Tormey high on Nevada's chances as football opener nears

Updated: August 6, 2003, 11:33 PM ET

RENO, Nev. -- Nevada Coach Chris Tormey opened fall football camp Wednesday with a team he says is the best in his four years with the Wolf Pack, who are seeking their first winning season since 1998.

"I think a winning season is definitely achievable this year," said Tormey, who's team has improved each year at Nevada, 2-10, 3-8 and 5-7 last year.

"I felt like that last year but we came up a little bit short. In order to do that we are going to have to win the close games that we weren't able to pull out a year ago," he said.

"If we take care of business early, we'll have a chance to compete later in the year for a WAC championship."

The optimism is based in part on the return of junior running back Chance Kretschmer, who missed most of last year with a knee injury after leading the NCAA in rushing as a freshman with 157.5 yards per game, as well as a veteran offensive line and deep receiving corps led by senior Tim Fleming.

An improving defense is led by defensive end Jorge Cordova, preseason pick to win the Western Athletic Conference's defensive player of the year award.

Overall, 18 starters return from the squad that tied for fourth in the WAC last year at 4-4.

"A lot of it is speculation at this point. We haven't played a game yet," Tormey told reporters Wednesday at a new $2 million, lighted practice facility.

"But if you just look on paper, you'd have to say we are a much more experienced and a much deeper team than we've ever been," he said.

Jeff Rowe, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Reno's McQueen High, opens fall camp as the leading candidate to replace last year's senior quarterback Zack Threadgill, Tormey said.

The former Idaho coach said his team has made "steady progress" each of the past three years.

"Obviously in the fourth year of the program, most of the players that are in the program right now were recruited by us," Tormey said.

"So I think the expectation is that we will show significant improvement over last year and I think that we will," he said.

Players practiced in helmets without pads on Wednesday.

Kretschmer, who rushed for 1,732 yards in 2001, is showing signs of a full recovery from knee surgery but will see limited contact before the season, Tormey said.

"He looked like the same old Chance to me," the coach said after Wednesday's practice.

Nevada opens the season at home Aug. 30 against Southern Utah with a 7:05 p.m. kickoff under new lights at Mackay Stadium.

The Wolf Pack play a pair of Pac-10 teams on the road this year, Oregon Sept. 6 and Washington Oct. 11. They open the conference season at San Jose State Sept. 18 then host SMU Sept. 27 followed by UNLV Oct. 4.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index