brown is the Wolf Pack's most experienced offensive lineman. He played right tackle last season but is a more natural guard and has been playing that position in the lead up to the season. Given Beach's retirement, Brown could kick out to tackle if the Wolf Pack needs help there during the year. Brown is Nevada's top lineman, having won the team's Basalite Big Blocker award last season.

RT Aaron Frost: A third-year player, Frost came to Nevada as a defensive lineman before flipping to the offensive line in the middle of his true freshman year. He's started 15 games in his career, playing guard last season, but has been moved to right tackle this season. Frost has been penalty prone in his career, but he's big, athletic, loves the game and has a big ceiling.

Key backups

* Jermaine Ledbetter: A surprise captain, Ledbetter hasn't had a lot of playing time at Nevada, but the senior adds depth at guard and is a plus in the locker room.

* Nathan Edwards: The Galena High alum earned the starting center job out of training camp and has started 10 games, so he is a nice interior depth piece.

* Zach Welch: The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder played in four games as a true freshman last season, so he has a little experience despite still technically being a freshman.

* Moses Landis: Nevada has been high on Landis since he arrived on campus in 2018, but injuries have hampered his career to date. The junior could see time at tackle in 2020.

* Cole Watts: At 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, Watts has an ideal frame to play tackle. He appeared in two games as a true freshman in 2019 and will look for increased time this season.

* Blake Baughman: Baughman is another member of Nevada's 2019 recruiting class that could be forced into playing time during his redshirt freshman year (most likely at guard).

* Trey Price: Price played one season of junior-college ball before joining Nevada last season, logging 10 games. He's a backup tackle piece at this point.

Others on roster

* Donovan Carter; Drew Cannon; Frank Poso; RJ Taylor; Grant Starck; Trey Hamilton


There are plenty of reasons for Nevada to be optimistic about its offense this season. The one question mark? The offensive line, which was not good last season. The Wolf Pack finished bottom 10 nationally in rushing yards per game and per carry and was 103rd out of 130 FBS teams in sacks allowed per game. Add it up and Nevada ranked 123rd among offensive lines in the FBS, per Pro Football Focus' advanced metrics. That's the bad news. The good news is Nevada returns all of its starters, or at least did before Beach retired, leaving a void at left tackle. The group has a new position coach in Bill Best, who is Nevada's eighth offensive line coach in the last 12 seasons, which has contributed to the issues on the line over the last several seasons. But with so much experience back, the Union should be an improved group year over year.

Comfortability level

5 (out of 10) – If Nevada is going to get back to the Wolf Pack's offensive standard, which is 30-plus points per game, the offensive line must be much better than last season. The group can't be much worse than last season, so there will be improvement. The question is how much. Nevada has struggled on the line since Chris Ault resigned following the 2012 season, but coach Jay Norvell has invested a lot of scholarships into high school offensive line recruits in recent years. This year's line will start two juniors, two seniors and a mystery at left tackle (I have a true freshman penciled in above), so there's enough experience for this to at least be an average line in the MW, but it's not expected to be a vintage Union.

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.

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