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UNLV Preview 2006 - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 7, 2006


UNLV Rebels Preview 2006 - UNLV Rebel Offense

What you need to know ... The Rebel Shotgun Spread went through some major growing pains in its first year hurt mostly by a wrist injury to starting QB Shane Steichen. Now it'll be a battle between Steichen and USC transfer Rocky Hinds to run the attack, but that's hardly the only position battle. 5-6 Erick Jackson is firmly entrenched as the starting running back with five options behind him looking for playing time. The receiving corps is more talented even after losing three of its top four wide receivers, while the line is experienced with eight recruits on the way to push for starting spots. Essentially, it's an experienced offense with a major influx of very, very young talent that'll get every chance to play.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Jarrod Jackson
124-228, 1,321 yds, 6 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Erick Jackson
174 carries, 673 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Erick Jackson
36 catches, 370 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Rocky Hinds
Player that has to step up and become a star: Hinds
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Aaron Straiten
Best pro prospect: Straiten
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hinds, 2) RB Erick Jackson, 3) Straiten
Strength of the offense: Young talent, size and experience on the offensive line
Weakness of the offense:
Proven playmakers

Quarterbacks
It's a great situation with Shane Steichen and Jarrod Jackson experienced veterans and USC transfer Rocky Hinds the expected star to carry UNLV to prominence. The key will be mistakes; who'll make the fewest? Rebel quarterbacks threw 17 interceptions and 15 touchdowns completing 55% of their throws. Getting to around 60% and a 2-to-1 TD to interception ratio would be ideal.
The key to the unit: Rocky Hinds needs to be as good as the hype while Shane Steichen has to be good enough to make it a nasty battle for the starting gig.
Quarterback Rating: 6

Projected Starter
- Rocky Hinds, Soph.
The USC transfer doesn't have the experience of Shane Steichen, but he was good enough to rip apart the Rebel defense as a scout teamer last season with all the tools to be a star. He's 6-5 and 220 pounds with an NFL arm and enough mobility to a difference maker when he gets out of the pocket. He's going to be rusty having not played since high school, so it's going to be a battle for the starting job.

Top Backups
- Shane Steichen, Sr. - 88-159 55%, 967 yds, 8 TD, 5 INT, 67 carries, 324 yds, 4.8 ypc, 3 TD
Steichen started to look like the perfect fit for the Rebel Shotgun Spread early on with 104 rushing yards against Idaho and showing good toughness against New Mexico and Utah State. However, he missed most of last season with an injured finger and suffers from not being Rocky Hinds. He's 6-4, very mobile, and knows the offense. Interceptions are his problem with 16 in his career with one in each of his five appearances last season.
- Jarrod Jackson, Sr. - 124-228, 54%,  1,321 yds, 6 TD, 12 INT
The 6-1 Jackson is a tough passer with far more mobility than he showed last year. He tried his best when Shane Steichen went down, but he struggled wildly with his consistency and threw 12 interceptions in six appearances and never got his running game going. He did show some promise throwing for 356 yards and three touchdowns against Utah and 329 yards and a score against BYU leading the Rebels to a win over San Diego State.

Running Backs
It's a better situation than it might appear considering the Rebels finished last in the Mountain West in rushing. The diminutive Erick Jackson is the certain number one back with a slew of prospects behind him looking for time. The best of the bunch is 220-pound Torrie Coleman who's looking to live up to his high school hype. The rest of the backs are small, quick, and cut from about the same mold. Whoever gets the number two job will get a ton of work to keep Jackson fresh.
The key to the unit: Quickly figure out who the number two and three backs are behind Erick Jackson and get everyone involved early.
Running Back Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- Erick Jackson, Sr. - 174 carries, 673 yds, 3.9 ypc, 6 TD, 36 catches, 370 yds, 10.3 ypc, 1 TD
The team's most explosive player and best offensive player last year, the 5-6 speedster led the team in rushing and finished second in receiving. At his size he's not going to be a 25-carry back, but he's tough and did the most with what he had to work with. He needs holes to run through and space to move. While he's a nice back, he needs everything else to be clicking around him to be at his most effective.

Top Backups
- Ronnie Smith, Jr. - 2 carries, 59 yards, 29.5 ypc, ,2 catches, 17 yards
The Nebraska transfer ripped off a 61-yard run against Utah last year, but that was about it. He's a speed back with good enough hands to be moved to wide receiver if needed, and he should be deadly when he gets the ball in space.
- David Peeples, Soph. - 1 carry, 4 yds
One of the few Rebel backs with any experience, albeit one carry, Peeples is one of the team's fastest players and has solid potential to quickly grow into the number two role.
- Torrie Coleman, RFr.
A Las Vegas high school legend rushing for 2,100 yards as a senior, Coleman is 6-2 and fast. He was a huge recruit for the program and provides the biggest rushing option.
- Lafayette Fletcher, RFr.
A small, quick back, Fletcher was a good recruit for the program last year and will be given every shot at playing time. He could move over to defensive back if he can't move his way through the logjam of backs.

