2012 UNLV Preview - Building Project
UNLV RB Tim Cornett
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - UNLV Rebels
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After two miserable seasons under head coach Bobby Hauck, the long-suffering UNLV program needs a payoff.
Head coach: Bobby Hauck
3rd year: 4-21
10th year overall: 84-38
Off. 23, Def. 22, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best UNLV Players
1. LB John Lotulelei, Sr.
2. OT Brett Boyko, Soph.
3. RB Tim Cornett, Jr.
4. C Robert Waterman, Soph.
5. S Tajh Hasson, Soph.
6. LB Tani Maka, Jr.
7. RB Bradley Randle, Jr.
8. DT Nate Holloway, Jr.
9. OG Cameron Jefferson, Soph.
10. CB Sidney Hodge, Jr.
Aug. 30 Minnesota
Sep. 8 Northern Arizona
Sep. 15 Washington State
Sep. 22 Air Force
Sep. 29 at Utah State
Oct. 6 at Louisiana Tech
Oct. 13 Nevada
Oct. 20 at Boise State
Oct. 27 at San Diego State
Nov. 3 New Mexico
Nov. 10 at Colorado State
Nov. 17 Wyoming
Nov. 24 at Hawaii
Hauck had to change things up after taking over, but the transformation hasn't exactly been easy with the desire to be ultra-physical and dominant on both sides of the ball not exactly working out well. Last year, the Rebels scored more than 17 points just three times and were beaten by ten points or more in nine of the ten defeats. It wasn't exactly a step forward.
It's not quite right to call what Hauck is doing a rebuilding project – that would assume that there was something there to start with. This is a building effort for a program that hasn't had a winning season since 2000 and just two since 1993.
So what is Hauck doing? He has gone with a bit of a youth movement while at the same time finding a way to build up the depth. The result is that there are now more options in key spots than there were in past years. For good and for bad, several of the key backups are about as good as the starters. While it would be nice to have a killer 22 to go with each week, instead, the Rebels will be deep in the hopes that a rotation can make up for a lack of big-time talent.
The offensive line started three redshirt freshmen last year and now gets all five starters back. For Hauck's vision of being more physical to come true, that's where the 2012 season has to start. With a good group or running backs to pave the way for, the line needs to be the strength of the team. If it isn't, there might be a new coaching staff trying to put a new imprint on the program next year at this time.
The quarterback situation needs to be settled and solidified after it was whittled down to Caleb Herring and Nick Sherry. The linebacking corps needs to play up to expectations with a loaded group coming back and with two good options for each spot, while the defensive front as to start generating more of a pass rush while using its size more to stop someone's ground game. There are positives, but there are also some big-time worry spots to deal with.
The receiving corps wasn't exactly explosive last season, but this year almost all the key parts have to be replaced in a unit that's all but starting from scratch. The secondary has a decent corner in Sidney Hodge, but the pieces around them are really, really shaky.
UNLV isn't going to win the Mountain West, but it at least has to start being competitive. There has to be a sign that things are starting to move forward in a positive direction, and there has to be something to come out of this year to build on. Hauck is trying, and he has a track record of past success, but this year he needs a little more luck and a lot more production.
What to watch for on offense: The line. A disaster at times last season, it couldn't keep the quarterback upright and it was inconsistent for the ground game. However, starting three redshirt freshmen didn't help the continuity. This year the line and the rushing attack could be a major strength with all five starters returning and with promise among the sophomores to go along with crusty veteran right side of Doug Zismann and Yusef Rodgers. With speedy Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle zipping along, the Rebels have something to build on.
What to watch for on defense: The emergence of the linebacking corps. John Lotulelei started to show his promise and potential over the second half of last season, and now there's a chance he could be among the Mountain West's best defenders. Tani Maka is a big presence who should shine in the middle, while Princeton Jackson and Tim Hasson are veteran poppers who should be fine in a rotation. The hope is for improved play on the line to help out the linebackers, but if needed, this group should be able to make the defense better on its own.
The team will be far better if … it can get into the backfield. There hasn't been anything on a regular basis from the defensive front when it comes to getting to the quarterback. Things went from bad to worse over the final few weeks with a grand total of zero sacks in the final three games. In the brutal 41-16 loss to Southern Utah, the Rebels failed to generate a sack and made just three tackles for loss. However, of the 14 sacks on the season, seven game in the lone wins over Hawaii and Colorado State while the D also came up with its two best tackle-for-loss totals.
The schedule: Where are the breaks? If UNLV is going to finally turn the corner, it's going to take some big home wins with some big road tests in the middle of the season. The first four games are at home including non-conference dates with Minnesota and Washington State before opening up Mountain West play with Air Force. And then it's time to pack the bags with four road trips in five weeks with only the home game coming against Nevada. No matter what happens, closing out the year at Hawaii in late November is always a nice trip. The Rebels miss Fresno State.
Best offensive player: Sophomore OT Brett Boyko. It might be junior running back Tim Cornett, at least he'll likely be the star of the offense, but it's Boyko who has the potential to be the best player on an offense that desperately needs a great blocker to build around. The Canadian and former quarterback had a terrific first season when thrown to the wolves, even if he struggled a bit too much in pass protection. At 6-7 and 295 pounds he's tall with a great frame and good run blocking skills.
Best defensive player: Senior LB John Lotulelei. The former JUCO transfer didn't take over a full-time starting job until the eighth game of the season, but he made a huge impact highlighted by a breakout performance against Boise State with 13 tackles including ten solo stops. Fast, tough and built to work on the weakside, he should be the team's leading tackler and he has the potential to be the defense's most disruptive force.
Key player to a successful season: Sophomore DE Jordan Sparkman and junior DE Parker Holloway. Throw in the rest of the line, too, including ends Sonny Sanitoa and Desmond Tautofi. The Rebels have got to find a way to start getting into the backfield to at least apply more pressure, much less come up with sacks. There's a nice combination of size and speed among all the options, but no matter how it happens and Rebels have to start camping out behind the line.
The season will be a success if … the Rebels win five games. After coming up with four victories in the last two seasons, a five-win campaign would be the step needed for Hauck to show that he has the team on the right track. There can't be any Southern Utah-like misfires like last year and beating New Mexico and Wyoming at home will be a must, but it's going to be a tough, tough task to get past the three-win mark even with 13 games on the slate.
Key game: August 30th vs. Minnesota. It's a home opener and it's the beginning of a run of four straight games in Sam Boyd to kick things off. After dealing with Wisconsin in the last two season starters, Minnesota is going to seem like a relative breeze. At the very least the game has to be a kicking off point to prove that 2012 really might be different, and at the very least the game has to be competitive. Considering that UNLV won its opening game four years in a row before Hauck arrived, a win would do wonders.
2011 Fun Stats:
- 3rd Quarter Scoring: Opponents 110 – UNLV 24
- Penalties: UNLV 80 for 734 yards – Opponents 52 for 428 yards
- Average Yards Per Pass: Opponents 8.7 – UNLV 4.9
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