2011 UNLV Preview
UNLV WR Phillip Payne
UNLV WR Phillip Payne
Posted Jul 21, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - UNLV Rebels

UNLV Rebels

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Bobby Hauck
2nd year: 2-11
9th year overall: 82-28
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 28, Def. 23, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best UNLV Players
1. CB Quinton Pointer, Sr.
2. RB Tim Cornett, Soph.
3. LB Nate Carter, Sr.
4. CB Will Chandler, Sr.
5. WR Phillip Payne, Sr.
6. QB Caleb Herring, Soph.
7. DT Desmond Tutofi, Fr.
8. LB Princeton Jackson, Jr.
9. OT Yusef Rodgers, Jr.
10. WR/KR Marcus Sullivan, Soph.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 at Wisconsin
Sep. 10 at Washington St
Sep. 17 Hawaii
Sep. 24 Southern Utah
Oct. 8 at Nevada
Oct. 15 at Wyoming
Oct. 29 Colorado State
Nov. 5 Boise State
Nov. 12 at New Mexico
Nov. 19 at Air Force
Nov. 26 San Diego State
Dec. 3 at TCU

Why can't UNLV be a winner?

Is the coaching a problem? Mike Sanford struggled to get his spread working on a regular basis, and John Robinson – a college football Hall of Famer - couldn't seem to turn the corner. Bobby Hauck was a terrific coach at Montana and he knows how to produce a winner, but it's going to take time and it's going to take a lot of work to change the culture and the attitude of a program that hasn't come up with a winning season since 2000 and has just three winning campaigns since 1986. Hauck might be the man for the job, but he's fighting an uphill battle.

UNLV isn't a typical college and it's not a normal college campus. With the casinos and resorts in plain view of the school, and in a town famous for vacationing, it might be hard to get past the idea of glitz. That's not to say the Rebels only get players who want to get tan and live the party life – there are more than a few major football powers also known as party schools – but for whatever reason the teams haven't been focused enough, precise enough, and good enough to win on a regular basis. Hauck is trying to change all of that.

This is a true rebuilding project in every way. Hauck has no problems with his quarterback running, but he's trying to get away from the spread attack that Sanford tried to make work for too many futile seasons. He's trying to come up with a power attack using spread players, and it showed last year. He's also trying to get more physical on defense, but that didn't happen as the production went from bad to worse getting bombed on for 40 points or more eight times. After last season and the problems on both sides of the ball, going forward, can UNLV be physical?

If UNLV is finally going to be a winner, and if this is going to work under Hauck, it's going to have to be Wisconsin. The program will see first-hand what that's like for the second year in a row, opening up the season at Camp Randall, and while the results might not be pretty, Hauck has to show his team what the goal is.

Beat people up, stop the run, and get an attitude. Talent-level has a lot to do with that, and UNLV will never get the players the Badgers do, but for a program that needs a jump-start and a change, it'll be interesting to see if Hauck can get the right offensive linemen who want to bowl over defensive fronts, and if he can get a defensive line that can hold up better than a soft marshmallow, to get the team he wants.

He needs to find a quarterback who can take the nation's third-worst offense by the horns and consistently move the chains, but again, to do what's needed for the style, the veteran offensive line has to start pounding away for Tim Cornett and a decent group of backs. The receiving corps is loaded with veterans, even with top target Michael Johnson in limbo after having academic problems, and now the quarterback has to deliver the ball.

The defense is the bigger problem is the defense that was among the worst in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss and finished 116th in the nation against the run and 116th in scoring defense. Only four starters return, but that's not necessarily a bad thing considering Hauck is trying to wipe the slate clean. The special teams also need a boost after struggling so much in the punting game and on punt returns, and UNLV can't afford to be poor in any area if it wants to start winning the closer games.

It's going to take a while, but Hauck has time. For a school that hasn't known what it's like to have winning football program on a regular basis, the expectations aren't through the roof. Hauck could change that in the several months if he can finally get the right pieces in place to fit and create a new attitude for the program.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. The running game will be left to the backs, but the offense only works if the passing game gets the production needed from the new, inexperienced bombers. The Rebels couldn't find the right fit at quarterback last season, starting out with Mike Clausen to try to get the passing game going, and ending up going back to veteran Omar Clayton, a playmaker who struggled with no room to move and no time to throw. They're both gone, but there might be an improvement at the position with sophomore Caleb Herring a good passer who fits exactly what Bobby Hauck wants to do. He's a winner with the right leadership abilities and the attitude the team needs, but he'll be pushed hard by JUCO transfer Sean Reilly, a great passer who came up with 2,425 yards and 26 touchdowns with just six picks for Saddleback College.

