2011 UNLV Preview - Offense
UNLV RB Tim Cornett
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - UNLV Rebel Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The Rebels tried to run away screaming from the old spread attack, but the idea of going to a power offense with finesse players failed finishing with the nation's third-worst offense while averaging a mere 18.38 points per game. The key problem was an offensive line that wasn't built to smack anyone around, and now it's being rebuilt to try to be more physical for a promising group of young speed backs. The receiving corps has plenty of weapons to spread the ball around, with Phillip Payne the main target, so the big question will be the quarterback. Caleb Herring is a promising, talented passer, but he'll be pushed for the job by JUCO transfer Sean Reilly.
Star of the offense: Sophomore RB Tim Cornett
Passing: Caleb Herring
28-56, 365 yds, 4 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Tim Cornett
144 carries, 546 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Phillip Payne
40 catches, 689 yds, 5 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: The entire offensive line
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore QB Caleb Herring
Best pro prospect: Senior WR Phillip Payne
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Cornett, 2) Payne, 3) Herring
Strength of the offense: Speed Backs, Receiver Options
Weakness of the offense: Proven Production, Blocking
State of the Unit: The UNLV passing game simply didn't work last year. Mike Clausen got the initial call, got beaten up by Wisconsin, and almost never saw the light of day again – except as a free safety - with Omar Clayton taking over. While Clayton goes down as the school's most experienced quarterback, it's not like he got the attack moving. Consider the Rebel quarterback situation an addition by subtraction.
Sophomore Caleb Herring is a talented pure passer who doesn't quite fit the old style of offense that Bobby Hauck wanted to run, but he should be able to do more for the air attack. 6-3 and 190 pounds, he's a tall, thin winner who took his high school team to back-to-back California state high school championships. While he's mobile, he's not going to be much of a runner. The key will be to limit the mistakes after completing 28-of-56 passes for 365 yards with four touchdowns and three picks in a limited, garbage-time role.
Coming into fill the gaping hole at backup is JUCO transfer Sean Reilly out of Saddleback College. He threw for 2,425 yards and 26 touchdowns with six interceptions, and with 6-4, 210-pound size and a tremendous arm, he should be able to step in whenever needed and push the ball down the field. He'll battle with redshirt freshman Taylor Barnhill, a 6-4, 220-pounder out of Texas with a big arm and decent mobility. He'll get his chances this fall, but he's likely the third option in the mix.
Watch Out For … Herring. There will be plenty of picks and there will be plenty of mistakes, but he's a great-looking prospect who was a fantastic get for the program. While the coaching staff says the starting job is open, it'll be sink-or-swim time with Herring.
Strength: Talent. UNLV has had some decent quarterbacks over the years, but the trio currently battling for time is as good and as deep as the program has had for a long time.
Weakness: Experience. Herring got some mop-up duty, and Reilly saw JUCO time, but the offense is trying to figure out what it's doing and the quarterbacks are trying to feel their way through. Don't expect miracles.
Outlook: It'll be a bumpy road for a little while and there will be more mistakes than big plays early on, but the passing game has three live passers who'll push the ball down the field and will upgrade the offense … eventually. It's a common theme for the 2011 Rebels, but the situation will be far, far stronger next year after a season of experience.
Unit Rating: 5
State of the Unit: The Rebel running production was helped a little bit by the quarterbacks – a little bit – and while most of the top backs return, more is needed. No. 2 rusher Channing Trotter is gone after running for 236 yards and one touchdown, but he's not going to be missed too much for a ground game that finished last in the Mountain West and was 109th in the nation with a mere 103 yards per game and nine total touchdowns. There are plenty of good, young runners, but they need room to move and they need help from the passing game to take the heat off.
Sophomore Tim Cornett was the first freshman in UNLV history to lead the team in rushing with 546 yards and six touchdowns averaging 3.8 yards per carry, and he caught 13 passes for 98 yards and a score. At 6-0 and 190 pounds he's a thin back who won't do too much through the tackles, but he's a speedster who can hit the home run from anywhere on the field. He didn't do much of that last year with his longest run just 46 yards, but he has the wheels to bring more flash to an attack that desperately needs it.
Looking to make a big impact right away, like Cornett did last year, is true freshman Dionza Bradford, one of the team's top recruits. At 6-0 and 210 pounds he has good size and excellent speed who can bring a little bit of thump inside and can catch the ball when needed. He'll push Cornett for the starting job, while 5-11, 195-pound senior Deante Purvis will bring a little experience after running for 223 yards finishing as the team's third leading rusher. The former corner is a flash, but he wasn't able to bust out too many big runs.
5-7, 195-pound sophomore Bradley Randle is a quick speedster who got a little bit of time running for 109 yards and a score in his limited time, while 6-2, 245-pound Elijhaa Penny is a huge recruit who'll serve as a thumper and an occasional fullback. He'll get every shot to bring the power this fall.
Watch Out For … More from Cornett. He took over as the main man for the offense over the second half of last year, and now he'll be the focal point of the attack. He'll get some catches along with being the main man for the ground game.
Strength: Speed and quickness. There might not be a proven power back in the bunch, but there are plenty of great runners who can cut on a dime. If the Rebel backs get any semblance of a hole, they'll be gone.
Weakness: Production. It's hard to do much when the offensive front isn't providing any room and with defenses not worrying a lick about the passing game. The Rebels got behind so quickly last year that they almost never got a shot to get the ground game working.
Outlook: This is a really, really young group full of talented, athletic options to play around with. Forget about power or blocking, but there should be plenty of good moments if the slippery-quick backs can get a little help. Expect more from the backfield in the passing game and expect more work to get control of the game early on.
