Joe Santoro: Does it matter who Nevada Wolf Pack has at quarterback? | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: Does it matter who Nevada Wolf Pack has at quarterback?

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

Stop worrying about who, exactly, will become the starting quarterback for the Nevada Wolf Pack this season. The Wolf Pack will name a starter sometime this month among top choices Malik Henry, Carson Strong and Cristian Solano and he will throw for a lot of yards and touchdowns. And if the starter Aug. 30 doesn’t play well, the next quarterback in line will get a chance. We’re confident head coach Jay Norvell and offensive coordinator Matt Mumme will eventually find a solid, reliable, productive starter this season, whether that happens in Week One, Week Two or Week Whatever. The name of the quarterback isn’t important. It’s all about the offensive system. Moving the ball through the air is Norvell’s and Mumme’s specialty. It’s what they do well. It’s why they are in Nevada. That won’t change this year.

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Who will start at quarterback in the season opener Aug. 30 at Mackay Stadium against Purdue? After Norvell started true freshman Kaymen Cureton in the third game of the 2017 season while juniors David Cornwell and Ty Gangi stood on the sideline, well, the answer to that question is sort of like predicting the Northern Nevada weather. Solano, who was originally a member of former coach Brian Polian’s first full recruiting class in 2014, is the oldest (he’ll turn 24 in December). Henry is the most explosive. Florida State once thought he was their future quarterback. Strong, who came to Nevada in the spring of 2018, is the youngest but might have the biggest upside. The most important question concerning the quarterback position, though, is not who will start on Aug. 30. The most important question is who will start Sept. 28 against Hawaii for the Mountain West opener? The first four games against Purdue, Oregon, UTEP and Weber State just might be treated as a quarterback tryout camp.

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That 2014 recruiting class by Polian turned out to be one of the best the Pack has brought to the school in the last decade. Polian, who was hired in January 2013, only had a month to fill out his first official recruiting class in February 2013. So 2014 was really his first true class. And it was a work of art with such players as Wyatt Demps, Asauni Rufus, James Butler, Kelton Moore, Patrick Choudja, Korey Rush, Andrew Celis, Malik Reed, Elijah Moody, Ahki Muhammad, Kendall Johnson, Cliff Porter and Brandon Scott. Polian was brought to Nevada because of his reputation as a great recruiter. He didn’t disappoint in that department.

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Athlon Sports predicts that Henry will emerge as the Wolf Pack starter. Athlon also predicts that the Wolf Pack will finish 5-7 this year and out of a bowl game. The publication also ranks the Wolf Pack as the 32nd worst team (No. 99 of 130) in all of college football. One of Athlon’s staff writers predicts that Henry will be the top newcomer in the Mountain West while yet another predicts that Strong will be the top freshman in the conference. What do we know about Athlon’s predictions? Nobody will care about them after Aug. 30.

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Cureton and Solano, with one start each in their careers, are the only current Wolf Pack players who have started a game at quarterback in Division I. Running backs Kelton Moore and Toa Taua (one each) and Cureton (three), now a defensive back, are the only players on the current Pack roster with a Division I touchdown pass. But the Pack isn’t the only Mountain West team looking for a new quarterback. Boise State has to replace Brett Rypien and Fresno State has to replace Marcus McMaryion. And nobody is predicting Boise State or Fresno State to go 5-7. Quarterbacks come and go in college football. Boise State and Fresno State always find a solid quarterback because of their offensive systems and coaches. The Pack, with Norvell, Mumme and the Air Raid, will do the same.

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The best returning quarterback in the league is Utah State’s Jordan Love. If the Pack has yet to find a productive quarterback by the time it has to go to Utah State on Oct. 19, well, we advise all Pack fans to find something else to pay attention to that weekend. Love, though, isn’t the only experienced Mountain West quarterback to likely face the Pack this year. UNLV has Armani Rogers and Max Gilliam, Hawaii has Cole McDonald, Wyoming has Sean Chambers, San Jose State has Josh Love, New Mexico has Sheriron Jones and Air Force has Donald Hammond. San Diego State will have Ryan Agnew or, most likely, a new starter that will beat out Agnew for the job. Talented running backs are nice and the Pack has more than its share. But trying to beat most Mountain West teams (all except San Jose State, Air Force and New Mexico) with a running game is sort of like bringing a knife to a gun fight.