What to watch for on defense: Princeton Jackson. The defensive line is very big, but so was last year's line and it didn't matter much. While the hope is for an improvement up front, the woeful D could potentially be night-and-day better with the addition of one player. Jackson is a 6-0, 240-pound star JUCO transfer out of Houston with the range and the talent to be the team's leading tackler as the starting middle linebacker, and he has the toughness to be the type of player the entire defense works around. While it's obviously a stretch to call him a Cam Newton-like impact player, he was the star of the Blinn College defense that won the JUCO national title in 2009 – quarterbacked by Cam Newton.

The team will be far better if … the defensive line isn't miserable. B.J. Bell is a former JUCO transfer and a solid player who can make things happen when he's 100% healthy. James Dunlap is also a former JUCO transfer with good size and a nice burst. They were lousy last year at getting into the backfield, but worse yet, the tackles were awful. That has to change right away with new starting tackles needing to play up to their 300-plus size, or 350-pound size in the case of Nate Holloway, and the run defense has to be far, far tougher. Quick offenses gave the Rebels problems, line Nevada's and Air Force's, but being physical up front is a must. If the line isn't far better, the team won't make much of an improvement.

The schedule: It starts out rough having to go on the road to get steamrolled over by Wisconsin before going to Washington State, but then the Rebels get a chance to deal with the Hawaii passing game at home before the one true layup against Southern Utah followed up by a week off. Going to Nevada and Wyoming before another off week isn't a plus, but the schedule break, if you can call it that, comes with next with Colorado State and Boise State at home before going on the road to New Mexico. The slate closes out brutally with date at Air Force and TCU wrapped around San Diego State. If the Rebels don't have a big base of wins early, they're not going to end up with a decent record.

Best offensive player: Sophomore RB Tim Cornett. The offense needs the starting quarterback, Sean Reilly or Caleb Herring, to be the star, and it would be nice if there was a top lineman to work things around, but it's Cornett who'll be the star of the show early on. The first freshman in UNLV history to lead the team in rushing is built like a receiver, but he's a speedy, slippery back who should be able to come up with big plays if he gets a little bit of room to move.

Best defensive player: Senior CB Quinton Pointer. The pass efficiency defense was 117th in the nation and got beaten badly on a regular basis, and not having Pointer around was one of the biggest issues. The 5-10, 185-pounder is the team's best cover-corner, but he suffered a knee injury last year and missed most of the season. He hits like a safety and he has the speed to stay with any receiver in the Mountain West. He has to be 100% healthy, first.

Key player to a successful season: The entire offensive line. The Rebels have GOT to get some production out of the front five, in whatever configuration it comes. UNLV was awful in pass protection allowing 36 sacks and it only paved the way for a mere nine touchdown runs and 103 yards per game. The line has a promising center in Andrew Mack, if he's healthy, and Doug Zismann is a veteran guard, but the front five needs steadier blockers. For an attack that finished 118th in the country, any improvement starts up front.

The season will be a success if … the Rebels win five games. It'll be a stretch and there will have to be at least two big upsets to do it, but a three win improvement would go a long way to showing that Hauck has everything on the right path. Beating Southern Utah and Colorado State at home is a must, and beating New Mexico on the road is needed, but without wins over mediocre teams like Wyoming on the road, or San Diego State or Hawaii at home, three wins will be more likely.

Key game: Sept. 17 vs. Hawaii. The Warriors from the WAC should be solid, but they're always another animal when they get away from home. The Rebels will lose to Wisconsin and Washington State on the road to stat the year, but if they can beat Hawaii and Southern Utah, they'll be 2-2 going into a bye week. There isn't a home game for close to a month, and then come the dates against Colorado State and Boise State that should show where the program is.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Rushing Touchdowns: Opponents 39 – UNLV 9
- First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 148 – UNLV 62
- Sacks: Opponents 36 for 231 yards – UNLV 12 for 86 yards

- 2011 UNLV Preview | 2011 UNLV Offense
- 2011 UNLV Defense | 2011 UNLV Depth Chart