Unit Rating: 5
State of the Unit: There were plenty of pass catchers in the Rebel air attack as the offense had to keep throwing after getting down early. 18 different players caught a pass with Michael Johnson leading the way with 51 grabs for 571 yards and five touchdowns, but as productive as he was, he's replaceable if he can't get back in the mix after getting suspended for academic issues. Almost everyone else of note returns, and now the receiving corps has to be a strength to help out the new starting quarterback and to keep the chains moving.
With Johnson gone, Phillip Payne becomes the team's No. 1 target after finishing second on the team with 40 catches for 689 yards and a team-leading 17.2 yards per grab. He only had one blow-up game – an eight-catch, 170-yard day against Nevada – and he spread out five touchdown catches with three coming in the final four games. At 6-3 and 205 pounds he has great size, isn't afraid to block, and has a knack for getting open for scores. Staying healthy is a key after suffering concussion problems in the past.
With Johnson's status up in the air, sophomore Marcus Sullivan will get the first look at the job with extreme quickness and the raw skills to be a playmaker. The Las Vegas native didn't make the impact needed with just six catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns, but he's the type of player who has to get the ball more on the move.
JUCO transfer Eric Johnson will fill a variety of roles working as both a running back and a slot receiver. At 5-7 and 170 pounds he's not all that big and won't take too many hits, but he's a gamebreaker who'll get the ball in his hands as a fun toy to play with. The coaching staff will invent ways to use him. Redshirt freshman Taylor Spencer came to UNLV as a defensive back, and now the 6-1, 190-pounder will be a receiver on the outside working in the rotation with Payne.
Senior Anthony Vidal didn't exactly stretch the field, but the 6-5, 250-pound tight end finished fourth on the team with 14 catches for 107 yards, averaging 7.6 yards per grab, with a touchdown. He took over the starting job halfway through the season, but it was 6-4, 235-pound former defensive end Austin Harrington who led the position in catches making 16 for 163 yards. They can both work as safety valves for the passing game, but the more they can do to his someone, the better. The blocking has to improve.
Watch Out For … Sullivan. Payne will be the key go-to target, and there are several decent options to spread the ball around, but it's the speedy Sullivan who needs to become a breakout star. He'll get his chances.
Strength: Options. How can a passing game be just fine without its top receiver? When you work the ball around like the Rebels did, several different players got involved and there should be plenty of targets to pick up the slack with Johnson out of the mix.
Weakness: Blocking. Here's the problem. UNLV has the good-sized Payne along with a bunch of smallish, quick playmakers. However, Bobby Hauck wants his receivers to be physical and hit people, and this group can't really do it.
Outlook: The Rebels have a wide variety of receivers to play around with, but they need more gamebreakers and they need more help from the quarterback play. More deep plays will be a must, and there are several speedy players to potentially provide them as long as Payne is a strong, reliable No. 1 target.
Unit Rating: 5
State of the Unit: And here's the problem. The skill players weren't world-beaters, but they were athletic enough and good enough to have done more if they got a little bit of time. The offensive line was a disaster giving up 36 sacks, countless pressures, and doing little to nothing for the ground game. There's plenty of turnover and lots of holes to fill, and that might not be a bad thing.
The star of the line – loosely defined – will be right tackle Yusef Rodgers, a way-too-light, but scrappy, 6-2, 250-pound junior who won't flatten anyone, but is strong on the move and isn't afraid to get out and make a hit. He's not exactly an anchor, and neither is true freshman Cameron Jefferson, a 6-6, 265-pound left tackle who has the quickness and the maturity to be the main man in the all-important position. While he'll have to battle hard for his job, he has the frame and the talent to get bigger and grow into the role over the next few years. He won't have to beat anyone up, but he has to be a consistent pass protector.
The Rebels are set at right guard with 6-2, 310-pound sophomore Sean Tesoro should be a rock for the running game if he can stay healthy. Expected to be the starter right away a few years ago at left tackle, he suffered a bad ankle injury and needed a while to get back. He's the biggest body on the line, while the combination of 6-2, 290-pound junior Doug Zismann and 6-3, 280-pound junior Jason Heath will work at left guard. Heath is a big, decent run blocker, and while he's built more like a tackle, he's better for the inside and can start at center if needed. Zismann came to UNLV as a top center prospect and could move to the middle if heeded. The mauler was a star high school wrestler.
Starting at center will be either 6-1, 275-pound junior Andrew Mack, a very smart, decent blocker who could move to guard without a problem, or 6-2, 275-pound redshirt freshman Robert Watermanm a very promising young prospect with the potential to become a huge body for the interior before his career is up. He has just enough quickness to see time at tackle, but with his blasting style, he's better at guard.
The Rebels are hoping to hit the jackpot from the JUCO ranks with 6-3, 290-pound guard Allen Carroll coming in to provide immediate help. A former Washington Husky, he left, went to the College of the Sequoias, and now is expected to provide immediate help somewhere on the inside.
Watch Out For … A lot of movement. Rodgers will start at one tackle spot, but that's about it for any certainties on the Rebel line. The coaching staff will move around all the parts where needed in an attempt to find just a little bit of production.
Strength: Options. For good and bad, there are fights going on at left guard and center with Carroll likely to provide a push for some spot up front. There are plenty of parts to play around with.
Weakness: Production. The Rebel line was painful at times having no answers time and again for the better defensive fronts. This was a bad, experienced line last year, and now it's a young group that has to jell right away.
Outlook: The Rebel coaching staff ran into a buzzsaw that it couldn't do anything about. Bobby Hauck wanted physical blasters who could beat people up, and instead his line was the one getting shoved around. It could be argued that the O line was the Mountain West's most disappointing unit, but there's the potential for an immediate turnaround with plenty of good, young players ready to be a part of a rotation.
Unit Rating: 4.5
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