2014 UNLV Preview: What You Need To Know
UNLV WR Devante Davis
Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About UNLV (Getty Images)
2014 UNLV Preview
What You Need To Know...
What You Need To Know About The Offense:
After relying on the running and precision of QB Caleb Herring, and the production of RB Tim Cornett, offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach’s attack that turned in a decent year has to reconfigure things a bit. It starts at quarterback where Nick Sherry won’t run much, and he’ll thrown more picks than Herring did, but he’ll also bomb away and come up with some massive days thanks to the dangerous 1-2 receiving punch of Devante Davis and Marcus Sullivan. Shaquille Murray-Lawrence isn’t a bruising workhorse like Cornett, but he should hit some home runs behind a veteran line that might be one of the team’s biggest strengths
What You Need To Know About The Defense: The defense struggled too much against the run, and the pass rush wasn’t quite good enough, but the secondary was outstanding and it could be even better. The linebacking corps will require the most work for defensive coordinator Tim Hauck, and the interior of the line is a big concern with new starters at tackle, but the end rotation will be good and there should be more plays in the backfield. The secondary that was so solid last season gets back all four starters and could be among the Mountain West’s best. However, the defensive backs had to come up with too many plays against the run – the linebacking corps has to do its job.
Players You Need To Know
1. WR Devante Davis, Sr.
The Rebels needed a No. 1 receiver to emerge a few years ago, and Davis did just that catching 61 passes for 854 yards, showing off glimpses of what he could do. Last year it all came together with an all-star campaign catching 87 passes for 1,290 yards and 14 scores, averaging 14.8 yards per try. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he has the right size to go along with the deep speed to come up with big plays on a regular basis. While he was steady over the second half of the year, catching eight passes or more seven of the last nine games, and dominated at times with a ten-catch, 164-yard, three touchdown day against New Mexico, and with eight grabs for 171 yards and four scores against San Diego State. The offense will revolve around him at times, and with a big bomber in Nick Sherry under center, the stats should come.
2. OT Brett Boyko, Sr.
Built like a big tight end, the 6-7, 310-pounder out of Canada is the leader of a veteran line who came back after missing most of 2012 with a knee injury to earn Second Team All-Mountain West honors. A great pass protector with the right frame, he’ll anchor the line at left tackle. The Canadian product had a problem staying healthy, but he showed he could last and proved what he could do. A great talent, he’ll be among the league’s best linemen again.
3. S Peni Vea, Jr.
A strong 6-1, 200-pound veteran, he led the team with 108 tackles with two picks and three tackles for loss at strong safety. A great athlete who can work anywhere in the secondary, he has found a home as a great hitter who doesn’t miss stops and has proven he can be a statistical superstar. He has to make way too many plays to clean up the messes left by the defensive front seven, making 12 tackles against both Arizona and New Mexico – both running games went wild on the Rebel D – and came up with 13 against Nevada. The less he has to do to make stops in the open field, the better.
4. WR Marcus Sullivan, Sr.
After missing the first four games, Sullivan turned into a great No. 2 target on the other side of Devante Davis making 45 catches for 505 yards and five scores, coming up with a touchdown in four of the last five games and dominating Hawaii for 113 yards on 11 catches. The 5-9, 195-pound speedy veteran has great quickness and good hands. While he’s steady on short-range plays, he has the athleticism to break out and do more – he has yet to truly make the most of his speed.
5. C Robert Waterman, Sr.
With veteran guard Cameron Jefferson transferring to Arkansas, the Rebels need to find a way to overcome the loss and be stronger in the interior. The 6-2, 290-pounder was thrown to the wolves as a freshman and has grown into the job. Quick, he packed on the pounds over the last few seasons and should be even stronger with his three years of starting experience. Originally a tackle, the coaching staff wanted to move him to guard, but he has turned into an all-star at center.
6. CB Tajh Hasson, Sr.
A big corner, the 6-1, 195-pounder has the hitting ability to move to safety without a problem, but has found his home at corner. A star high school sprinter, he moves well and isn’t afraid to mix it up, but now the plays on the ball have to come. The team’s third-leading tackler, he came up with 84 stops with 4.5 tackles for loss and four broken up passes – but no picks. A good veteran, he needs to be a lock-down defender against the better receivers.
7. S Mike Horsey, Sr.
The Maryland native walked onto the program and went from being a decent reserve to a key part of the veteran secondary making 43 tackles with a pick and 6.5 tackles for loss last season. At 6-0 and 180 pounds, he’s not all that big, but he’s really, really smooth in the defensive backfield and great on special teams. He might not be a special defender, but he’ll hold his own and should be one of the team’s leading tacklers.
8. QB Nick Sherry, Jr.
Is he ready to hold down the starting job and make the offense fly? It should work well considering he’s a big bomber, he has the arm and the right type of mentality to push the ball down the field on a regular basis to Devante Davis and Marcus Sullivan – two veteran receivers who know how to make big things happen. The 6-5, 235-pound Sherry started out the season completing 35-of-50 throws for 226 yards and two touchdowns and two picks in the loss to Minnesota, but the wheels came off against Arizona completing just 6-of-22 passes for 11 yards with a score and two interceptions. Caleb Herring took over the QB gig, and that was the season. A good recruit, he was on his way to Colorado but changed his mind after Dan Hawkins was canned. The big numbers will be there from time to time, but he has to figure out how to stop the interceptions after throwing 16 two years ago and with five in his limited time - Herring threw five the rest of the year on 405 passes, while Sherry threw his on 75 attempts. He's not totally immobile, but he's not a runner. The offense is going to have to go on his right arm.
9. RB Shaquille Murray-Lawrence, Sr.
Tim Cornett was the running game among the backs last year, barreling his way for 1,284 yards and 15 touchdowns, and now it’ll be up to Murray-Lawrence to carry the workload. Last year, QB Caleb Herring was a dangerous runner, finishing third on the team, but this year’s starter, Nick Sherry, won’t run. That means Murray-Lawrence has to carry the load. The Canadian product started out at Tyler JC in Texas where he didn’t do much – he came to the program after his first junior college folded up its football shop – but he turned out to be a solid No. 2 back for the Rebels running for 418 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 8.9 yards per carry thanks to some huge runs against Minnesota, Arizona and Fresno State. A blazer in the open field, the 5-8, 180-pounder won’t blast away like Cornett did, but he’ll come up with some big moments.
10. DE Sonny Sanitoa, Jr.
The Rebels need more of a pass rush, and it has to start with the ends. Jordan Sparkman is back after coming up with 37 tackles and just one sack, while the 6-3, 260-pound Sanitoa is the quicker of the two options making 34 tackles with two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. A pure pass rusher, he came up with five sacks two years ago and showed off glimpses of greatness from time to time. Built like a big linebacker, he can move.
- 2014 UNLV Preview