RENO — The Athlon Sports Preseason All-Mountain West Teams came out and Nevada boasted a conference-best 15 selections and six players earning seven first-team nods.

The Pack, which went 7-2 a season ago and captured the 2020 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl title with a convincing 38-27 victory over Tulane, paced the conference in first-team selections, with six players earning seven selections. Quarterback Carson Strong, the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, headlined the First Team offense alongside the conference’s leading receiver in 2020, Romeo Doubs, its top tight end, Cole Turner, and offensive lineman Aaron Frost.

Defensive back Berdale Robins represented the Pack on the defensive First Team, while kicker Brandon Talton headlined the first-team specialists, with Doubs earning his second selection as the team’s punt returner.

Four Nevada players were tabbed to the Second Team, with the defensive trio of defensive linemen Sam Hammond and Dom Peterson, and linebacker Lawson Hall being joined by punter Julian Diaz.

Running back Toa Taua, wide receiver Elijah Cooks, and center Tyler Orsini earned third-team nods, while Union member Jacob Gardner was named to the Fourth Team.

The significant Wolf Pack presence on Athlon Sports’ Preseason All-Mountain West Teams signals the strength of Nevada’s returning squad, which will feature one of the most explosive offenses in the country.

Strong, the conference’s top offensive player and the quarterback of the All-Mountain West First Team in 2020, paced the Mountain West in passing yards (2,858), passing touchdowns (27), completion percentage (70.1), and ranked in the FBS top 10 in completions per game (27.7, second), passing yards per game (317.6, seventh), completion percentage (seventh), and touchdown passes (ninth), while coming in 11th in passing yards. He also finished the year with an interception rate of just 1.13, throwing just four picks over 355 attempts.

Doubs, Turner, and Cooks will all be among Strong’s targets in 2021, with Cooks eyeing a return to action after missing all but a half of the Pack’s 2020 campaign. Doubs and Turner shared the Mountain West lead with nine touchdown catches apiece, with Doubs’ conference-best 1,002 receiving yards making him the loop’s only 1,000-yard receiver. Doubs also claimed the punt-returner spot on the All-Mountain West Second Team, averaging 9.1 yards per return.

Turner, tabbed to the 2020 All-Mountain West First Team, finished second on the team in receptions (49) and receiving yards (605), ranking 10th among all Mountain West receivers with 67.2 receiving yards per game.

Cooks was Nevada’s leading receiver in 2019 with 76 catches for 926 yards and eight touchdowns, but had his 2020 campaign curtailed by an injury in the Pack’s season opener against Wyoming.

Taua, a selection to the 2020 All-Mountain West Second Team, led the Pack with 675 rushing yards on 114 carries, with four touchdowns, while catching 31 balls for 214 yards and another score.

Frost, Orsini, and Gardner anchored The Union, Nevada’s offensive line, as it opened holes for Taua and provided the protection for Strong and a Wolf Pack offense which averaged 30.8 points per game, 46th nationally.

On the defensive side of the field, Robins highlighted the Pack selections on Athlon’s team. Last season, Robins was named All-Mountain West Honorable Mention, holding it down at his cornerback spot with an interception, five passes broken up, and 27 tackles.

Hammond, Peterson, and Hall, all selected to the 2020 All-Mountain West Second Team, were key figures on a Wolf Pack defense which ranked 42nd nationally in total defense, allowing just 377.7 yards per game. Hammond, (32 tackles, 4.0 sacks, and 7.5 tackles-for-loss), Peterson (team-leading 4.5 sacks with 7.0 tackles-for-loss, 27 tackles), and Hall (team-best 65 tackles and 8.5 tackles-for-loss, 3.0 sacks) were also instrumental in a Nevada rush defense which allowed just 138.1 rushing yards per game, 36th-best in the FBS.

Talton and Diaz, named to the 2020 All-Mountain West First Team and Honorable Mention, respectively, provide Nevada with arguably the top specialist unit in the conference. Last year, Talton earned his second all-conference nod, leading the Mountain West in field goals made (15, in 18 attempts), ranking second with an 88.2 success rate, and going 28-for-31 on PATs. Diaz, in his first season handling the Pack’s punting duties, averaged 46.3 yards over 23 punts, with a long of 76. He had 11 punts of 50-plus yards, with 11 landing inside the 20, against just one touchback.

Nevada opens the 2021 season Saturday, Sept. 4 at California, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. on FS1.     

he Pack’s home opener takes place the following weekend, as it hosts Idaho State Saturday, Sept. 11. Kick time for the home opener will be announced at a later date.

Nevada 2021 Athlon Sports Preseason All-Mountain West Selections

First Team

QB Carson Strong

WR/PR Romeo Doubs (selected at WR and PR)

TE Cole Turner

OL Aaron Frost

DB Berdale Robins

K Brandon Talton

Second Team

DL Sam Hammond

DL Dom Peterson

LB Lawson Hall

P Julian Diaz

Third Team

RB Toa Taua

WR Elijah Cooks

C Tyler Orsini

Fourth Team

OL Jacob Gardner