UNLV Preview 2006

Posted Aug 7, 2006

Has any team ever made such a drastic and immediate upgrade of talent in one year?

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

It's not like college football is a pro sport where you can address needs in free agency, and it's not like college basketball where one or two players can turn an also-ran into a title contender. It takes time, years, to improve in college football needing a steady string of good recruiting classes and a long term plan to go from awful to good.   

Once in a while a program can make a big jump, like UCF did last season in George O'Leary's second year, but the Golden Knights weren't all that far away from being better after their winless season. UNLV should be better only one year removed from a 2-9 record thanks to a ridiculous infusion of talent that should make Mike Sanford's second season a whole bunch more fun.

Head coach: Mike Sanford
2nd year: 2-9
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 17, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 26
Ten Best UNLV Players
CB Eric Wright, Jr.
2. DT Howie Fuimaono, Sr.
3. LB Beau Bell, Jr.
4. WR Aaron Straiten, Jr. 
5. CB John Guice, Sr.
6. QB Rocky Hinds, Soph.
7. RB Erick Jackson, Sr.
8. PK Sergio Aguayo, Jr.
9. CB Mil'Von James, Jr.
10. S Tony Cade, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 Idaho State
9/9 at Iowa State
9/16 at Hawaii
9/30 Nevada
10/7 at Colorado State
10/14 New Mexico
10/21 at BYU
10/28 at Utah
11/4 TCU
11/11 at San Diego State
11/18 Wyoming
11/24 Air Force

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 2-9

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 at New Mexico L 24-22
9/10 Idaho W 34-31
9/17 at Nevada L 22-14
9/24 at Utah State L 31-24
10/1 at Wyoming L 42-17
10/8 San Diego St W 13-10
10/15 at Air Force L 42-7
10/22 Utah  L 42-32
11/5 BYU L 55-14
11/12 at TCU L 51-3
11/19 Colorado State L 31-27

USC transfer Rocky Hinds will push Shane Steichen for the starting quarterback job, JUCO superstar receiver Aaron Straiten could've gone anywhere, and most importantly, the secondary got a huge upgrade with addition USC transfer Eric Wright, UCLA transfer Mil'Von James, and Oklahoma transfer Tony Cade. These five players might not be enough to make UNLV a Mountain West champion, but they will make the team a whole bunch better.

But Rebel fans have heard this before. Former head coach John Robinson brought in several highly ranked prospects both from the JUCO ranks and as true freshmen, and the program turned into one of the nation's bigger underachievers. Are things different now under Sanford? Yes. This is an energized team that truly believes it has the potential to do big things. After winning four games in two years and with one winning season since 1994, just being respectable would be good enough.

Sanford's Rebel Shotgun Spread offense never took flight last year because the pieces weren't in place. Now the offensive line is experienced, the receiving corps is deep, there are several good running back options to push Erick Jackson, and the quarterbacks are a strength with Hinds and Steichen each good enough to put up big numbers. The defense has to hold up its end of the bargain after allowing 30 points or more in eight games.

Things are pointed in the right direction for UNLV, but is the program ready to rock this season, or will it take another year for everything to jell? Watch out for this to be a dangerous, exciting team all year long.

The Schedule: It's harder than it looks with a rough beginning going off to Hawaii and playing WAC power Nevada to go along with an early road trip to Iowa State. The Mountain West season will be made or broken before mid-Novembers with all the big boys early before facing three of the league's non-bowl teams over the final three games. Three of the final four games are at home.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Rocky Hinds and/or senior QB Shane Steichen. Steichen proved to be a stunningly good fit for the offense before breaking his hand. He has size, passing touch and mobility, but he's not the talent Hinds is. The former USC Trojan is a tremendous passer who should make the talented young receiving corps shine.

Best Defensive Player: Junior CB Eric Wright. He picked off a pass in the 2005 Orange Bowl to help beat Oklahoma for the national title, and now he's expected to be one of the Mountain West's best cornerbacks right away. He has next-level talent with good size and tremendous speed.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore DEs Jeremy Geathers and Jacob Hales. All the excitement about the possible improvements this year could turn into tremendous disappointments if the front three doesn't generate a consistent pass rush. The Rebels had to manufacture pressure from all angles last season. Geathers, Halas, Robert Travers and Faauo Faga have to take advantage of having Howie Fuimaono in the middle to anchor the line.

The season will be a success if ... the Rebels win six games. There are way too many holes and the early schedule is way too tough to hope for any sort of run for a conference title, but that doesn't mean the improved team can't win half of its games and be in the hunt for a bowl game. 

Key game: Oct. 7 at Colorado State. The Mountain West opener is a must-win for the Rebels with nasty games against New Mexico, at BYU, at Utah and TCU ahead. The 31-27 season-ending loss to the Rams was a turning point for UNLV as it showed that things were starting to work the right way on offense. 

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Scoring after three quarters: Opponents 305 - UNLV 138
- Penatlies: UNLV 91 for 670 yards - Opponents 76 for 700 yards
- Interception return average: Opponents 15.2 yards on 17 interceptions - UNLV 4.8 yards on five interceptions

The Last Time UNLV ...
…played in a bowl game…2000 (Las Vegas Bowl vs. Arkansas)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…2000 (North Texas)
…was shutout…2003 (San Diego State)
…scored 50 points…1994 (Central Michigan)
…went undefeated…never
…won a conference title…1994 (share, Big West)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…1996 (Jon Denton)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2004 (Dominique Dorsey)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…1994 (Randy Gatewood)
…had a first-round draft choice…never

Related Stories
UNLV Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
UNLV Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
UNLV Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006

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