The so-called biggest issue facing the Nevada Wolf Pack football team this season isn’t really an issue at all.
“We’re all pulling on the same rope and in the same direction,” new Wolf Pack offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich said.
See? Nothing to worry about. The marriage of head coach Chris Ault and his new offensive coordinator is going to be a match made in football heaven.
“I’ll still be very involved a great deal,” Ault said. “I will add my two cents when I think I need to.”
Oops. Better keep the receipts for all those wedding gifts.
“I came here to coach the quarterbacks and that’s what I intend to do,” said Rolovich who, understandably, seemed to grow a bit tired of all the questions last spring about how well he expects to get along with his new boss. “That’s my job. Everything else will be a learning process to see how we all fit together.”
It’s the “everything else” that everyone else is concerned about.
Ault, it’s no secret, isn’t known for turning his precious quarterbacks and his offense over to someone else for long stretches of time. Oh, he’s given the title to someone else at times down through the years but nobody who has watched more than five minutes of Wolf Pack football since 1976 has really ever believed that the offensive coordinator for the Wolf Pack was someone other than the Little General himself.
You bet he’ll be involved. And you can forget about his two measly cents. When Ault chimes in with some friendly and helpful advice this year you can bet he’ll slam a hundred dollar bill on the table and everyone else will fold.
“We’re all going to have input,” Ault said. “The plays we call will be the result of everyone agreeing on what we should do.”
Actually, there really is nothing to worry about. Honest. Ever since Ault took over the program in 1976 — to nobody’s surprise he was his own first offensive coordinator back in the Bicentennial season — the Pack has had a great offense. Not good, mind you. Great. That very first year they set a school record for passing attempts, completions and yards as well as total yards.
The Pack will have a great offense as long as Ault is on the sideline, no matter if Wolfie or Ryan Radtke or Cary Groth becomes the offensive coordinator.
So relax. This is not an overly important issue. The Pack certainly has larger concerns — the front seven on defense, for example — as it heads into its first Mountain West season.
What’s the absolute worst-case scenario concerning this out-of-the-blue Rolovich-Ault union that was forged last February? Well, the worst scenario is that Ault continually overrides Rolovich’s play-calling suggestions and by the fourth week of the season Rolovich rips off his headset in anger and storms out of the press box never to be seen or heard from again.
So what? Ault would just officially take over the play-calling responsibilities and the Wolf Pack offense wouldn’t miss a beat.
See? Nothing to worry about at all.
But what is the best-case scenario? Well, that could be something wonderful. And it’s the reason why Ault revitalized his offensive coaching staff after last season’s Kraft Fight Boredom 7-6 campaign.
The best case scenario takes care of Wolf Pack football for the next decade and beyond. The hope is that Rolovich turns into the football protégé that Ault has always dreamed of. Ault knows he isn’t going to coach forever. OK, maybe another 15 or 20 years but not forever. And until last February, he was the only coach on his staff that really knew anything about the complexities of all the facets of the pistol offense.
Ault doesn’t like to admit it, but the pistol is Chris Ault now and Chris Ault is the pistol. The pistol is what everyone who lives outside the McCarran circle knows him for. Chris Ault is also Nevada football which, in turn, makes Nevada football the pistol.
So, before last February, if you took away Chris Ault, the pistol would have gone with him. And, therefore, Nevada football, as we now know it, would cease to exist.
Ault wasn’t going to allow that to happen.
Enter the young man from Hawaii.
“I came here understanding the pistol is who Nevada is,” Rolovich said, quickly squelching any fears that the Wolf Pack was going to adopt that goofy Hawaii pass-happy hardly-ever-run-and-almost-always-shoot attack he spent the last four seasons perfecting. “It’s exciting for me to come here and learn it. It is a wonderful opportunity for me.”
You bet it is. If all goes well, Rolovich could turn into one of the great offensive minds in the country. Imagine his playbook in a few years with all of the Hawaii run-and-shoot craziness combined with all of the options the multi-faceted pistol attack offers. No coach in the nation would have so much knowledge from which to draw upon.
That, Pack fans, is the best case scenario. An offense that will be impossible to stop. An offense that would dominate college football. An offense that would be a combination of the pistol, the run and shoot, the wishbone, the west coast offense and the wing T.
And Rolovich is Professor Ault’s first and, hopefully, last pupil. You don’t think Ault will turn his football program over to a defensive guy when it comes time to finally retire, do you?
“I’m so excited because we are now looking at everything we do and see if we can make it better,” Ault said. “We now have another set of eyes and ideas that we can add to what we do.”
