Nevada spring wrap

2009 overall record: 8-5

2009 conference record: 7-1

Returning starters

Offense: 9, defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Vai Taua, WR Brandon Wimberly, TE Virgil Green, OL John Bender, DE Dontay Moch, LB James-Michael Johnson

Key losses

OL Alonzo Durham, LB Mike Bethea, S Jonathon Amaya

2009 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)

Rushing: Vai Taua*, 1,345 yards

Passing: Colin Kaepernick*, 2,052 yards

Receiving: Brandon Wimberly*, 733 yards

Tackles: Jonathon Amaya 89

Sacks: Kevin Basped 9.5

Interceptions: Khalid Wooten* 2

Spring answers

1. Defense, defense, defense: Most of the Wolf Pack’s struggles in recent years have come on the defensive side of the ball, but newly named defensive coordinator Andy Buh and safeties coach Mike Bradeson were hired to fix that. Their influence was shown during the spring game when the defense kept the first-team offense out of the end zone.

2. Diversifying the offense: Nevada led the nation in rushing last year and returns a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, but coach Chris Ault spent the spring trying to get more balance from his offense. The receiving corps has all three starters back and junior college transfer Rishard Matthews and grayshirt Aaron Bradley impressed this spring. But quarterback Colin Kaepernick has to finally show the control he’s worked on for the past three seasons.

3. James-Michael in the middle: With middle linebacker Mike Bethea lost to graduation, All-WAC linebacker James-Michael Johnson moved from the outside to the middle spot. To make up for the loss of Johnson on the outside, junior college transfer DeAndre Boughton has come in and prove he could be the go-to guy at that spot.

Fall questions

1. They want balance, but can they achieve it? For the past three seasons, Nevada has been trying to add a consistent passing game to its already stellar running game. We all know Kaepernick has a gun, but harnessing it hasn’t been easy. And with the strength of the running game, he hasn’t had to throw much. However, the lack of a passing game hurt the Wolf Pack against Boise State and SMU, so that will be a top priority in the fall.

2. Not-so-special teams: Nevada has not returned a punt for a touchdown since 2001 and has not returned a kick for a score since 1998. The Wolf Pack have not had a big-time return man, but might have found one in junior college transfer Rishard Matthews, who led all junior college players in punt returns last year.

3. Defense is still a question mark: Yes, the defense improved this spring, but Buh isn’t ready to declare it fixed. It’s easy to go against your own offense, but the Wolf Pack won’t know what it has until it plays in real games. The defensive line and linebackers looked good this spring, but the secondary, which has been one of the worst in the country the past couple of years, is still suspect.