Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pre-Season Preview: UNLV Rebels

2009 Record: 5-7 (3-5 in Mountain West)
2009 Bowl: None
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Bobby Hauck (1st Year at UNLV, 80-17 at Montana)
Non-Conference Schedule: Wisconsin (9/4), at Idaho (9/18), Nevada (10/2), at West Virginia (10/9), at Hawaii (12/4)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 24.8 points per game (5th in MWC)
Rushing Yards/Game: 126 (7th in MWC)
Passing Yards/Game: 224 (4th in MWC)
Total Yards/Game: 351 (5th in MWC) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 32.4 points per game (8th in MWC, 103rd in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 220 (last in MWC, 112th in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 235 (7th in MWC)
Total Yards/Game: 456 (last in MWC, 115th in Nation)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: -0.25 per game (7th in MWC)
Penalties: 51 yards per game (3rd in MWC)

Returning Starters
Offense: 8
Defense: 7
Kicker/Punter: 0

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Omar Clayton, Sr (196 of 326 for 2230 yds, 13 TD, 12 INT, 202 passing ypg)
Rushing: RB Channing Trotter, Sr (114 carries for 541 yds, 9 TD, 4.7 ypc, 45 ypg)
Receiving: WR Phillip Payne, Jr (58 rec, 661 yds, 7 TD, 4.8 rec/game)
Tackles: DB Quentin Pointer, Sr (72)
Sacks: DB Quentin Pointer, Sr (2)
Interceptions: 3 tied with 1

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #103

2010 Pre-Season MWC Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #11

UNLV went 5-7 last year and posted the statistically worst defense in the Mountain West Conference. This year they have out of conference dates with Wisconsin and West Virginia and will be breaking in a new coach in former Montana Coach Bobby Hauck. We caught up with Jacob from the Mountain West Connection website to get his views going into the season. The last 5 coaches in Rebels history have left the school with a losing record, can Hauck change this?

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

The major strengths of team are the QB option and the defensive line on defense. Weaknesses are probably our offensive line's pass protection and our pass coverage on defense.  Our running game isn't very good because we don't have a great running back and we lost some talent to the NFL in our offensive line. We lost one of our all-time great Wide Receivers and our straight up passing game isn't very good. On offense, that leaves the option as our major strength. Our QB runs the option very well and we need to use that as an advantage. On defense our pass coverage is horrible and our cornerbacks and safeties aren't very good at covering the run. So that leaves our defensive line as our strength. We return a lot on the defensive line and they were stout when faced against the run last season. Their pass rush improved all of last year and hopefully that will carry over into this season. Our offensive weakness is our offensive line. Like I said, we lost some talent to the NFL on that line and at this year's spring game, they didn't look very good in their pass protection or run blocking. If we are going to play well this year that is definitely going to have to improve. On defense, our pass coverage is horrible when it comes to stopping a receiver from flying up the seams. We just can't seem to stay with him for some reason.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

Our first major test? Boy, we start the season off at home versus Wisconsin and then on the road at Utah. But I wouldn't consider those tests because those games will not test UNLV on what team they should be this year, they are not going to be a team defeating top 25 teams left and right. Their first test should probably come against Nevada. If they want to show that they're at least an Okay team, they're going to need to beat Nevada.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

What team on the schedule do I fear the most? Probably Utah. Most would have picked Wisconsin and that makes a lot of sense, but I'm not expecting much good to come out of that game. Because of the schedule order, I fear Utah the most because if we do not beat them, we probably will be down 0-2 to start the season and that is not a very good start to the season.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

The best player on the UNLV squad that nobody talks about is probably Michael Johnson. He is a Junior Wide Receiver that is second down on the depth chart. When people talk about UNLV, they barely ever mention this guy. He has great explosiveness and speed and can easily break away from man coverage, I see him possibly having a breakout season this year.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

Our best offensive player on the team is Omar Clayton, our QB. He is very speedy and has good decision making skills. We run the option for most of the time, so that definitely comes in handy. He does have good vision in the passing game, but sometimes he can be inaccurate. Other than that he's great. If he's throwing accurately, UNLV can be very tough to stop on offense.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

Isaako Auitui impacts our defense the most. He is a Senior Defensive End that has highlighted our defensive line for a while. He has a good bull rush and a good swim move. If he is having success in getting to the QB, he can open up opportunities for the other defensive lineman by commanding a double team. Auitui also does well in getting off blocks and wrapping up the RB.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

In order for this team to reach its full capacity, Channing Trotter, Alex De Giacomo, and Travis Dixon are going to need to step up their game. Channing Trotter is a streaky running back that needs to perform well in order to stretch the field for the passing game. Alex De Giacomo and Travis Dixon are the 2 starting Defensive Backs and they need to provide good zone and man coverage in order for UNLV's pass coverage to reach its fullest extent.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

I really haven't seen a offensive newcomer that could make a difference this season on offense for UNLV. Now in the coming years, that's a different story. I think in two years current Freshman Caleb Herring will be the starting QB and playing well. Herring looked great under Coach Hauck's new offense and seemed to have great vision.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

I think Defensive End Desmond Tautofi can make the biggest difference as a freshman this year. When the Starting Defensive end behind Auitui went down, the depth chart put Tautofi at the starting position. Tautofi shows a great bull rush and great run stopping as a defensive end. Since he will be the starting freshman on the team, I think he will be the defensive newcomer that makes the biggest difference.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

As a fan, you always want to see your team go undefeated. But I am realistic and know that won't happen this year. I see us either going 7-6 (4-4) or 6-7 (4-4) (we have 13 games this season). We should beat Colorado State, San Diego State, New Mexico and I think we will beat Air Force in an upset. In non-conference, I think we either beat Hawaii and Idaho or beat Hawaii, Idaho and Nevada. What makes this season successful to me is to get to a bowl game. The past two years, our head coach got us to 5-7 but couldn't quite get us over the hump to a bowl game. In Coach Hauck's first season, I think it would be successful if he finally got this team over the hump.

Next Up: USC Trojans

2010 Previews
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Michigan WolverinesMinnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
Conference USA- Houston Cougars
MAC- Temple Owls
Mountain West- Utah Utes
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans


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