Coach Ault seeks results from new conditioning regimen
Editor’s note: Second in a series of Mountain West football previews.
Change is nothing new for University of Nevada football, or for coach Chris Ault.
During Ault’s 41 years at Nevada, as a student-athlete, athletic administrator and coach, he has seen the Wolf Pack compete on three levels of NCAA competition and in three conferences.
“Each time,” he says, “it’s been a great move for our university.”
Make that four conferences; this season is Nevada’s first in the Mountain West.
Conference affiliation, though, isn’t the only thing that’s changing.
Ault, already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, wants a leaner, meaner Wolf Pack this season. Nevada’s offseason conditioning program underwent a major overhaul.
“We put more competitive things in there, rather than just lifting (weights),” Ault said at the recent Mountain West media gathering in Las Vegas, Nev. “We did more things outside than we’d ever done during winter conditioning.
“It was more demanding. We’re a pretty demanding program, but it was more demanding from a competitive standpoint than it had been in the past. I’m anxious to see how that translates on the field.”
The Wolf Pack went 7-6 last year, including a 49-7 rout of New Mexico in Reno.
Better things, senior offensive tackle Jeff Nady said, are expected this year with sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo at the controls of Ault’s pistol offense.
“Absolutely,” Nady said, “and a lot of that (anticipated improvement) has to do with the guy under center – well, in the pistol he’s not under center.
“But Cody Fajardo’s a year older, and just to see how he’s been working. … With Cody back there and our offensive front, a full stable of backs, a senior group on defense, yes, I definitely believe that from last year to this year we’ve gotten better. Our spring was awesome, our summer workouts have been more competitive than ever, and I think we have a confident group going into two-a-days.”
Nady and senior guard Chris Barker, both preseason all-Mountain West selections, anchor the offensive line. On defense, nose tackle Jack Reynoso and safety Duke Williams are all-league picks.
But much of Ault’s tinkering with the offseason program was aimed at the defense, which allowed 30 or more points on five occasions.
“Our defense last year was the most complacent defense I’ve ever had,” Ault said. “We had seven defensive starters back and should have been one of the top defenses in (the Western Athletic Conference). … It cost us a championship.
“So, we’re trying to avoid that issue (this year).”
Ault isn’t standing pat on offense, either. After serving as his own offensive coordinator in recent years, he’s brought in Nick Rolovich – cut loose by Hawaii in the wake of a coaching change – to handle that job.
Rolovich hasn’t been hired to install the run-and-shoot, the offense he taught at Hawaii. But Ault wants him to incorporate some run-and-shoot principles into the pistol, the innovative and prolific offense Ault invented.
“He’s excited to learn (the pistol),” Ault said of Rolovich. “He’s intrigued by it and that’s good, because (assistants can) work on it themselves and come up with some fresh ideas. … So, that’s an exciting time.”
It’s an exciting time, as well, for Nady, who hails from Minden, Nev., population about 3,000. He’s the only athlete from his high school, he said, to have been awarded a full scholarship to an NCAA Division I football school.
A first-team All-WAC choice as a junior, he remains grateful for the opportunity.
“Coach Ault took a chance on me,” Nady said. “He said, ‘I’m gonna take a gamble on you, and you need to make me look good.’
“As much respect as I have for coach Ault, I wasn’t gonna make him wrong.”
Nady and Ault intend to make Nevada’s latest move, to the Mountain West, a right one.
— This article appeared on page D6 of the Albuquerque Journal