The Nevada football team should get an offensive reinforcement for Saturday's game against Hawaii.
Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell expects star receiver Romeo Doubs to play against the Rainbow Warriors after he missed last week's game with an injury.
"We're hopeful that he can play this week," Norvell said during his Monday news conference. "We're not sure yet. He's a guy that practices hard and he got a little roughed up in practice last week. A little dinged up, but he's getting better and we're hopeful that he'll be ready for Saturday."
Norvell said Doubs suffered "a little bit of a lower-body deal" while getting "tangled up" in practice prior to last week's New Mexico State game. Doubs is coming off a 1,000-yard season in 2020 and is one of the Mountain West's top receivers.
"He probably could have played last week," Norvell said. "We wanted to be smart with him. We've got a lot of guys that do a lot of things for us. We play our starters on our special teams. They get a lot of reps. And we came through a stretch of tough games. He should be fine. He's running much better. And we're hopeful he'll be better as the week goes along."
Doubs is one good game away from breaking into the top 10 in program history in career catches and career receiving yards. In four games this season, Doubs has 22 catches for 304 yards and a touchdown. Hawaii held Doubs to one catch for 10 yards last season, by far the least productive game of his breakout 2020 campaign. After missing the end of the 2019 season with a shoulder injury (he also missed a game that year due to a concussion), Doubs played in all nine games last season.
Despite not having Doubs or Elijah Cooks (foot, out for season) last week, Nevada threw for 463 yards in a 55-28 win over New Mexico State. Melquan Stovall and Justin Lockhart both went over 100 yards receiving and tight end Cole Turner caught two of Carson Strong's six touchdowns passes. Norvell said that depth allowed the Wolf Pack to sit Doubs last week.
"It's important to have depth," Norvell said. "We play a physical game, and it's a physical league. As the season goes on, guys get dinged. You lose guys from time to time. That's just the nature of the game. I was really proud of Tory Horton. He played well in the game. I was really proud of Justin Lockhart. He played well again for a second week in a row. And then Melquan. Sometimes we have guys that don't get their hands on the ball a lot because we do have different playmakers that we rely on and we feed. I just knew it was a matter of time before Melquan would get his opportunities."
Hawaii held Nevada to 168 passing yards in a 24-21 Rainbow Warriors win last season, the Wolf Pack's lowest passing yardage total of the year. Nevada averaged 338 passing yards in its other eight games.
Hawaii mum on starting quarterback
Last season's loss to Hawaii featured a strong performance by Rainbow Warriors quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, who accounted for 308 yards and two touchdowns while completing 81.3 percent of his passes against the Wolf Pack.
But Cordeiro's status for Saturday's game is unknown after he didn't play in the team's last game, an upset win over Fresno State. Hawaii had a bye last week, with Todd Graham only saying of Cordeiro's undisclosed injury that it was "not serious" with a recovery time of anywhere between 10 and 30 days. That has made Nevada guess who will start for Hawaii: Cordeiro or true freshman quarterback Brayden Schager, who completed 11-of-27 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Fresno State.
Cordeiro was suited up for the Fresno State game but did not appear in the contest. Norvell said the Wolf Pack will have to prepare for both quarterbacks.
"It's hard to say," Norvell said when asked who he believes will start at quarterback for Hawaii. "We're ready for both. It hasn't been really defined by them, and I don't expect it to be. But we'll be prepared for both of them. They're both good players that have shown that they're capable of winning games, and so we have to be prepared for both. Really, we're going to have to do a good job of handling them offensively and what they want their quarterback to do. They're going to use him as a runner at times. You have to account for him in your run fits, and we're going to have to do a very good job of playing our run fits and also handling their passing game off of it."
Drew Cannon returns for Nevada
After missing three games with a knee injury, Wolf Pack starting right guard Drew Cannon returned for the New Mexico State contest. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound junior won the starting job out of camp but injured himself early in the opener at Cal.
"Andrew Cannon is just a really athletic guy," Norvell said. "Gives us a lot of athletic ability. Gray (Davis) has been doing a good job in there as well. But (Cannon) just gives us more depth, more athletic ability, explosiveness. It was really good for him to play a lot of snaps. He made some mistakes, but he also did a really good job when he was in there. And he's an athletic guard that can get his body on people, run his feet, he can pull. Really, really important that he continues to get snaps. He should improve and get better the more that he plays, and we're going to need him as we go down through the conference slate."
With Cannon back and Doubs expected to be back against Hawaii, Nevada is down just two starters from its opening day starting lineup in Cooks, who is out for the season with a Lisfranc foot injury, and strong safety Tyson Williams, who injured his knee against Kansas State but has returned to practice and could play against the Rainbow Warriors.
Brian Ward changes locations
Prior to Nevada's game against Boise State, defensive coordinator Brian Ward moved from calling the team's defense from the press box to an on-field location. Norvell said that was done to improve in-game communication.
"We're just trying to find ways we can improve our communication and our adjustments on the field," Norvell said. "Brian has been both. He's been in the box and he's been on the field and in his tenure, and we just feel it was important he actually came down the Boise game and he's just able to communicate with all levels of the defense, the front, the linebackers, the secondary, making adjustments. You get a little bit of a feel for your kids when you're down there. I always liked being on the field when I was calling it, and I like being on the field now calling it.
"So much of the game is players and personalities and emotion and, 'Is a guy clear-eyed? Is a guy glassy-eyed? Does he have a faraway look?' You know, sometimes you've got a reel kids back in and sometimes you've got to call things to get them in the game and get them really feeling good and being aggressive, and I think Brian gets a feel for that being on the sideline."