Two games into the Nevada football truncated 2020 season, quarterback Carson Strong’s growth and leadership have already taken center stage.
The redshirt sophomore has paved the way to Nevada’s impressive 2-0 start with wins over Wyoming and in-state rival UNLV. Strong leads the Mountain West Conference with 770 passing yards at a 75.9 completion percentage. His six touchdowns and 182.9 passer rating also place second in the conference.
Strong has filled the stat sheet up to this point and could garner recognition for the Mountain West Player of the Year award when the regular season ends. However, his impact under center goes beyond his eye-popping numbers.
He steps up confidently in the pocket and trusts his receivers. Each throw downfield is placed with pinpoint precision and accuracy. His calm, yet confident demeanor is the driving force guiding the Wolf Pack offense.
Strong was trusted to the fire last season as a redshirt freshman. The struggles he endured instilled a diligent work ethic to improve heading into this year. It’s still early, but he’s showcasing just how special he can become when given the opportunity.
“Carson has been really sharp and that’s the way he’s been practicing,” head coach Jay Norvell said. “You see the growth in him, and I think he has a chance to have a great year.”
Heading into his second season under offensive coordinator Matt Mumme’s air-raid system, Strong’s leadership and poise can take the Wolf Pack offense to new heights. His assertiveness is easy to spot as soon as he steps foot onto the field.
“I’m really confident in myself and I’ve kept that same mindset,” he said. “… I’ve learned a lot from last year and know I can lead this team to where we want to be.”
Along with his character to lead a potent Wolf Pack offense, Strong has showcased a much- improved arm. He’s averaging 9.7 yards per attempt, a drastic increase from just 6.2 a year ago. His downfield throws have opened up Nevada’s scheme with large chunk plays that puts opposing defenses on its heels.
Strong credits his vigorous offseason routine to improve his deep ball accuracy, and it’s paid off handsomely to this point. Nevada has three plays of 50-plus yards this season, all of them courtesy of Strong’s ability to stretch the field with accurate deep throws.
“It’s the number one thing I’ve been working on in quarantine with my dad,” he said. “It was something I wanted to improve upon. I love making big plays, and I left a lot of yards on the field out there last year. … I’m just going to get better at it, we can start hitting those consistently.”
As the season progresses, Strong will continue to improve as the Wolf Pack’s leader under center. He soaks in each practice to gain a further understanding of ways he can get better, both on and off the field.
“I’ve been gaining more reps every day and executing in practice,” he said. “I’ve been doing it in practice for months now, and I kept questioning myself if I could do it in a game. So it feels good to be doing it for real.”
Strong has the tools and talent at his disposal to take Nevada to a potential Mountain West Conference Championship appearance. Wide receivers Romeo Doubs, Elijah Cooks, Melquan Stovall and tight end Cole Turner give him plenty of options downfield. Running backs Toa Taua, Avery Morrow and Devonte Lee have offered balance to the run game, as well.
Nevada’s offense is quickly coming together, and Strong is at the helm of the attack. If he continues his impressive growth and performance to the season, it will be hard to ignore his numbers when it’s all said and done.
“I’m looking forward to him having a whole year under our system and he has the weapons to use,” Norvell said. “I can’t say enough about him and how much he’s helped our team.”
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Isaiah__Burrows.