Three days prior to the Nevada Wolf Pack’s season opener at Northwestern against the Wildcats, the team head coach Jay Norvell gathered his roster and single out one particular position: the linebackers.
Norvell showed a video clip of Nevada Wolf Pack’s linebackers from previous season. The players weren’t attacking nor playing downhill and the Nevada linebackers weren’t playing like above average players in the position do. Moreover, the head coach let the linebackers watch another film of opposing linebackers from the most recent season attacking the Northwestern Wildcats offensive front and having success. The right set of circumstances to succeed against the Northwestern was attainable if only the Wolf Pack’s linebackers were aggressive.
The Nevada linebackers did just that in the season opener, with a most unanticipated figure piloting the attack. That college football player was Austin Paulhus, a senior player at Nevada who didn’t have a single Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) scholarship offer coming out from high school and only had one such offer following a couple of standout seasons in junior college. For starters, FBS is the top level of college football in the United States and is the most competitive subdivision of NCAA Division I, which itself consists of the largest and most competitive schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
“He [Austin Paulhus] played well,” said Jeff Casteel, Nevada’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. “He was active and made some good contact. There are things he still needs to clean up, but he played really well for us.”
Paulhus, who was named the Nevada’s defensive player of the week against Northwestern, has waited a long time to make a significant impact at the FBS level.
Nevada Wolf Pack’s offer to Paulhus didn’t come until March – after national signing day – and he was according to the facts a blueshirt. Meaning Paulhus had walk on over the summer and get a scholarship that fall. After redshirting back in 2015, Paulhus was largely a reserve in the previous season, starting a total of three matchups at the end of the 2016. Coming to this all-new season, linebacker was one of the biggest concerns on the football program. After Norvell tested the linebackers in front of the team prior to the season opener game against the Wildcats, the starting three showed up, completing 28 tackles, four tackles for defeat and a sack.
Paulhus had 11 tackles in the first half of the season opener, tallying with Sewell on a sack on Wildcats’ first run. Paulhus also had a pass breakup and added four second-half tackles as the Wolf Pack’s defensive line attempted to hold firm after being on the gridiron for almost 40 minutes.
The challenge will be even more demanding this week against the Toledo, which averaged 38 points per game in 2016 and ranked in the top 10 in the FBS in total offense.