Ault packs a punch in discussion
Nevada football coach Chris Ault came to Carson City and pressed a little flesh Wednesday night.
Ault made his yearly trek to Carson City, appearing at Dick Campagni’s Toyota Scion dealership. His appearance was part of a Chamber of Commerce mixer.
After the commerce festivities were done, it was all Ault, and the Hall of Fame coach was in vintage form as he addressed a group of about 50 Nevada football supporters.
Ault covered a wide range of topics, including moving to the Mountain West Conference, home attendance and the BCS. He was demonstrative and emphatic, and he even let a few swear words slip out. In other words, he was Chris Ault.
The veteran coach said that this is a different type of team that will take the field this year.
“This is one of a few teams in the last four or five years that doesn’t have a bunch of prominent players returning,” Ault said. “We’re going to be a lunch pail type of team. We’re going to have to play every game. It’s like I told the players, they all have a chance to play. Nothing has been established.
“With our defense, we should have been No. 1 in the league and we weren’t even close. We had (a lot of) guys coming back and we didn’t get it done.”
The Pack returns three offensive linemen, including two-time all-conference guard Chris Barker and offensive tackle Jeff Nady, the former Douglas High star.
“Three of five returning is really good,” Ault said. “Nady is a big guy (6-7, 310). He has a chance to play on Sundays. He’s very mentally tough. At center we’ll have either a red-shirt freshman or a sophomore. You hold your breath a little bit.”
A year ago, redshirt senior Tyler Lantrip started at quarterback, but the team sputtered and Ault turned the reins over to Cody Fajardo, who completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,707 yards and six scores. He also ran for 694 yards and 11 more scores.
“Cody had a nice freshman year and a great spring,” Ault said. “He’s got the best throwing mechanics of any quarterback I’ve had here, including Chris Vargas.”
Stefphon Jefferson is expected to carry the load this year after averaging 6 yards a carry a year ago. Nick Hale, a part-time starter last year also is back. Anthony Knight a red-shirt freshman lacks the experience, but is very athletic.
Then comes the position of concern for Ault – wide receiver.
“We lost six guys from last year,” Ault said. “Three graduated, two were eliminated from the program and the other blew up his knee. There is nobody established there.”
Brandon Wimberly, who was shot last year in an off-the-field in incident and missed the entire 2011 season, is back. Ault is expecting him to be a leader in the locker room and on the field. Zach Sudfield will start at tight end. The 6-7 Sudfield will be a nice target for Fajardo. Kendall Brock is probably the fastest player at Nevada, and Ault said he will play running back and wide receiver.
“We’re re-inventing the pistol offense,” Ault said. “We’re doing an awful lot of things we haven’t done before.”
The strength of Nevada’s defense might be its safeties – Marlon Johnson and Duke Williams. The latter ran a 4.45 recently. Johnson is returning for his third year as a starter. Khalid Wooten returns as one cornerback.
Brandon Marshall and James Michael Johnson have moved on to the NFL, and they were the best linebackers on the team.
“We have a lot of eager, young kids there this year (experience wise),” Ault said.
Senior Jeremiah Green, Albert Rosette and DeAndre Boughton are the starters. Green had 48 tackles last year, while Rosette played defensive end.
Jack Reynoso leads a deep albeit inexperienced group.
“In terms of depth this is going to be the best group on the team,” Ault said.
Yearly attendance, save for the UNLV and Boise State games, hasn’t been the greatest and Ault’s not happy about it.
“We’ve got to get that stadium filled up,” Ault said. “We have one of the best offenses in the country (despite the coaching). One community, one team. That’s a big thing. Half the team is on the field, the other half is in the stands. I’ve heard all the excuses about (kids) soccer, etc. I don’t buy it. We’re a good team. We win games.”
Ault was asked if playing new teams like Air Force, Wyoming and San Diego State every year instead of Idaho, New Mexico State and Utah State might boost attendance.
“It might help,” Ault said. “Certainly it won’t hurt us. You have to support your team. I think it’s about seeing us.”
Ault talked about the advantage of playing on national TV. The Pack has six national TV appearances next season, and nothing is worse than having a half-empty stadium or losing the game.
“The two teams that people want to see (in the MWC) are Nevada and Boise State,” Ault said. “You can’t believe what national TV games do for you; do for your program.”
The veteran coach said that moving to the Mountain West hasn’t changed recruiting – much. He did point out that he’d like to see more money given to the program which would enable assistant coaches to stay on the road longer. He said the Pack is the second-worst in the conference in terms of budget. He also would like to have an indoor facility built. He said they are the only cold-weather MWC team that doesn’t have an indoor facility.
And the BCS?
“I’m not in favor of a long playoff,” Ault said. “The coaches don’t like it, the kids don’t like it and it’s not good for academics. I like the plus-one system.
“The Big Ten and the SEC make the rules. They aren’t worried about anybody else. If I’m at Alabama, I’m taking care of myself.”