If you’ve been keeping up on UCLA-themed previews of the Nevada Wolf Pack, you’ve likely heard the name Cody Fajardo on multiple occasions.
And for good reason. The junior QB for Nevada turned in a wildly successful 2012 campaign, accounting for nearly 60 percent of the Wolf Pack’s total offense. Folks, that’s nearly 4000 yards for a single player, with Fajardo earning 2786 yards through the air and 1121 yards on the ground.
There are vices here, though, as there usually are with high-performing QBs in mid-major conferences.
In the context of competition, Fajardo did turn in his best performances against Mountain West teams. His highest single-game rating? That was a 195.4 against a bottom-feeding Hawaii squad. Most yards in a game? That’d be 304 in a loss to San Diego State. Most rushing yards in a game? That’s 186 yards in a November win over lowly New Mexico.
This isn’t to discredit Fajardo’s performances, though. After all, Fajardo did turn in a 327-yard (ground and air) performance against Cal, and did manage to score four total touchdowns against Arizona. Fajardo has swagger, to be sure.
But he didn’t play a team of UCLA’s caliber last season, and we’re not so sure how he’ll respond to a road game in Los Angeles. We’re not too sure he’s faced a front-seven like UCLA’s, and we’re pretty damn sure he’s yet to play against the linebacker corps like the one UCLA currently boasts.
That’s not to say he won’t perform at that high of a level. Fajardo could, in fact, be smart enough to target UCLA’s young defensive backfield. Fajardo could, if he wanted to, toss the ball over that aggressive front seven and find himself some breathing room afterwards.
But if he doesn’t? Nevada’s, I’m sorry, screwed.
Because while Fajardo might be a good QB, no good QB could be expected to survive the onslaught of UCLA’s front seven after the departure his top-two running backs (the starter having produced around 33 percent of Nevada’s offense last year). Further, no good QB should be expected to thrive a season after their coach, the architect of the pistol offense, decided to retire from college football. Sure, the offensive coordinator stays, but there’s no guarantee that the system stays exactly the same.
Again, Fajardo’s got a wide range of talents; let’s not allow this to get lost in all of the uncertainty surrounding him. He didn’t complete 67 percent of all his passes last year for 20 touchdowns to just nine picks purely due to the system surrounding him. He didn’t run for six yards per carry and score 32 total touchdowns last year because he’s a system quarterback.
But the external factors are going to be tough to overcome for Fajardo. Not only does he have to produce against what is arguably the best front seven in the Pac-12, but he’ll also be asked to be brilliant, perhaps even flawless, now that his coach and his running back are gone.
He could do it, though. Fajardo could become great, and could follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Colin Kaepernick. It’ll be tough, but it’s not impossible.
For now, this is all just speculation. The game kicks off the season on August 31 at the Rose Bowl, and we’re curious to see if Fajardo’s the real deal.