Since the end of the 2008-09 season, there have been many questions surrounding the Nevada football team: Will Colin Kaepernick become more of a passing quarterback? What can the running game do with two premier running backs in the backfield? How is the secondary going to improve?
All those questions are just 28 days away from being answered when the Wolf Pack travels to South Bend, Ind., to face the most storied program in college football history in Notre Dame. But before the Silver and Blue face the Golden Domers on Sept. 5, it will go through one of its most anticipated fall practices, which begin today at Wolf Pack Park.
"I think the sky is the limit for this team," Kaepernick said. "Talent-wise, I don't think we've had more talent since I've been here. There's a lot of players that have the ability to make plays for us and they just have to step and do that."
The Wolf Pack returns eight starters on defense and seven on offense, with no single player having more pressure on his shoulders than Kaepernick.
The junior became just the fifth quarterback in college history to pass for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 more last season and has already been named to the Davey O'Brien Award pre-season watch list, which is awarded to the best quarterback in the country.
Nevada finished 7-6 overall and 5-3 in the Western Athletic Conference last season, good enough for second place behind Boise State. It also made its fourth consecutive bowl game appearance, where it lost to Maryland 42-35 in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl.
The running game, as usual, was a big part of the Wolf Pack's success despite the loss of all-conference back Luke Lippincott in the second game of the season. Lippincott tore his anterior cruciate ligament against Grambling State, but Vai Taua stepped in to run for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Lippincott was granted a sixth year eligibility and will team with Taua to further bolster the running game.
"Luke is an athlete, no question about it," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "Whether we put Luke at tight end, guard, defensive back, he's going to make a play."
Taua was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list, which goes to the best running back in the country.
But the biggest question of the 2009 season will again be the secondary.
Nevada ranked last in the FBS last season after giving up 311 passing yards per game. The stat wasn't aided by facing pass-oriented teams like Texas Tech and Missouri, who passed for 297 and 519 yards, respectively, against the Pack.
Ault made it clear, though, that the defense was his top priority this season.
"On the defensive side of the ball, we will be the most improved team in this conference," he said. "And that's a two-edge sword. We were a poor defense last year so there's a lot of room for improvement."