Jackson, Butler must carry the Wolf Pack football team | NevadaAppeal.com

Jackson, Butler must carry the Wolf Pack football team

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

Phil Steele, who publishes a college football preview magazine, doesn’t think too highly of the talent on the Nevada Wolf Pack. Steele named just one Pack player — linebacker Ian Seau — to his All-Mountain West first team. A total of 10 other Pack players were named to the second, third and fourth teams combined because, well, just about every player in the conference returning from last year with a heartbeat and two good knees gets named. But it was stunning that four important Pack players — running backs Don Jackson and James Butler, defensive lineman Lenny Jones and defensive back Duran Workman — were not named at all. The bottom line is that Steele’s pre-season teams have always been a joke and universities need to stop giving the magazine so much free publicity.

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Jackson rushed for 957 yards last year and Butler had 635. They just might be the two most important players on this year’s Pack team. Steele, though, thinks Jackson and Butler are each no better than the ninth best back in the Mountain West. Steele’s two first team (Fresno’s Marteze Waller and San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey) backs deserve that honor. But the other six backs named by Steele could have vacated their spot in favor of Jackson or Butler. San Jose’s Tyler Ervin ran for 888 yards last year. Boise’s Kelsey Young ran for 331 yards at Stanford last year and has never gained a yard in the Mountain West. Wyoming’s Shaun Wick ran for 753 yards. UNLV’s Keith Whitely ran for 528 yards. Air Force’s Jacobi Owens had 1,054 yards and New Mexico’s Jhurrel Pressley had 1,083 but all Air Force and New Mexico do is run the ball. Jackson and Butler are going to be running the ball with a gigantic chip on their shoulders this season.

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How sad is the quarterback situation in the Mountain West this season? Well, Steele named the Wolf Pack’s Tyler Stewart as his fourth team quarterback. Stewart has thrown just 37 passes in his college career and none since 2013. He also, by the way, might not even be the starter this season. That is why the quarterback situation at Nevada isn’t as important as it has been made out to be. Most every team in the conference has quarterback issues right now. That is also why Jackson and Butler are the two most important players on this Pack team. They will have to set the tone and carry this offense. The better they are, the better the Wolf Pack quarterback will be.

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The rumors have already started. Wolf Pack baseball coach Jay Johnson’s name (by Baseball America, no less) has been linked to a list of potential candidates for the Arizona Wildcats top job. Get used to it, Pack fans. This is what happens when you have young, successful head coaches who are still climbing the career ladder. The same thing will happen when football coach Brian Polian finally wins nine or 10 games. We have no doubt that Johnson would be successful at Arizona. But the job might be too big for his resume at this particular time. Johnson has been a head coach for just two years and hasn’t even been to a regional. Arizona is one of the premier programs in the nation. The Wildcats won the College World Series just three years ago. Those of us in Northern Nevada know Johnson is a great, young coach but he would be a difficult sell to the Arizona boosters right now.

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It turns out the NCAA selection committee might have done the Wolf Pack a favor by not picking the Pack for the baseball regional field. OK, just kidding. But just one team west of Texas (Cal State Fullerton) won a regional last weekend. The other 10 teams from the west, including No. 1 national seed UCLA, were a combined 14-20. All six Pac-12 teams failed to win a regional. If teams from the West want to start getting more respect from the NCAA selection committee, they better start winning regionals.

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One of the silliest storylines in this year’s NBA Finals is the matchup of the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry against the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the fact that they were both born in Akron, Ohio. Curry moved away from Akron before he was old enough to eat solid food. Curry’s father Del just happened to be playing for the Cavs when Stephen was born in March 1988. Del was then taken by Charlotte in the expansion draft a few months later and the Curry family moved out of Ohio. Curry, therefore, has only slighting deeper ties to Ohio than someone who was born in the Cleveland airport between flights. So don’t for a moment think the good folks of Akron will feel any sort of pride if Curry and the Warriors win the title over LeBron and their beloved Cavs.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are not allowing anyone who lives outside the state of Florida to purchase Stanley Cup Final tickets via the internet to the games played in Tampa. This is what happens when you put NHL teams in cities whose fans grew up following teams from other cities. The Lightning is scared to death that their arena will be filled with Chicago Blackhawks fans. It is a very real fear since Florida is filled with transplanted Chicagoans. The Lightning is also prohibiting fans wearing Blackhawks gear to sit in certain sections in the arena. This is why the NHL doesn’t belong in Florida in the first place. If you can’t fill up your own arena in the Stanley Cup Final you don’t deserve a franchise.

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Fans from opposing teams going on the road and filling up the stadium is an even bigger problem in college sports. If the Wolf Pack didn’t limit the amount of tickets available to the opposing team, Mackay Stadium would be filled with orange and blue when Boise State came to town. There would be a ton of red in the stands when Fresno State visited. And if Oregon ever came back to Northern Nevada, you’d see Mackay painted yellow and green from top to bottom.