By Neil Patrick Healy
Next year will be full of great storylines for the Wolf Pack. Here are some of my major ones to look forward to.
Fralick not only wins the starting job, but excels
Cody who? Nevada football has a new face of the program and that is redshirt freshman quarterback Hunter Fralick. The quarterback battle will continue into fall camp, but the local sensation took a big step forward in the spring.
The young quarterback faced the formidable Nevada defensive line in the spring game, but didn’t get flustered. Fralick stepped into the pressure and completed passes with ease.
Playing the redshirt freshman early will set the course for the future. Junior Tyler Stewart will likely start the season, but Fralick will take over mid-season. If the questionable offensive line can keep the redshirt freshman off its back long enough, Fralick can make plays. Wide receivers Hasaan Henderson and Jerico Richardson will make the young quarterback’s life a little easier with their big-play ability. Pair them with running back duo Don Jackson and James Butler and Fralick can lead this offense. Expect Fralick to see the field sooner than later.
Fenner will fulfill his potential
Nevada guard D.J. Fenner came into the program with the hype machine on full blast. The 6-foot-6 Seattle product was rated as a three-star prospect with incredible athletic ability to run the floor, but so far has not lived up to the billing. Going into his junior season, some are quick to label him a bust, but they’d be wrong. Fenner is going to thrive next season.
A combination of poor shooting (35 percent from the field and 21 percent from the three point line) and a slow tempo offense has limited Fenner’s ability to contribute in his first two seasons, but new head coach Eric Musselman has vowed to turn up the pace of the offense. This vow will resurrect Fenner’s college career because his speed and length will make him a focal point to lead fast breaks.
Pitching will surpass bats in 2016
Nevada baseball is an offensive juggernaut this season, but a majority of that productivity comes from the senior class and junior Ryan Howell, who may take his talents to the pros. That won’t affect Nevada’s win total, but those wins will come differently. The strength of the team will be the pitching staff, which will make them more of a threat in the postseason.
Nevada’s pitching staff boasts an ERA of 3.69. With all but two pitchers returning next season, this staff should only improve. Freshman reliever Jojo Romero has a 2.76 ERA and is projected to join the rotation next season. Left-handed pitcher Cooper Powell was the 2014 Nevada Gatorade player of the year and will earn a role in the starting rotation.
The offense will be lead by outfielders Trenton Brooks and Cal Stevenson, who are both underclassmen hitting around .360. Add freshmen DH Jordan Pearce hitting .280, and the offense will give this pitching staff enough run support to win games.
Nevada’s pitching will make it more of a threat come postseason. In playoff baseball it’s about pitching, and Nevada will have plenty. The program’s recent success will force bigger programs to give coach Jay Johnson a call. Johnson will be courted so much he will learn what it feels like to be a pretty girl at a bar who all the guys flock to.