University of Nevada football coming to Douglas High |

University of Nevada football coming to Douglas High

University of Nevada
Rykeem Yates (55), shown here on a tackle against Fresno State in 2014, is coming off a junior season in which he led the team with 10.5 tackles for loss in just nine games.
Steve Ranson |

Just past the midway mark of 15 spring practices allowed by NCAA rules, the University of Nevada football team will take its show on the road Saturday for two hours of live scrimmage work at Douglas High School.

The gates at Douglas High will open at noon and coach Brian Polian will speak to fans and answer questions from 12:15-12:45 p.m. The team will hit the field at 1 p.m. and select players will be available to sign autographs afterward.

“We’ll probably do more there in terms of scrimmaging than we will in the spring game,” Polian said. “We’ll do a lot of situations — red zone, kicking game situations, move the ball around, seven-on-seven pass skeleton and so on. We’re going to get two good hours of work in and we’re excited to be down at Douglas and spend some time with the fans there in the Carson Valley.”

Lotus Radio will do a live remote from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Scheels will provide free hot dogs, soft drinks and giveaways.

Polian said he was pleased with his team’s progress this week.

“I am pleased with our effort and pleased with our development at certain spots with our younger players,” Polian said. “The competition has been good. The guys are working hard. We ran 92 plays in our first scrimmage and Saturday will be the most extended scrimmage work we will do this spring.”

Saturday’s scrimmage at Douglas High’s Keith Roman Field will mark another opportunity for Wolf Pack players to show their development and compete for positions on the depth chart. Last week, the 92-play scrimmage gave Polian and his staff plenty of tape to work with and to begin their evaluations.

“It goes a long way in terms of establishing a first version of the depth chart,” Polian said. “Those reps are real live reps and we had officials out there throwing flags. It’s evidence. It’s a measuring stick. Frankly, it was probably better than it was at this time last year. I felt good coming off the field on Saturday.”

The public eye is squarely on the quarterback battle, where Tyler Stewart, Danté Mayes and Hunter Fralick are the front-runners to replace Cody Fajardo, a two-time team captain and one of only two players in FBS history (Colin Kaepernick being the other) to throw for 9,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards during his career.

Polian said a starter shouldn’t emerge until well into fall camp in August, and says the competition thus far has “been really good.”

“I very much like the way they are helping one another,” Polian said. “I like how they are cheering for one another. I like the way they are preparing.

“Overall, the competitions at some of the spots where jobs are open has been good and the places you expect to have veteran players. They have practiced like veterans.”

Polian highlighted the play thus far by running backs Don Jackson and James Butler. He noted sophomore wideout Wyatt Demps has had a solid spring so far, as has junior Brayden Sanchez.

Defensively, Nevada has a stout front returning, with senior ends Lenny Jones and Ian Seau leading the way. The linebacking corps is a veteran unit, with starters Jordan Dobrich, Bryan Lane and Matthew Lyons returning. Senior Faigofie (Fie) Faaituala has flashed so far this spring as well.

“Just like last year, it looks like we have four linebackers at three spots except instead of Jon McNeal, you have Fie,” Polian said. “That’s been a good position this spring. Duran Workman (moving to) the SAM nickel behind Bryan Lane has been a good move for him. It gets him closer to the box and there’s more of a comfort level for him.”

On paper, there are questions about the secondary where Nevada will be breaking in four new starters. And there might be a bump or two in the road as the Pack goes through that process.

“In terms of experience, we lost a bit,” Polian said. “Athletically, we may gain a little bit.”

Sophomore Kendall Johnson has moved from cornerback to safety and is vying for one starting job, while redshirt freshman Asauni Rufus is looking for the other. At corner, Randy Uzoma has stood out and fellow junior Elijah Mitchell had a strong performance in last week’s scrimmage. They’re joined by, among others, freshmen Elijah Moody and Ahki Muhammad.

“The safeties, they are both physically ready to play right now,” Polian said. “The thing is going to be, who is going to communicate and take charge? All four corners are playing well right now. Randy Uzoma is playing the best he’s ever played.”

The coaches will eye every position through the final practices of spring camp, including the Silver and Blue Spring Game on April 25 at Mackay Stadium in Reno.

Asked for one thing that sticks out right now, the third-year Wolf Pack coach didn’t hesitate.

“We’ve had some injuries on the offensive line and that’s been some bad luck … but we have to get that right tackle spot solidified,” he said.