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New Nevada offensive line coach Louie Addazio the latest in a long line to lead the Union

Louie Addazio
Louie Addazio spent two seasons at Colorado State before being hired as Nevada's offensive line coach. (Colorado State athletics)

The offensive line coach position at Nevada has been a revolving the door the last decade-plus.

Since 2009, the Wolf Pack has had nine offensive line coaches from Chris Klenakis to Cameron Norcross to Darren Hiller to Ron Hudson to Jonathan Himebauch to Mason Miller to Angus McClure to Bill Best to Louie Addazio, the most recent coach to jump on the merry-go-round. That's nine coaches in the last 14 seasons, with only Hudson lasting more than two years during that period (he went for three seasons).

But no matter who's coached Nevada over the years, one thing's always been consistent — Nevada's offensive line has been called the Union, a term that prevailed whether the team's head coach was Chris Ault, Jeff Horton, Jeff Tisdel, Chris Tormey, Brian Polian, Jay Norvell or now Ken Wilson. And Addazio said he's not doing anything to change that history.

"We're the Union," he said. "That's tradition, that's who we are. I look at this as an opportunity to be part of a legacy, both as a coach and our players. We're part of this legacy, and it's our responsibility to continue to grow it, develop it and build it. So it's a great honor to be part of the Union here at Nevada, and I'm really excited to coach the Union, and it will absolutely be the Union."

While Nevada's offensive line retains that Union label, the caliber of play from the Wolf Pack's front over the last decade hasn't hit what is typically expected from that group. From the late 1970s to the early 2010s, Nevada was dominant up front more often than not, sending several players from that group to the NFL, including standouts Derek Kennard, Eric Sanders, Shar Pourdanesh, Tony Moll, Harvey Dahl, Christian Barker, Joel Bitonio and Austin Corbett. But the Wolf Pack's offensive line play since 2012, when the team had four future NFL players up front, hasn't been great.

The 2021 season might have marked the low point as Nevada allowed a program-high 43 sacks while averaging just 2.99 yards per carry. The Wolf Pack hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2016 and as a team barely hit that mark — just 1,006 yards in 13 games — for the entire 2021 season. Nevada was still plenty explosive on offense last season, leading the Mountain West in scoring, but the lack of balance and poor offensive line play was the biggest reason the Wolf Pack fell short of its preseason goal of reaching the conference championship game.

Enter Addazio, who will be tasked with rebuilding Nevada's offensive line to its former glory, rebuilding being the key word. The Wolf Pack returns only one of its five starters from last season, that being two-time All-MW right tackle Aaron Frost. Nevada lost multiple-year starter Tyler Orsini and Jermaine Ledbetter to graduation, and left tackle Jacob Gardner transferred with Norvell to Colorado State, where Addazio was the offensive line coach the last two years under his father, Steve, who was fired in December and replaced by Norvell. In fact, Nevada has just 10 returning offensive linemen from last season, a number that must be beefed up with the team's 2022 recruiting class.

Addazio was one of the last additions to Wilson's staff, the new Wolf Pack head coach stressing the offensive line coach as perhaps the most important on his staff. Unlike most of Nevada's assistant-coaching staff, Wilson has not worked with Addazio before, but the 28-year-old won over Wilson and offensive coordinator Derek Sage in the interview process.

"Derek and I interviewed several guys for that position," Wilson said. "But Louie's vision, his toughness, his career, his family history, his offensive lines and the toughness they had at Colorado State just seemed to fit what we were going to do here in our program. We're fired up to have him and his family."

Despite his young age, Addazio is actually one of Nevada's most experienced assistant coaches. He's one of four members of Wilson's 10-man staff who has previously been a full-time FBS assistant, which includes his two years at Boston College and one season at Bowling Green, where he coached tight ends in 2019. Addazio also spent three years on Ohio State's staff as a graduate assistant from 2016-18. Addazio has been around coaching his entire life thanks to his dad, an assistant for Syracuse, Notre Dame, Indiana and most notable Florida, where he won national titles in 2006 and 2008.

The older Addazio also had head-coaching stints at Temple, Boston College and Colorado State, going 61-67 overall with seven bowl berths in 11 seasons. Addazio credits his father for motivating him to become a coach.

"I was really lucky," the younger Addazio said. "In this profession, there's a lot of coaches out there that don't spend a lot of time with their families. They're away all the time. And so there's a lot of coaches' kids out there that grow up with a certain perception of coaching and that it's tough stuff. I was really lucky. My dad was at every sporting event, every parent-teacher conference. That was really important to him. So from a young age, I wanted to coach. I grew up in the locker rooms. I grew up walking around campus. Since 6 years old, I've been eating at the training table. It's probably why I was overweight, but from a really young age this is all I wanted to do."

After beginning his career at Syracuse, Addazio played for his father at Boston College. He was a three-year letter winner for the Golden Eagles, appearing in 33 games with nine starts. While technically listed as a tight end, Addazio's forte was blocking, and with his father a long-time offensive line coach, Louie knows what good linemen look like. And those are the kinds of players he'll be looking for to rebuild the Wolf Pack's offensive front.

"Obviously it starts with toughness," Addazio said. "Is he a tough guy? Is he a finisher? Does he accelerate through contact? And does he love football? Because to play up front, you've got to be tough and you've got to love football. You've got to do all the dirty work. You don't get the glory. It all starts with toughness. You have to be a tough football player, and then obviously the traits go from there."

Under Addazio last season, Colorado State ranked fourth in the MW and 62nd in the nation in rushing yards per game (164.1), albeit at a 3.82-yard-per-run clip, while allowing 28 sacks (2.33 per game), middle of the road nationally. Nevada will move away from the Air Raid offense run by Norvell to a more balanced attacked under Wilson. How successful that transition is will hinge to a large degree on the play of Nevada's offensive line, which hasn't truly been elite since Chris Ault resigned following the 2012 season. Shortly after getting the Wolf Pack job, Addazio got a tutorial on the Union and what it means to Nevada football.

"No. 1, it's an identity and it's pride," Addazio said. "And I think it's really cool and special that it's sustained here through different staffs, different coaches, different generations. It's the Union. To be a part of something special like that, it's a great honor. And one of the messages I'll give to the offensive line is it's our responsibility to help grow and develop this thing for the next generation who will be part of the Union.

"We'll be a tough, physical outfit. That's a day-to-day thing. That's not a 'talk about it' thing. It's a 'do it' thing. We're really excited to get to work."

Addazio said he was thrilled to get the job offer from Wilson and has loved his early life as a college coach.

"This isn't a job," Addazio said. "This is fun. We're talking football every day. I couldn't imagine sitting behind a desk somewhere pushing paperwork. That's not what I'm about. And so my entire life this is what I wanted to do."

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMurray.

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