Preview 2017: UNLV Rebels
Breaking down, previewing and looking ahead to the 2017 UNLV Rebels.
What You Need To Know About The UNLV Offense
Veteran offensive coordinator Barney Cotton has the pieces in place, but now he has to make the offense more efficient and effective after averaging a mediocre 404 yards per game and doing next to nothing through the air.
Part of the problem was an injured receiving corps, but it should be stronger with a healthy Devonte Boyd leading a veteran group. The backfield is loaded with young talent for a ground game that averaged 5.6 yards per pop, working behind a line that gets back four starters. The season, though, comes down to improved quarterback play, hoping last year’s star recruit – Armani Rogers – is the main man, or needing Johnny Stanton or Kurt Palandech to do to more down the field.
Biggest Key To The UNLV Offense
The passing game has to be stronger to keep up the pace. The defense isn’t going to be a rock, and while the ground attack should be solid, the offense needs to throw for more than 2,000 yards – it didn’t do that last year. Accuracy was a problem from the three quarterbacks who saw time, combining to hit just 47% of their throws for 16 scores and ten picks. With healthier receivers and another quarterback option, there’s hope to do more. But no matter how this works, the Rebels need more touchdown passes after failing to throw for two scores in eight games.
What You Need To Know About The UNLV Defense
Awful down the stretch, the Rebels allowed 42 points or more in four of their last five games. There might be several big losses for a D that loses six starters including the top five tacklers, but the young guys have to be better, more aggressive, and far more productive.
The line might be the star early on, with three starters back including a decent rotation at tackle. CB Darius Mouton is the lone returning starter to a secondary that didn’t come up with enough big plays or big stops, and should desperately miss safeties Troy Hawthorne and Kenny Keys if the linebackers aren’t stronger. The Rebels are also going to miss Tau Lotulelei and Ryan McAleenan from the front seven, but they didn’t make quite enough impact plays. This year’s D has to generate more pressure and come up with more takeaways.
Biggest Key To The UNLV Defense
Stop … the … run. The defensive front didn’t crank out the sacks like it needed to and didn’t hold up well against any running style. Worse yet, the run D didn’t get any better, getting hammered by Boise State for 271 yards and six scores and by Nevada for 318 yards and four touchdowns in the final two games. The Rebels allowed 200 yards or more six times including five times in the last seven.
UNLV Will Be Far Better If …
The return game does something. Anything. It’s been a long, long time since the Rebels had a dangerous punt return game – 2010 was the last time they averaged over seven yards per pop – but they were particularly awful last year, netting -1 yard on 12 returns. On the flip side, kickoff returns were a plus over the last several years, but last season the Rebels averaged under 19 yards per try.
Best UNLV Offensive Player
WR Devonte Boyd, Sr. – For this season to work for the Rebels, QB Armani Rogers needs to play up to the hype and expectations, but for now, Boyd is the best offensive threat. The veteran missed the final few games with a broken arm, but he still came up with a team-leading 45 catches for 746 yards and four scores. The 6-1, 185-pounder have tremendous deep speed and good hands – when he’s in a groove, look out. Red hot before he got hurt, he was coming off of two straight 100-yard games before he was knocked out.
2. QB Armani Rogers, RFr.
3. RB Charles Williams, Soph.
4. RB Lexington Thomas, Jr.
5. OT Kyle Saxelid, Sr.
Best UNLV Defensive Player
CB Darius Mouton, Jr. – The 5-10, 170-pound veteran needs to rise up as the leader of a rebuilding defense. The leading returning tackler, he came up with 51 tackles along with a pick and a fumble return, but now he should be more of a playmaker when the ball is in the air, rather than a run stopper. He’s tough for his size, but with his speed, covering the top target is his job.
2. NT Mike Hughes, Sr.
3. CB Tim Hough, Jr.
4. LB Jacob Rominger, Jr.
5. DT Jason Fao, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Armani Rogers, RFr. – Last year at this time, Nebraska transfer Johnny Stanton got all the attention and excitement – he’s still in the starting quarterback mix. Kurt Palandech was the more effective option last year, and he’s in the race, too. The hopes for the season, though, are being pinned on the 6-5, 225-pounder from Los Angeles, with his combination of size, speed, and passing accuracy. If there’s going to be a resurgence of Rebel football, it starts with No. 1.
The UNLV Season Will Be A Success If …
The Rebels go bowling. The schedule isn’t all that bad, with winnable games against Howard, Idaho, San Jose State, Utah State, Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada. Win five of those seven, come up with an upset at home against a BYU and/or a San Diego State or New Mexico, and UNLV is bowl eligible for the second time since 2000.
Key Game To The UNLV Season
Oct. 14 at Air Force. It’s the lone road game in a good run to start the Mountain West season. The Rebels get three of their first four games and five of their first seven at home. Beating San Diego State would be nice, but if the Rebels can beat San Jose State, and assume a loss to the Aztecs, beating Air Force could be a must to stay in the conference chase.
2016 UNLV Fun Stats
– UNLV 1st Quarter Scoring: 69 – UNLV 2nd Quarter Scoring: 131
– Punt Return Average: Opponents 24 for 282 yards (11.8 average) – UNLV 12 for -1 yard (-0.1 average)
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 12-of-19 (63%) – UNLV 9-of-16 (56%)