RENO - Nevada linebacker Jason DeMars has been anxiously awaiting a chance for some serious playing time, and that time appears to be now.
DeMars, a transfer from Sacramento City College, had his best game of the season two weeks ago against Boise State when he finished with four tackles.
Nevada coach Chris Ault said earlier this week that he expects DeMars to see extensive action and could even start at inside linebacker on Saturday when the Pack visit New Mexico State in a crucial Western Athletic Conference football game.
"When I came up here, I knew I'd be sitting behind players that had been here," DeMars said. "All the linebackers are real good. It's a matter of who steps up (in practice).
"I'm getting better technique-wise. Coach (Ken) Wilson has taught me well; pretty much the whole game. I played a 4-3 in junior college, and linebackers had to be a lot faster because you have to play from side to side instead of staying pretty much in the box like we do now (in the 3-4). I love this defense. I've been working hard to improve."
Ault likes the way the 245-pound DeMars plays. He is the biggest Pack linebacker, and his presence is expected to help the run defense. He figures to be an improvement over the more experienced Jeremy Engstrom, who has struggled in the run defense this season. Engstrom averaged 8.1 tackles per game last season, but is only averaging four stops a game this year and had none against Hawai'i.
Inside linebacker play has been suspect this year. Approximately five weeks ago, the Nevada coaching staff had a "Come to Jesus meeting" with the group. No doubt feelings weren't spared.
Ault said the group has improved but could still be playing better.
"It's not where it needs to be, but we are getting more productive," Ault said. "We need to sustain that play for longer periods of time, especially against the run. We need to be in more of an attack mode.
"You have to step up and go toe-to-toe. I still think we're too inconsistent. We're not stepping up like we need to be. It's something they need to be doing in practice. That's where you are going to improve."
Two players who have played well in recent games are Roosevelt Cooks, who has started the entire year, and Scott Garrison, who played mainly outside linebacker last season.
Cooks had five tackles and a half-sack against Hawai'i, and he also forced Hawai'i quarterback Colt Brennan into some poor throws with delayed blitzing tactics. Garrison, albeit small for an inside backer at 5-11 and 230 pounds, finished with four tackles and a sack.
"Roosevelt has been playing well," said Tim DeRuyter, Nevada's co-defensive coordinator. "He's been a little inconsistent, but he's making big plays. The last few weeks, he (Garrison) has done a very good job."
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281
The DeMars File
Hometown: Sacramento, Ca.