RENO — Nevada Football has continued to rack up the preseason honors ahead of the 2021 campaign, landing a total of 33 selections, including 15 to the first teams, on the Phil Steele and Pro Football Focus (PFF) Preseason All-Mountain West Teams.

The Pack’s 15 selections to the Phil Steele Preseason All-Mountain West Team shared the conference lead with Boise State and San Jose State, but its eight first-team selections far out-paced the field, being twice that of the next-best program (Fresno State, with four).

On the PFF teams, Nevada led the way in both overall selections (19) and first-team nods (seven).

Earning first-team honors for the Pack from both Phil Steele and PFF were quarterback Carson Strong, the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, alongside Romeo Doubs at both wide receiver and punt returner, defensive tackle Dom Peterson, and cornerback Berdale Robins.

Named to Phil Steele’s First Team were running back Toa Taua (PFF Second Team), tight end Cole Turner (PFF Second Team), and kicker Brandon Talton (PFF Third Team). Seeing their names on PFF’s First Team were center Tyler Orsini and linebacker Lawson Hall (Phil Steele Third Team).

Other members of the Wolf Pack recognized were offensive lineman Aaron Frost (Phil Steele and PFF Second Teams), punter Julian Diaz (Phil Steele Second Team; PFF Third Team), wide receiver Elijah Cooks (PFF Second Team; Phil Steele Third Team), defensive end Sam Hammond (PFF Second Team; Phil Steele Fourth Team), defensive back EJ Muhammed (PFF Second Team), offensive lineman Jermaine Ledbetter (PFF Third Team, Phil Steele Fourth Team), offensive lineman Jacob Gardner (PFF Honorable Mention), wide receiver Tory Horton (PFF Honorable Mention), running back Devonte Lee (PFF Honorable Mention), and defensive back Bentlee Sanders (Phil Steele Fourth Team).

The significant Wolf Pack presence on multiple 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. Nevada went 7-2 a season ago and captured the 2020 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl title with a convincing 38-27 victory over Tulane.

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.

Orsini, Frost, Gardner, and Ledbetter 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 was named All-Mountain West Honorable Mention, holding it down at his cornerback spot with an interception, five passes broken up, and 27 tackles. Muhammed nabbed an interception, with 3.5 tackles-for-loss and 32 total tackles a season ago, while Sanders, who transferred to Nevada following the 2020 season, had an interception and 25 tackles (2.5 TFL) for USF.

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. The Pack’s home opener takes place the following weekend, as it hosts Idaho State Saturday, Sept. 11, at 7:30 p.m.