CFN Preview 2013 - UNLV Rebels
UNLV QB Nick Sherry
UNLV QB Nick Sherry
Posted May 22, 2013 2013 Preview - UNLV Rebelw

UNLV Rebels

Preview 2013

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Bobby Hauck
4th year: 6-32
11th year overall: 86-49
Ten Best UNLV Players
1. RB Tim Cornett, Jr.
2. OT Brett Boyko, Jr.
3. C Robert Waterman, Jr.
4. WR Devante Davis, Jr.
5. LB Tim Hasson, Sr.
6. DE Sonny Sanitoa, Soph.
7. CB Tajh Hasson, Jr.
8. QB Nick Sherry, Soph.
9. FS Kenny Keys, Soph.
10. OT Cameron Jefferson, Jr.
2013 Schedule
8/29 at Minnesota
9/7 Arizona
9/14 Central Michigan
9/21 Western Illinois
9/28 at New Mexico
10/12 Hawaii
10/19 at Fresno State
10/26 at Nevada
11/2 San Jose State
11/9 Utah State
11/21 at Air Force
11/30 San Diego State
This is it. This is the year without any excuses, and this is the year UNLV can't be so awful.

The biggest problem in the 2-11 season was the tease. The Rebels should've beaten Minnesota in the three-overtime opener, they should've beaten Northern Arizona, and they shocked Air Force and stayed with Nevada. But every time it seemed like something big was about to happen … pfffffft. The air went out of the balloon.

UNLV is in a perpetual rebuilding season, and for a program that hasn't been able to turn any sort of a corner, the expectations haven't exactly been high. But head coach Bobby Hauck came to the school three years ago with a phenomenal winning record and a plan to build – not rebuild, since there have been just two winning seasons since 1993 – and now this slot machine has to pay off.

The plan has been to keep stockpiling athletes and good young prospects, and now the Rebels are loaded with veterans who need to start being better at playing college football. 19 starters return, there's depth, and there's still a whole bunch of promise and upside with no seniors among the projected offensive starters and at least six starters likely to return on the defensive side in 2014.

But Hauck might not be able to wait until 2014. At 6-32 in three years, there has to be a bigger improvement.

The offensive line wasn't bad, and it should be the best in the Hauck era by far. Running back Tim Cornett is an all-star talent, all the top receivers are back, and Nick Sherry is a bright quarterback with a huge upside.

The defense has to start finding something that consistently works, and it needs to start with a front four that got into the backfield more, but didn't hit the quarterback. The secondary has the athleticism, speed and talent to be among the best in the Mountain West, and the linebacking corps should be fine even without top-tackler John Lotuleilei.

UNLV isn't used to being good at football, but the program is due for something to go its way. But it's Las Vegas, and with so much experience, the Rebels have to make their own luck.

What to watch for on offense: The emergence of Nick Sherry. The sophomore quarterback has everything set up to succeed. The line should be outstanding helped by tackles Brett Boyko and Cameron Jefferson, and running back Tim Cornett will take the pressure off as the main man for the attack. All the top receivers are back, with Devante Davis and Marcus Sullivan a strong 1-2 punch, and more than anything else, Sherry has a year of experience under his belt. After throwing for 2,544 yards and 16 touchdowns, and showing plenty of promise, he has to cut down on his picks and turn into a good enough factor to lead the team to wins.

What to watch for on defense: The play of the tackles. UNLV hasn't exactly been the toughest team in the trenches over the last few decades, and it showed time and again last season with the run defense allowing 207 yards per game. It's still a relatively young and emerging defense across the board, but two of the seniors are in the middle, and they have to be better. Alec Klorman and Mark Garrick are 280ish-pound veterans who have to start serving as anchors. There's speed on the outside, but the rest of the Rebels can't be worrying so much about things happening up the middle.

The team will be far better if … the running game works. The explosiveness of the offense needs to come from Sherry and the passing attack, but Cornett has to be the steadying force and the ground game has to control the game, the clock and keep the defense off the field. Last season, UNLV's two best rushing days came against Air Force and New Mexico with seven touchdowns scored in those two games. They also turned out to be the team's only two wins. The Rebels scored two touchdowns against both Minnesota and Northern Arizona in losses that could've gone either way. In the other nine games, the offense came up with a grand total of one rushing score, meaning that there were eight games without a rushing TD.

The schedule: Missing Boise State from the Mountain is a good break, and the Rebels will need it with a nasty West slate to face. There aren't any true layups for a team with six wins over the last three years, but with four home games in a five date stretch after opening up at Minnesota, beating Central Michigan, Western Illinois and Hawaii at home is a must before dealing with the back half. Going to Fresno State and Nevada will be disastrous, and it's going to take an upset to get past San Jose State, Utah State and/or San Diego State at home. However, throw in the road game at New Mexico, and overall there's a chance at a big improvement in the record.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Tim Cornett. The running game might not have been consistent, and the production might have come in bunches, but Cornett had a good season rushing for 1,232 yards and averaging over five yards per carry. A good, tough runner with a lot of flash, he can make big plays from anywhere on the field. With an improved line and good-looking passing game, he should have even more room to move.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Tim Hasson. The second leading tackler last season, the safety-size outside linebacker was excellent at making plays behind the line and was decent in pass coverage and on special teams. He might not be the most physical of run defenders, but he'll fight to make a play. On a team full of veterans, he needs to be the tone-setting leader.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Nick Sherry. The defense needs several players to step up and shine, and the receivers need to be more consistently dangerous, but the season depends on whether or not Sherry can hold his own. The Rebels are going to be in several shootouts, and they need their quarterback to be able to keep up in firefights with Utah State's Chuckie Keeton, San Jose State's David Fales and Fresno State's Derek Carr.

The season will be a success if … the Rebels win five games. More than anything else, they just have to start looking better and have to start improving. Before Hauck, UNLV won five games two years in a row, and it's not asking for the world out of a team with this much experience to start beating all the mediocre teams on the slate and being more competitive against the better ones. Another two win season won't cut it no matter what.

Key game: Sept. 14 vs. Central Michigan. The Rebels won't be good enough to beat Minnesota in Minneapolis and Arizona at home, but they need to handle a middling MAC program before facing Western Illinois. Starting off the year 2-2 would be massive with eight games to go and needing just one more win to make it the best season in the Hauck era. With the tough back half of the slate, UNLV can't afford to give away a winnable September home game.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Penalties: Opponents 81 for 792 yards – UNLV 67 for 678 yards
- 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 13-of-25 (52%) – UNLV 10-of-26 (38%)
- Punt Return Average: Opponents 12.6 yards – UNLV 6.1 yards
- 2013 UNLV Preview | 2013 UNLV Offense
- 2013 UNLV Defense | 2013 UNLV Depth Chart