Coming off a 7-6 2019 campaign, Nevada football is gearing up for a busy off-season.
The Pack has little time to enjoy what was a positive season for the program, as coaching vacancies have manned the headlines of late.
Prior to the team’s appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Nevada announced that defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and assistant coaches David Lockwood and Mike Chamoures will not return for the 2020 season.
“Jeff, David and Mike have made significant contributions to our program and I’m appreciative of their efforts with the Wolf Pack,” head coach Jay Norvell said in a press statement. “We are moving forward in a new direction, and we are preparing for the bowl game at this time.”
Casteel, Lockwood and Chamoures each served under Norvell during his first three seasons with Nevada. Lockwood was the secondary coach while Chamoures coached the Wolf Pack’s safeties the past two seasons.
Nevada ranked 107th, 63rd and 75th in total defense over the past three seasons according to sports-reference.com’s college football statistics. The Wolf Pack surrendered an average of 400.3 yards per game to opposing teams this season.
Norvell replaced the vacancies with three interim defense coaches for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Jody Sears, John Landwehr and Josh Brown were brought on to halt Ohio’s explosive offense.
Sears inherited the defensive coordinator position for the bowl game. He totaled a 24-54 record over his seven-year head coaching career with Weber State and Sacramento State. Sears also served as the defensive coordinator at Eastern Washington, Washington State and Weber State.
Brown was the linebackers coach at Sacramento State from 2007-08 and served as Cal Poly’s defensive coordinator from 2011-18. Landwehr spent four seasons with Nevada during his coaching career as a graduate assistant from 2016-18.
An official decision hasn’t been made on the three defensive coaching positions, but more change on the sidelines has taken place.
Former Nevada offensive line coach Angus McClure was hired as the offensive line coach for the University of California on Friday, Jan. 10. McClure coached three seasons with the Wolf Pack, serving as a tight ends coach in 1996 and offensive line coach from 2018-19.
Nevada struggled in the trenches last season. The Wolf Pack rushed for just 3.4 yards per carry—its lowest mark since 2000—and allowed 33 sacks.
Nevada’s offensive line featured new faces throughout the season. Senior left tackle Jake Nelson suffered a season-ending broken arm injury on Sept. 30, 2019, forcing McClure to shift players between the tackle and guard positions.
Despite the recent struggles, McClure was a focal point in recruiting and assisted in enforcing an intimidating presence up front. Nevada found a replacement for McClure, in former Rice University assistant coach Bill Best. The news was first reported by Nevada Sports Net reported on Friday, Jan. 17.
Best served as the tight end’s coach with Rice the last two seasons. Before his tenure at Rice, Best was the offensive line coach and run game coordinator at Stephen F. Austin. He also was the offensive line coach for two years at Central Arkansas and spent seven seasons at West Texas A&M.
Best has plenty of experience in the trenches for Nevada. He inherits a young offensive line that is returning next season.
Nevada also lost former special teams coach Tommy Perry to the University of Texas-San Antonio, reported by Adam Rittenburg of ESPN.
Perry spent three seasons with the Wolf Pack, his last two as a full-time assistant. Nevada saw immediate success under Perry’s tutelage last season. Kicker Brandon Talton was named second-team All-Mountain West and earned midseason All-American honors.
Former Arkansas-Pine Bluff special teams coordinator Thomas Sheffield is expected replace Perry’s position with Nevada, reported by Adam Rittenburg of ESPN.
Sheffield spent three seasons with Arkansas-Pine Bluff from 2017-19. During his tenure, the Golden Lions ranked 28th in the nation in kickoff return defense, holding opponents to 18.1 yards per return. Sheffiled also emphasized an efficient kicking unit. Kicker Jamie Gillan earned first-team All-SWAC honors in 2018.
Sheffield joins a Nevada special teams unit that ranked 125th, 88th and 86th in ESPN’s Football Power Index special teams rankings.
The latest hiring came on the heels of the news regarding Sheffield. Adam Rittenburg of ESPN reported that Nevada is set to hire Brian Ward as the Pack’s new defensive coordinator. Ward previously served as the defensive coordinator at Syracuse from Jan. 2016 until Nov. of 2019.
Nevada opens the 2020 year against UC Davis on Aug. 29 at Mackay Stadium.
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.