Mike Bradeson is coaching the Nevada Wolf Pack defensive backs from the top to the bottom, from the head to the feet.
“The number one thing is confidence,” Bradeson said this week as the Wolf Pack began its summer practice schedule. “Those guys always get beat down mentally all the time, people telling them what they are doing wrong. You have to make sure their confidence is there before you do anything else.”
It’s all about confidence.
“Well, you have to have talent first but we have that,” Bradeson said. “The next thing is to get them thinking with confidence.”
The Pack’s confidence might be a little fragile right now. The Wolf Pack, after all, had the second worst pass defense in the nation a year ago. Opponents threw for 297.8 yards a game on the Pack secondary, not to mention 33 touchdowns.
“I just think they weren’t sure,” said Bradeson, who was hired last January to coach the Pack secondary after 14 years at UNLV. “They had two new coaches coming in (Bradeson and defensive coordinator Andy Buh). I just think they didn’t know what to expect.”
It’s obvious what the Wolf Pack expects this year out of its pass defense.
“We’ve been one of the worst pass defenses in the country the last two years,” head coach Chris Ault said. “We’ve just never played with any consistency back there.”
Consistency from the secondary will be needed this year because the top seven quarterbacks in the WAC return this year: Idaho’s Nathan Enderle, Boise State’s Kellen Moore, Utah State’s Diondre Borel, Fresno State’s Ryan Colburn, Hawaii’s Bryant Moniz, Louisiana Tech’s Ross Jenkins and San Jose State’s Jordan La Secla.
“We have to stop giving up so many big plays,” Ault said. “That has killed us the last two years.”
Bradeson, who also served as UNLV’s defensive coordinator for four seasons under head coach John Robinson, also coached the Pack secondary from 1986-91. He coached arguably the greatest Wolf Pack secondary in history that included Brock Marion, Forey Duckett, Xavier Kairy, Bernard Ellison and Reggie Robinson.
“That was the best secondary I ever coached,” Bradeson said. “And that includes my years at Boise State (1981-85), Cal (1992-95) and UNLV (1996-09). They just all bought into the team concept and played so well together.”
That is the same philosophy Bradeson wants to instill in this year’s Pack secondary. The Pack returns, among others, cornerbacks Isaiah Frey, Khalid Wooten and Doyle Miller and safety Duke Williams, who all played extensively a year ago. Gone, though, are senior safeties Jonathan Amaya, Mo Harvey and Cameron Bayne as well as cornerback Antoine Thompson.
“Losing those guys has created a lot of competition,” Ault said. “Everybody is going to have an opportunity to play. And that’s good because we need to develop some depth. I’ve always had the philosophy that competition makes everybody better.”
Newcomers Bubba Boudreaux, Dean Faddis and Corbin Louks should be able to give the Pack some depth in the secondary. Returners Marlon Johnson and Mose Denton are also clearly in the mix at safety.
“It’s time for those two guys (Johnson and Denton) to grab the bull by the horns and make strides in this program,” Bradeson said.
Boudreaux and Faddis were teammates last year at Palomar College (San Marcos, Calif.) while Louks is a former quarterback at Utah.
“They are both competitors,” said Bradeson of Boudreaux and Faddis. “They came in here (in the spring) and fit right in.”
Louks, Bradeson said, is one of the fastest players on the team.
“He (Louks) is a blank canvas because he’s learning a new position, he’s learning how to backpedal and to tackle,” Bradeson said. “But, being a former quarterback, he has a great view of what pffense like to do against defenses. He has a great idea what quarterbacks are thinking.”
Bradeson, though, is well aware of the Pack’s inexperience at safety at the Division I level. “We have to grow up in a hurry,” he said.
Ault is confident Bradeson can get this Pack secondary headed in the right direction.
“Mike knows the Nevada way,” Ault said.
Buh is also excited to have an assistant coach with nearly three decades of experience working with his defensive backs.
“His presence here eases my mind on our secondary,” Buh said last spring.