After going 2-11 the year before his arrival, in Tony Sanchez’s first three years UNLV slowly improved, from 3-9 in year one, to 4-8, to 5-7. Last year looked like it could be the breakout season where the Rebels could make it back to a bowl for just the second time since 2000, but injuries and a conference that improved around them led the Rebels to fall back to 4-8.
Armani Rogers returns at QB after being injured for most of last year, as do most other starters on the offense, but the schedule is tough.
UNLV was a run-first team last year, especially after the mid-season injury to Rogers, but the top rusher, Lexington Thomas, is gone. The top returner is Rogers, a dual threat who almost had as many yards rushing as passing. Last year’s #2 RB, speedy Charles Williams, who averaged 5.1 yards per attempt returns as well. The line was a mess last year, but nine of the ten guys who started at least one game last year return and they should improve with experience and fewer injuries.
Rogers will be the option at QB, highly touted Cal transfer Max Gillam was far from impressive after Rogers’ injury. While Rogers is a running QB, he’ll have a lot of options to throw to, as the top four pass-catchers from last year are back.
Outside of Thomas pretty much everyone is back, including a speedy one-two punch at QB/RB between Rogers and Williams. This should be one of the better UNLV offenses in recent history.
The defense was… not great last year, letting up 6.5 yards per play. The two best players from the team do return though in seniors Javin White (two sacks, 4.5 TFL, four PBUs, four interceptions) and Gabe McCoy (four sacks, 9.5 TFL). McCoy will bolster the line, White the linebacking corps, but there isn’t too much talent around them. Redshirt Freshman Malakai Salu will start opposite White, Nick Dehdashtian, who missed last year with an injury, returns at the other end. Kolo Usaike is back at NT.
The secondary struggled mightily last year, but they will be more experienced with three seniors and a junior starting, and will hopefully deal with fewer injuries. A few JUCOs and true freshman Jamel Hamm add some depth.
UNLV dealt with injuries last year so while only five starters return on defense, a lot of the depth received playing time last year. There is talent on this team, especially on the line, and while this won’t be a great defense, they should improve.
Rogers is a potential star at QB, as is Williams in the backfield, but the schedule is rough, with the Rebels favored in only three games. This team has the talent to make a bowl run if the defense can show improvement, but the schedule might be too tough to make that a reality.
|Date||Opponent||opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|18-Oct||at Fresno State||51||-13.9|
|26-Oct||San Diego State||66||-5.1|
|2-Nov||at Colorado State||103||-5.5|
|23-Nov||San Jose State||116||7.2|
Average Projected Record: 4.3 wins, 7.7 losses (2.7 wins, 5.3 losses)