2009 UNLV Rebels Football Preview
2008 Record: (5-7, 2-6)
2008 Bowl: none
Coach: Mike Sanford (11-36 at UNLV, 11-36 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Todd Berry
Defensive Coordinator: Dennis Therrell
Other Key Returnees: LB Nate Carter, C Joe Hawley, S Terrance Lee, OT Evan Marchal, OT Matt Murphy, LB Ronnie Paulo, WR Jerriman Robinson, DT Malo Taumua, DT Martin Tevaseu
Key Losses: G Johan Asiata, WR Casey Flair, S Darryl Forte, DT Jacob Hales, CB Geoffery Howard, G Sifa Moala, DE Thor Pili, RB Frank Summers, TE Ryan Worthen
Nobody expected much of anything from UNLV last season. They only won two conference games, but the Rebels pulled off some pretty impressive wins over Arizona State and Iowa State. After three years of relatively unsuccessful play under Coach Mike Sanford, it appears that sticking with the coach for another campaign was the right thing to do. Now the goal is to get to a bowl game, but UNLV will have to navigate through a tough schedule in order to do so.
The offense has a whole lot of potential. Quarterback Omar Clayton can make plays with his arm and his legs when he is healthy and most of his favorite receiving threats are also back. Clayton hurt his knee late in the year and he has to be able to come back at full strength and lead this team. Before he got hurt, the 6-1 signal caller threw for 1,894 yards, 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions. It is that smart decision making that makes him so dangerous…although his strong arm is a bonus too. Receiver Casey Flair is gone, but Clayton has his top target, Ryan Wolfe, back. Wolfe caught 88 passes for 1,040 yards and six touchdowns a year ago and his senior season should be a good one. Phillip Payne is a great target in the red zone and Rodelin Anthony and Jerriman Robinson are both experienced receivers. It is on the ground where there are bigger questions. Frank Summers bowled his way for 740 yards and eight touchdowns during his senior campaign and now somebody has to try and replace the tank. Chris Brogdon, a 5-7 senior, is the most likely replacement, but players like C.J. Cox should be in the mix as well.
The defense was one of the worst in the conference last year, but with eight starters returning there is at least a little bit of hope for future success. The biggest concern is the loss of defensive tackles Jacob Hales and Thor Pili. Those two did not do a great job by any means, but they were experienced interior linemen who will be difficult to replace. The Rebels rarely got into the backfield as it was and the team has to find somebody who can consistently garner some sacks. That would help out the rest of the defense immensely. Jason Beauchamp will be the leader of the linebackers and Quinton Pointer has the potential to develop into a quality cornerback, but UNLV has to hope their recruiting classes over the past few years can fill some holes and provide some quality depth.
The Bottom Line for the Rebels:
This is a team that was one win away from being bowl eligible. And now they return eight starters on defense and enough talent on offense to turn into a consistent offensive force. If Summers can be replaced at running back and the defense uses their year of experience and improves, UNLV could reach a bowl game.
By Joel Welser
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