Photo by Kaitlin Oki / Nevada Sagebrush
By Alexa Ard
Saturday’s Silver and Blue scrimmage marked the last taste of football Nevada fans will get until the Aug. 30 season opener.
The Cody Fajardo-led Blue team prevailed 12-10 over the Silver team in a defensive-minded game. The game brought a close to the three-week spring camp. With the close, a feeling of hope emerged from the coaches and players for the upcoming season.
Fajardo completed 11-of-18 passes for 112 yards and scored a rushing touchdown. However, with his injury history, the backup quarterback position will be vital this season.
Head coach Brian Polian noted improvements in signal callers Tyler Stewart and Danté Mayes.
“Tyler Stewart had a good last week of spring,” Polian said. “Dante had a rough Wednesday, but I really think he bounced back today. And that’s really going to continue into the fall when we add Devin Combs to the mix it’s going to be a great competition.”
Combs is still rehabbing from a torn ACL and meniscus from last season.
Polian also praised four of the team’s safeties — Duran Workman, Kaodi Dike, Nigel Haikins and Teré Calloway.
“I’m very pleased,” he said. “That’s one position in particular you can point out in the spring and say, ‘where were you 15 practices ago, and where are you now?’ And I feel much, much better 15 practices in about the safety position. So that is one of the highlights of the spring, those four guys.”
A huge question mark entering spring camp fell on the defensive end with Scott Boone entering his first season as the defensive coordinator, replacing Scottie Hazelton. Last season while at William and Mary, the 25-year coaching veteran guided the Tribe’s defense to No. 8 in the country.
Linebacker Jonathan McNeal noted that the coaching style between Hazelton and Boone is similar, with the main difference being in the coaches’ terminologies. Even with the new defensive coordinator added to the mix, McNeal believes that the biggest difference in the team is experience.
“There’s a lot of people that played last year that didn’t have that much experience, so we got a year under our belt to get better,” McNeal said.
AREAS TO IMPROVE
Although Polian noted that this was a bigger and stronger team, there is still always room for improvement. The head coach is determined to have his players in “phenomenal” physical shape come August.
Nevada will have an eight-week summer camp, with building cohesion and chemistry being the focal points.
“I’m going to train with the staff here, and then probably go home and train with my linebacker coaches back home,” McNeal said. “I don’t really have a summer. It’s just school and football, that’s pretty much it.”
Wide receiver Hasaan Henderson had a strong spring game, catching six passes for 58 yards on Saturday. The former quarterback also completed a 30-yard pass off a double reverse to Don Jackson. Henderson noted a different area that he thinks the team could improve in as a whole.
“I would say our leadership, all-around leadership,” Henderson said. “A lot of the time when things go bad we tend to yell at each other instead of uplift each other, and if we can get that down, we’ll have a lot more confidence in each other.”
Henderson is tasked with filling the shoes of wide receiver Brandon Wimberly, who has mentored him since graduating.
“As a wide receiver he taught me a lot about my routes, how to be confident in my hands, and really I learned how to build a trust with a quarterback,”Henderson said.
Polian’s family was in town for a bit of the spring season, including his father, Bill Polian, who was the general manager that built the Super Bowl teams of the Buffalo Bills and the Indianapolis Colts. Bill Polian had some advice for the Wolf Pack about critical efficiency, respect for teammates, along with other areas of the game.
“I don’t like it when he uses the same words I do because then the players wonder if I’ve ever had an original thought,” Brian Polian joked. “But I think hearing the message from somebody like him drives it home, and I’m very lucky that I have a loving father who’s also an expert in what I do, and he’s helpful. So we appreciate having him around.”
The work Nevada has put in during the spring has given the team a glimmer of hope but its true fate will be decided come fall.
Alexa Ard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.