The revolving door that is the Nevada Wolf Pack backfield has taken yet another spin.
Head coach Brian Polian said this week that Chris Solomon has jumped ahead of Don Jackson and Kendall Brock and is the Wolf Pack’s new number one running back.
“Chris Solomon is the starting tailback,” Polian said. “If Kendall Brock and Don Jackson come back this week, that will be good for us. But Chris Solomon is the starter.”
Brock (knee injury) and Jackson (ankle) did not play in last Saturday’s 62-7 loss at Florida State. Solomon, a red-shirt freshman from West Covina, Calif., gained 108 yards on 26 carries against the Seminoles.
“He’s earned the right to be the starter,” Polian said. “I don’t believe in the old adage that you can’t lose your starting job because of injury.”
Jackson hasn’t played since a 58-20 loss to UCLA on Aug. 31 and Brock, who had 116 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-7 win over UC Davis on Sept. 7, missed last week’s game. Both are game-time decisions for this Saturday’s (5 p.m.) game at Mackay Stadium against Hawaii.
“Kendall is getting closer,” Polian said. “He had his knee drained and they took some fluid out and he’s already feeling better. That was a big test for getting him healthy.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound Solomon is tied with Brock for the team lead in rushing with 148 yards. The 19-year-old averaged over 10 yards a carry in his junior and senior seasons combined at West Covina.
“He’s overcome a lot and has come a long way,” Polian said. “At one point (last spring) he was fifth on our depth chart. He’s worked hard and earned this. More power to him.”
COMBS GONE FOR YEAR: Backup quarterback Devin Combs, who was pressed into duty last week at Florida State because of an injury to starter Cody Fajardo, will not take another snap this season for the Wolf Pack.
Combs, Polian said, suffered a serious knee injury in the first half against Florida State and will have season-ending surgery.
“I have an incredible appreciation of how tough he is,” said Polian, who added that the 23-year-old Combs suffered a torn ACL. “He played a couple of series on that knee. I told him at halftime how proud of him I was.”
Combs did not throw a pass or run the ball himself the final 6:31 of the second quarter. He was sacked with 7:52 to go in the second quarter on a play that Florida State defensive lineman Tim Jernigan was also called for a personal foul.
“At the time we thought it was a sprained knee,” Polian said. “His teammates appreciate the toughness he showed.”
“That showed his character,” Wolf Pack defensive lineman Brock Hekking said. “It showed what kind of guy he is. It is truly amazing he could do that.”
“When a guy does that it makes you not worry about all the little things,” defensive lineman Lenny Jones said. “You appreciate what guys like that do for you. It’s mind-blowing what he did.”
Combs, a junior from Oakdale, Calif., completed 6-of-9 passes for 37 yards and an 11-yard touchdown to Brandon Wimberly and ran for 39 yards on six carries against Florida State. The 6-2, 220-pound Combs led the Wolf Pack to comeback victories last year over Wyoming and UNLV when Fajardo was out with a hip injury. He has completed 36-of-57 passes in his career for 468 yards and five touchdowns and has rushed for 216 yards and a touchdown.
FAJARDO NURSING KNEE INJURY: Fajardo, Polian said, could return this week against Hawaii.
“The hope is he’ll play but there’s no guarantee he’ll play,” Polian said.
Polian said he knew by last Wednesday that Fajardo would not play against Florida State. The junior was held out of the Seminoles game because Polian was concerned that Fajardo could suffer a more serious injury. His fears were proved correct after Combs suffered a season-ending injury against the physical Seminoles.
“What is to be gained by starting a quarterback on a bad leg against that defense?” Polian said.
Polian, though, admitted that Fajardo might have played if the Pack played a Mountain West team last week.
“We would have debated it,” Polian said.
Polian added that Fajardo doesn’t have to practice much this week to get back into the starting lineup on Saturday.
“He just has to show that he can protect himself and is physically ready to play,” Polian said.
STEWART NEW NO. 2: Red-shirt freshman quarterback Tyler Stewart, who played the second half against Florida State after Combs’ injury, is the Pack’s new backup quarterback.
The 6-4, 215-pound Stewart completed 7-of-15 passes with one interception for 49 yards against the Seminoles.
“If Cody can’t go, it will be Tyler Stewart,” Polian said. “I trust Tyler. I’m not panicked about it. He’s got arm talent. He can throw the ball. He’s just young.”
Combs won the backup quarterback job over Stewart this summer, Polian said, because he made better decisions in the pocket and handled the speed of the game more efficiently.
“Tyler showed at Florida State that he has improved,” Polian said.
Polian said the Wolf Pack can win Mountain West games with Stewart.
“If he has to play, I feel comfortable with it,” Polian said. “We won’t have to cut the (offensive) package down much.”
The only other healthy quarterbacks on the roster behind Fajardo and Stewart are freshmen Dante Mayes and Dustin Treick. Both quarterbacks, though, are currently red-shirting this season and running the Pack’s scout team.
The 6-0, 180-pound Treick, from Novato, Calif., is being converted from defensive back this season. The 6-2, 175-pound Mayes, from Pittsburg, Calif., though is the first choice to become the No. 3 quarterback this season.
“That’s fluid,” Polian said. “I don’t want to burn his red-shirt year but we might have to.”
HAWAII MISSING COACH: The Mountain West has suspended Hawaii special teams coach Chris Demarest for Saturday’s game at Mackay Stadium because of inappropriate conduct on the sideline during the Rainbow Warriors 33-14 loss to Oregon State two weeks ago.
Polian, a former special teams coach, said the suspension could be a big loss for Hawaii.
“You might see places where that might not mean much but, from my experience, when I was at Stanford and Notre Dame, I was running the show (on special teams). I don’t know how his loss will affect the team. We’ll just have to see. I’ve never seen that (a special teams coach suspended for sideline conduct) before.”
Demarest was charged with domestic assault in July 2007 for an incident at a bar with his girlfriend while he as an assistant coach at Rutgers. The charges were later dropped after he completed an anger and stress management program. The 48-year-old Demarest, though, resigned from Rutgers in March 2008 and did not coach that season. He resurfaced as a high school coach and athletic director in 2009 and then coached in college at Tiffin in 2010 and at East Stroudsburg in 2011 and has been at Hawaii since 2012.
Strength coach Gary Beemer will take over Hawaii’s special teams duties on Saturday.