A new era of Nevada Wolf Pack football began Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m very excited and anxious to get going,” Brian Polian said minutes before his first spring practice as Wolf Pack head coach. “I’ve seen enough of that office. I’m excited to get out in the sunshine.”
The Wolf Pack will practice 12 times over the next month and conduct three Saturday scrimmages. All practices are closed to the public but the final two scrimmages -- on April 13 and 20 -- are open and free to the public at Mackay Stadium.
“We’re going to try and identify who the playmakers are,” said Polian, explaining his objective this spring. “We have to learn these guys.”
The Wolf Pack, which finished 7-6 the past two seasons under head coach Chris Ault, return seven starters on offense and five on defense from a year ago. They also return three coaches -- assistants Mike Bradeson, Nick Rolovich and James Spady -- from Ault’s 28th and final season as head coach.
“There is some security knowing we have the quarterback (Cody Fajardo) back and guys like Joel Bitonio (offensive tackle), Brandon Wimberly (wide receiver), Jack Reynoso (defensive line) and Jordan Hanson (defensive tackle),” said Polian, who coached Texas A&M special teams last season. “But we have to find out who the rest of the guys are.”
Although he didn’t mention them, Polian also already knows about returning starters like Matt Galas (center), wide receivers Richy Turner and Aaron Bradley as well as defensive ends Brock Hekking and Lenny Jones and cornerback Charles Garrett.
“Guys will always graduate,” Polian said. “Guys will always move on. That’s college football. I don’t have any comfort level about what went on last year because I wasn’t here. But it’s about the next man up. These guys were recruited here for a reach. We’re going to give them all a chance this spring. The fun part about spring football is seeing who the guys are that will be the surprises.”
One surprise that met the Pack on Wednesday was music blaring through speakers.
“I want to bring a little energy,” Polian said. “I got that from (Texas A&M coach) Kevin Sumlin. At first I didn’t like it but after a while I could see that it really does help. You put on a song that they like and you can see a little extra bounce in their step. I want to create a hectic atmosphere at practice and get it as close to a game-like atmosphere as I can. So It’s not just for giggles. There is a point to it.”
The Wolf Pack list 89 players on their spring roster, including 13 that were not on the roster at the end of last season.
One of the new players is former Wolf Pack basketball player Keith Fuetsch. The 6-foot, 190-pound Fuetsch, a senior this past basketball season, played football as a defensive back and wide receiver in high school at Bishop Manogue.
“If a guy can play Division I basketball athletically and not look out of place, there’s a chance he can help us,” Polian said. “I don’t know if he can play football but he just might be able to help us.”
Polian said Fuetsch will be listed as a safety but if he sticks on the roster most of his playing time will likely be on special teams.
“It would be great if he could help us out on a couple of units,” Polian said.
All of the positions, though, are technically wide open as Polian and his new staff get a look at their roster on the field for the first time.
“Right now the depth chart is more alphabetical than anything else,” Polian said. “But that doesn’t matter right now. After about six or seven practices we’ll get a better idea. Everyone will get a chance to show what they can do.”