Wolf Pack stressing defense | NevadaAppeal.com

Wolf Pack stressing defense

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

Nevada football coach Chris Ault is one of the most offensive-minded coaches in the country, but even he knows you don’t win championships without a top-notch defense.

With two weeks before the season-opener at Fresno State on national television, Ault is pleased with the progress his defensive unit has made.

That shouldn’t be totally surprising. Nevada returned the bulk of its starters from last year’s squad. They are a year more experienced, a year better, and in some cases, heavier.

“I like what I’m seeing with the defense,” Ault said before Wednesday’s practice. “I’ve spent more of my time with the defense, and I think we can be a good defense. I like players with energy.

“It’s better if the defense is playing with energy. It makes the offense better. Last year there was give and take (between the offense and defense), and then the offense took off.”

Justin Jackson has been playing well thus far, which Ault said doesn’t surprise him a bit. Jackson is currently No. 2 at free safety. Defensive end Ezra Butler has picked up where he left off last year, and he’s become a vocal leader this season, too. Ault said that inside linebackers Jason DeMars, who won the job late last year, and sophomore Josh Mauga have been solid at inside linebacker.

The top eight linebackers, inside and outside, have all started gamesfor the Wolf Pack at one time or another, and the secondary has four players that started games last year or in 2004. That’s the kind of depth that any coach likes to have on a football team.

While Ault is pleased with his defense, he’s been a tad disappointed with the performance of his offensive unit, which has most of the key components back with the exception of tackles Adam Kiefer and Tony Moll, running back B.J. Mitchell and wide receiver Nichiren Flowers.

“I thought we would have absorbed more of the offense from the spring,” Ault said. “There is new stuff in there, but they are subtle things.

“We need them (offensive line) to step up and be in charge. Some of the players we are developing have a chance to play right away.”

In last week’s scrimmage, the offensive line was inconsistent, and with Fresno State two weeks away, it’s not what Ault wants to see.

HIGH HOPES FOR PUDEWELL

Nevada didn’t complete a pass to a tight end in its first scrimmage, and Ault emphasized that the tight end is a key spot for the Pack.

“Defenses will dictate how we use the tight end and what you do,” Ault said. “(Anthony) Pudewell is a physical tight end. If he’s not the best (in the WAC), he’s one of the best.”

Pudewell caught 27 passes for 308 yards and two scores, leading to second-team all-WAC honors in 2005. Five publications have named him all-WAC first team. His best game was a four-catch, 55-yard effort against Idaho in a 62-14 win.

His main back-ups are Travis Branzell (1 catch, 7 yards) and Adam Bishop, who had seven catches for 48 yards and a TD.

TV EXPOSURE

As of now, seven of Nevada’s 12 games will be televised.

ESPN has picked up the Fresno State game (5 p.m.), and may pick up the Boise State game on Nov. 25. If ESPN doesn’t televise the BSU game, it will be shown on ESPN2. The Northwestern game on Sept. 22 will be shown on ESPN2 starting at 5:05 p.m.

The San Jose State game on Oct. 21 at 4:05 p.m. will be shown by ABC on a regional basis for the second straight year. The road games against Arizona State on Sept. 9 at 7:05 p.m. the Idaho game on Nov. 4 at 2:05 p.m. and the Louisiana Tech game at 5:05 on Nov. 18 all will be shown locally on KREN-TV.

•Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281