Nevada tight end Cole Turner runs a drill during the NFL scouting combine on March 3, 2022 in Indianapolis. (Photo: Darron Cummings/AP)
It’s doubtful, according to most every internet report, that Nevada Wolf Pack players Carson Strong, Romeo Doubs and Cole Turner helped their draft status in Indianapolis last week at the NFL Combine.
Doubs didn’t do anything, Strong did what he does best and just threw the ball and made friends and Turner tested in the middle or at the bottom of the tight end group.
Strong probably did the best of the three Pack players simply because he’s great in interviews and seems like a coach’s dream and can throw the ball 70 yards. Doubs didn’t work out at all for some reason and that certainly didn’t help him since it appears there were about 10,000 draft-worthy wide receivers at Indianapolis. And Turner, surprisingly, came off looking extremely average in all of his tests, even finishing 13th out of 13th tight ends with a 27-inch vertical jump. And this was a guy who made a name for himself in college jumping over the backs of cornerbacks. Every cornerback in the Mountain West, then, must have a vertical of 24 inches and below.
But, no need to worry about Strong, Doubs and Turner. All three will surely look like future NFL Hall of Famers at their Pro Day workouts at Mackay Stadium on March 21.
So, what did the NFL Combine mean as far as the draft is concerned? CBS Sports says Strong will be taken with the final pick of the first round by the Detroit Lions, even though the same web site also has a story naming him as a middle-round quarterback to consider. The Sporting News says Strong will be taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round while Walterfootball.com says Strong is going to the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round. By next month, after all the players flex their muscles at their carefully orchestrated Pro Days, it will all change again.
According to most mock drafts Strong is about the fifth or sixth most desirable quarterback, which leads one to believe that his name likely won’t be announced until at least the middle of the second round at the earliest. Doubs and Turner, it seems, shouldn’t expect to be called before the fourth round.
What is the best landing spot in the NFL for Strong? A team that doesn’t need him to play much in the next year or two would be nice. Strong is a NFL project and a huge mystery. He’s a definite first-round pick from the waist up but from the waist down he is a huge risk. The NFL also isn’t quite sure if Strong is simply a product of his college environment. Strong made a career out of throwing deep to Doubs down the sideline, lobbing the ball up high for Turner in the end zone and hitting a wide open third or fourth option because the defense was busy covering Doubs and Turner. He was in a pass-happy offense in a mediocre conference and throwing against awful defenses. The bottom line with Strong, after all the NFL draft dust settles, is whether or not he can move around I the pocket. If Strong can’t move in the NFL he can’t play in the NFL.
The Mountain West's Coach of the Year voting is almost always a joke. All the voters do is check the league standings and give the award to the first-place coach.
A coach who has finished first in the regular season has been given the award 19 times in the 23 Mountain West seasons. Two of the four times it didn’t happen was in 2017 when Nevada’s Eric Musselman won the league but lost the award to Colorado State’s Larry Eustachy and in 2013 when current Nevada coach Steve Alford’s New Mexico Lobos won the regular season but San Diego State’s Steve Fisher won the award.
The Coach of the Year award this year went to Boise State’s Leon Rice. Boise, of course, finished first but don’t tell that to the second-place Colorado Rams, whose coach Niko Medved out-smarted Rice twice in the regular season and beat him.
The two coaches who did the best job this regular season in the Mountain West were Wyoming’s Jeff Linder and UNLV’s Kevin Kruger. Wyoming, which finished 14-11 last season, is 24-7 this year and the No. 4 seed in the Mountain West tournament. Kruger, in his first year as UNLV’s head coach, has guided the Rebels to an 18-13 record this year and the fifth seed.
Nevada’s Steve Alford clearly did the least with the most talent in the league this season. Alford’s Pack was picked to finish third and ended up eighth with a 12-17 overall record and 6-12 in league play. Nevada point guard Grant Sherfield was picked as the Pre-season Player of the Year and ended up getting named to the All-Mountain West Third Team this week. The Pack had some minor injuries (Sherfield missed three games, Desmond Cambridge missed one and Warren Washington missed eight) but Alford never found a way in the regular season to get the roster to gel. Almost every player had a roller-coaster regular season without any sense of consistency. The result is that the Pack season will end this week if it falls short of a Mountain West tournament title.
One of the best coaching jobs in the state of Nevada this year was turned in by former Wolf Pack point guard Kevin Soares. Soares led Liberty High of Las Vegas to the Class 5A state title last month, beating Bishop Gorman 63-62 in overtime in a nearly empty Lawlor Events Center. Gorman, where Soares starred as a player in the 1980s, had won 41 games in a row and nine consecutive state titles. Soares, a Las Vegas native, is one of the best high school coaches in the nation and probably should have been courted by Nevada and UNLV numerous times in the past two decades. Soares, though, seems to be the ultimate high school coach because of his love of teaching and helping young players.
“I’m here to teach the game,” he said two years ago when he coached at Bonanza High in Las Vegas. “It’s always easier to go where there is talent and win games. But it’s a lot more fulfilling to do it with kids once you teach them the right way.”
Soares has coached the past two-plus decades at Foothill and Bonanza and just took over the Liberty program this year. “They’ve (Gorman) beaten everybody in the state for the last decade,” said Soares, who won a state title at Gorman as a player. “Now we know there’s another team in Nevada to reckon with.”
Soares, always a coach on the floor as a player, is one of the greatest players in Nevada and Big Sky Conference history. He averaged 10.9 points, 6.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 steals a game over his 116-game (1988-92) college career. Soares played for coach Len Stevens at Nevada and is still the Big Sky’s all-time leader in career assists (716), is third in steals (255) and was the conference’s Player of the Year in 1992.
Why would Pete Carroll, who will turn 71 years old in September, want to coach the Seattle Seahawks in a rebuild? The Seahawks, who made Carroll look like a liar or a fool by trading quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos this week, are now clearly the worst team in the NFC West behind the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals. How did the Seahawks make Carroll look like a liar or a fool? Carroll told everyone last week that the Seahawks had “no intention” of trading Russell Wilson. The Seahawks quarterback now is Drew Lock, who couldn’t even beat out Teddy Bridgewater last season in Denver. Carroll needs to go back to USC and make the Trojans relevant again. The Seahawks won’t be relevant for a while.
The national media, which fawns over quarterbacks, now believes the Broncos are a Super Bowl contender with Wilson. That may be true. Denver has an elite defense (thanks to fired head coach Vic Fangio) and they should be able to protect Wilson much better than the Seahawks ever did (427 career sacks). But also don’t be surprised if the Broncos struggle to make the playoffs in the AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, the Los Angeles Chargers have Justin Herbert and the Las Vegas Raiders have Derek Carr and new coach Josh McDaniels, who brings to Las Vegas Tom Brady’s playbook. Wilson was arguably the best quarterback in the NFC West with the San Francisco 49ers still confused about their quarterback depth chart, the Rams with right-place, right-time Matt Stafford and the Cardinals with overrated and moody Kyle Murray. Wilson will be 34 years old in November. He was hurt last year and had a season to forget. And the Broncos gave up a huge chunk of their future (reportedly five draft picks plus players) to get him.