The Nevada Wolf Pack program will certainly look a lot different in 2022. As we take a look at their top 10 returning players, it’s important to understand the wholesale changes this Nevada team has undergone since playing its final game a season ago. Gone is longtime QB Carson Strong as well as former head coach Jay Norvell. A ton of transfers have made their way to Reno, but equally as many have made their way out, following Norvell to Colorado State. Yet, their list of top 10 returning players outlines just how good some of their units should be this fall.
For each Mountain West team’s top returning players: Air Force | Boise State | Colorado State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Nevada | New Mexico | San Diego State | San Jose State | UNLV | Utah State | Wyoming
Top 10 returning players at Nevada
As the countdown to the regular season continues, as does our top 10 returning players series. We’re counting down all the top 10 players returning to action on every team — we’ll deal with transfers later — from Air Force to Wyoming, from Miami to Hawaii, and all in between. Here are the top returning players to Nevada.
10) Christopher Love, DT
Part of one of the better interior pass-rushing duos returning to the Mountain West, Christopher Love brings with him a high motor and plenty of athleticism. Love recorded two sacks a season ago but had multiple pressures on the quarterback opposite a star-studded pass-rushing unit. He is no stranger to disrupting the pocket or closing passing lanes with his reach in the trenches.
9) Isaiah Essissima, CB
With Berdale Robins gone, it’s likely that Isaiah Essissima finally gets his chance to show what made him such a highly recruited athlete and a two-year player at Wake Forest. He was able to show glimpses of that Power Five talent a season ago, recording an interception against Cal and multiple forced incompletions early in the year. Essissima’s ability will be tested with more reps, but from what he’s shown, Nevada should be in good hands with him outside.
8) Devonte Lee, RB
A great compliment to Toa Taua, Devonte Lee has paired with his running back counterpart for the past four years with great success. Lee and Taua are back for one final season and should be able to be counted on for more of the same. With 21 career rushing touchdowns, Lee has shown he can create plenty on his own, whether it’s using his open-field moves or his strength to bowl defenders over.
7) JoJuan Claiborne, S
In his first season as the starter at free safety, JoJuan Claiborne showcased an all-around ability in 2021. Claiborne recorded multiple highlight-reel plays in run defense as he closed off rushing lanes with good pursuit angles and sure-tackling. In coverage, Claiborne also displayed his range as he was able to make multiple plays on the ball with speed and good read-and-react ability. He’ll help anchor a very experienced secondary in 2022.
6) Brandon Talton, K
A perfect 52 for 52 on extra points last season, Brandon Talton has the accuracy to make all those “give-me” kicks you’d expect from a top-notch kicker. Additionally, he demonstrated the ability to hit from distance, making two field goals from 50 or more yards out in 2021. Talton finished 9 for 15 from 40 yards or further last season. He has hit on 17 total field goals of at least 40 yards in his career.
5) Tyson Williams, S
The Wolf Pack’s returning leader in interceptions, Tyson Williams recorded three interceptions and a pick-six a season ago. Williams also finished fifth on the team with 47 total tackles as he flew to the ball with great instincts and even better form. He did all this while missing a handful of games with injury. With a clean bill of health, Williams has shown to be an incredibly well-rounded asset to this Wolf Pack secondary.
4) Bentlee Sanders, CB
A former USF transfer, Bentlee Sanders made his name known in Reno in 2021. Manning the slot for the majority of the season, Sanders kept his receivers in front of him and stuck with a variety of pass catchers from tight ends to shifty running backs. He rarely allowed receptions to go for first downs and added great value in run defense from the edge.
3) Toa Taua, RB
With 3,000 career rushing yards, Toa Taua is one of college football’s most experienced players returning in 2022. Taua has scored 22 career touchdowns on the ground and done an amazing job of keeping the ball out of the defense’s hands by generating first downs and not fumbling. He has exhibited an all-around ability by hauling in nearly 1,000 receiving yards over his career as well. As he embarks on one final season, Taua has one more year to showcase his elusiveness and contact balance on the big stage as the team’s leader on offense this fall.
2) Aaron Frost, OT
With three seasons of starting experience under his belt, Aaron Frost is back for his fifth campaign along The Union. The longtime right tackle has 37 career starts, including 24 at right tackle and another 13 at right guard. He’s a terrific pass protector but dominates when he’s on the move in the running game. He didn’t quite get to showcase that as much over the past two seasons with the former system under Norvell, but things should change for the better with Ken Wilson as head coach. Frost is dominant and no stranger to planting first- or second-level defenders in the ground on the move.
1) Dom Peterson, DT
A candidate for first-team All-American honors, Dom Peterson may be the best player returning to the Mountain West this season. There isn’t anything he doesn’t do at an elite level, but he shines when rushing the passer. He recorded 5.5 sacks a season ago, and his presence was felt on seemingly every dropback.
The best part of Peterson’s game is his ability to play with an incredibly high motor, and his endurance allows him to pressure quarterbacks from the opening kick to the final whistle. Peterson has great hands and a terrific first step off the line that allows him to blow up the point of attack in the rushing game or penetrate the pocket with ease in the passing game.
Honorable mention players returning to Nevada in 2022
- Nate Cox, QB
- Jaden Dedman, CB
- Josiah Bradley, LB
- Jamaal Bell, WR
- Jacob Nunez, G