- U-Back Ryan Worthen, Soph.
Part fullback and part tight end, the 240-pound former linebacker will take over the U-Back role used mainly as a blocker. It'll be a shock if he touches the ball.

Receivers
The Rebels lose last year's leading receiver, tight end Greg Estandia, along with two of the top five pass catchers in Donnell Wheaton and Tremayne Kirkland ... and the corps will be better. The writing was on the wall for Wheaton and Kirkland with the tremendous recruiting class brought in last year, so they transferred. No worries; receiver was the bright light of the 2005 recruiting haul and it'll pay off in a big way with super-sophs Corey Anderson, Casey Flair, Renen Saint Preux and Justin Marvel all ready to turn receiver from a weakness to a strength. Things really become interesting if super-recruit Aaron Straiten, who could've gone anywhere, is half as good as his JUCO hype.
The key to the unit: The star freshmen of last year have to live up to their promise as sophomores, and Aaron Straiten has to be the real deal.
Receiver Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- Corey Anderson, Soph. - 14 catches, 205 yds, 14.6 ypc, 1 TD
The sophomore came on in a big way over the final four games catching 13 of his passes over the final month highlighted by a 92-yard day against Utah. He's a big play waiting to happen at the X and should live up to the great promise he started to show.

- Casey Flair, Soph. - 32 catches, 382 yds, 11.9 ypc, 2 TD
The team's leading returning wide receiver is an athletic walk-on who is tough as nails on the inside Z position. He was a surprisingly steady target all of last year showing some big-play ability with a 58-yard strike against Air Force.

- H-Back Renan Saint Preux, Soph. - 18 catches, 139 yds, 7.7 ypc, 7 carries, 39 yds
The H-Back is used to do a little of everything, and that's what Saint Preux provides. He was a top recruit coming into last year and got three starts being used as a short-range receiver and on end arounds. He's one of the team's best athletes with unreal leaping ability.

- Tight end Rodelin Anthony, RFr.
One of the team's most interesting prospects, the 6-5, 220-pounder will play on the Y position as a combination of tight end and inside receiver. He's a phenomenal, physical athlete who was a star defensive back in high school.

Top Backups
- Aaron Straiten, Jr.
He'll find a starting spot somewhere. The JUCO transfer has been mentioned by the coaches as a comparable talent to Keyshawn Johnson and Curtis Conway. He's 6-3, 205 pounds, and fast, fast, fast. 
- Marques Johnson, Jr
He'll be a key receiver if he can stay healthy. Injury problems, most notably a wrist injury, have kept the one-time superstar recruit under wraps. He's healthy and very big at 6-3 and 215 pounds at the outside X position.
- Justin Marvel, Soph. - 2 catches, 26 yds, 13 ypc

Marvel can fly and should be a more dangerous weapon than Casey Flair at the Z position. He started to show great upside last season in the Utah before separating his shoulder and missing the rest of the season.

Offensive Linemen
Consider this a major work in progress until late this summer when all the freshmen hit campus and the coaching staff figures out where to make the puzzle pieces fit. The line was awful last year as it tried to adjust to the new system, but now it's an experienced group with a ton of help on the way with eight recruits for the line who'll all get time in the mix right away. Massive JUCO transfer Johan Asiata is the most heralded of the bunch, while true freshmen Ramsey Feagai, Evan Marchal and Joe Hawley could all end up starting. The pass protection has to be far better after allowing 39 sacks while paving the way for a mere 1,188 rushing yards.
The key to the unit: Quickly get the talented young freshmen up to speed while hoping for experience to turn into production from all the returning talent.
Offensive Line Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- OT Chris Bowser, Sr.
A starter over the last two seasons at left tackle, the 6-6, 285-pound Bowser has to prove he can adapt to the new system. He struggled in pass protection and needs to be more consistent.
- OG Brandon Gray, Sr.
The light appeared to go on for the 6-4, 325-pound senior this spring as he looked far better than he ever did last season. He can play tackle if needed, but his size makes him a stronger guard.
- C Aaron Mueller, Sr.
Able to play guard or center, Mueller moved to the middle last year and started four times. With Tim Goins moving to guard, Mueller has the starting job for now. That could quickly change this fall if and when more reshuffling is done.
- OG Mike McKiski, Jr.
One of the team's rising blockers, the 6-6, 320-pound McKiski has the job at right guard all to himself. The former walk-on has progressed nicely over the last few years and should be one of the line's most consistent producers.
- OT Marco Guerra, Sr.
The coaching staff is looking for the best fit for the 6-5, 335-pound senior. His knees have been a bit of a problem, but he's an athletic big man who'll try to make the switch from guard to right tackle. He could be moved around again this fall depending on the development of the incoming talent.

Top Backups
- G Tim Goins, Jr.
The main man at center last year will move to the right side to be the main backup at both right guard and tackle. The versatile 285-pound junior will push for starting time at both spots.
- OG Johan Asiata, Jr.
He's huge. The 340-pound JUCO transfer is expected to come in right away and push for a guard spot adding a more punishing run blocker to the mix.

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