Wolf Pack to have new starters at LB in 2022

Published: Aug. 21, 2022 at 6:06 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Starting from scratch.

“What we’re trying to bring to (the linebacker) group is a sense of physicality and an ownership of effort to the football and doing your job every single snap,” said Nevada Football Linebackers Coach Mike Bethea.

This year’s unit will need to replace all of its regular starters from a season ago, and there’s a brand new coach to tackle the project.

“My biggest thing is to build depth right now,” said Bethea. “We have to find our first two, then our second two, then our third two. That’s the biggest goal coming out of fall camp is finding consistency and depth.”

Bethea, a former Wolf Pack linebacker himself from 2008-2009, is grooming his group. 15 players make up the linebacker corps - dominated by young guys and transfers.

Bethea expects the quarterbacks of the defense to get the rest of the defense in the right place, and to lead by example.

“It’s a clean slate for all these guys,” Bethea said of new opportunities. “They’ve been really excited about the opportunities to play. Whether we had starters who have been here for three years that are still here or not, I’m excited to come back and coach a position I played here and set the standard for these guys.”

One player looking for an increased role is junior Naki Mateialona. Number 36 has been watching extra film and asking coaches questions to better understand his responsibilities.

“I want to accomplish being a starter, but also since we’re a young group having everyone on the same page so if someone messes up someone else will know what to do,” said Mateialona. “Help them on whatever we need help on so we can all progress as a group.”

The last couple of seasons Nevada has rolled out two linebackers in its starting 11, but Bethea, who also serves as the team’s co-defensive coordinator, says rotations and snap counts will depend on the game plan for each opponent.

Nevada’s season opener is Aug. 27 at New Mexico State.