The pistol is about to celebrate its eighth birthday. Last year was the first since 2006 that it produced fewer average points per game than the year before.
“People have adjusted to it,” Ault said. “We know we can’t just sit back and just run the same things. We know we still have to grow this offense and we will.”
Rolovich is Ault’s quick pistol pick-me-up.
“The difference is that Nick is a former quarterback,” said Ault of the former Hawaii quarterback who once threw for 543 yards and eight touchdowns against BYU. “He’s going to see things different than an offensive line coach (such as Ault‘s pistol helpers Cameron Norcross and Chris Klenakis in past years). I’m excited to have that input.”
Make no mistake, there are doubters among us. Can Ault truly turn his offense over to someone else? Will he do his best to make sure nobody sees any run-and-shoot goofiness in his precious pistol offense? Will he truly use Rolovich’s knowledge?
But be patient.
“Yes, we have to find that comfort level between me and Nick,” Ault said. “I have to figure out his comfort level with the offense first of all and how much I can help him.”
Remember one thing. Rolovich is in Nevada to learn the pistol. Ault didn’t bring Rolovich here to learn the run-and-shoot. Ault didn’t invent the pistol and earn national praise only to scrap the idea for some Division I-AA offense of the 1980s.
“You’ll recognize some of the Hawaii offense,” Ault said. “But, remember, they went to the Pistol last year, too.”
“We didn’t call it the pistol,” Rolovich admitted.
And, you can be sure, Ault will never call what happens this season the run-and-shoot.
“We’ll throw it more than we have in the past few years but not like that (like Hawaii),” Ault said. “We’re still a running team first. But we’re going to use the passing game to help our run game. Most teams do it the other way around. We’re going to take our running game to another level because we’re taking our passing game to another level.”
The Xs and Os shouldn’t be a problem between Ault and Rolovich. Ault is an encyclopedia (OK, world wide web) of offensive football and Rolovich is more than excited to tap into that knowledge.
“Nevada’s offense and Hawaii’s offense are at opposite ends scheme-wise,” Rolovich said. “But the mentality is the same. There is the same aggressiveness to make plays. Both offenses also do the same things in certain spots on the field. So there are probably more similarities than people think.
“The main thing is that both offenses give the quarterback a lot of options on one play. You have an answer for whatever formation the defense is in on every play. That’s the similarity between the two offenses. Both offenses give you an answer to whatever the defense is trying to do.
“What I love about the pistol is that it puts players in places where they can succeed. And both offenses do that. The formations are different but the goal is the same, to give players answers for what they see out there.”
The only possible friction between Ault and Rolovich is how well their two (Three? Four? Five? Six?) personalities work together. And that remains to be seen. We won’t know the answer to that until the bullets start flying this season and we might not know the answer until we see if Rolovich appears on the sideline again in 2013.
So stay tuned.
“When (Bobby) Petrino was here (in 1994) I probably let him call 70 percent of the plays,” Ault said. “When (John) Pettas was here (from 1978-87) it was probably around 60 percent. What that figure turns out to be with Nick all depends on how much he learns this offense and his comfort level. I’m sure Nick will depend on me quite a lot at the beginning. But it will be a constant give and take.”
Ault is stepping into new territory this season and it’s not only because he has relinquished his offensive coordinator and quarterback coaching duties. He’ll also be able to stick his head into the defensive huddles on the sideline now because he doesn’t always have to concern himself with the mental stability of his quarterback. So he’s also going to have to find that comfort level with defensive coordinator Mike Bradeson as well as Rolovich.
“I’m coaching the coaches now and they are coaching me,” said Ault, who also has a new offensive line coach (Darren Hiller) and running backs coach (Larry Lewis) this fall.
“We’re starting from scratch. We’re stripping it down and starting over. It’s fun and exciting. We’re all learning together.”
Let the learning begin.
“I don’t want yes people around me,” Ault said.
Rolovich, you can be sure, didn’t come to Nevada to quietly fade into the background. But, don’t worry, he’s also not going to suggest that the Pack coaches start wearing Hawaiian shirts during home games.
“It’s going to be a learning process for me,” he said. “Coach Ault is going to be very conscious of my learning curve and he’ll see how well I pick things up.
“I didn’t come here with all guns blazing but he’s tempered me a little already. And that’s good. I have to learn what they’ve been doing here before I can start adding things. But that will come as soon as I’m ready.
“But, no, I’m not here to put the Hawaii stamp on this offense.”