2007 UNLV Preview

Posted May 21, 2007

UNLV always seems to have talent, athleticism, and promise, but it hasn't been able to turn any sort of a corner. Is this the year the Rebels, led by WR Casey Flair, finally become players in the Mountain West?

UNLV Rebels

Preview 2007

By Pete Fiutak

- 2007 UNLV Offense Preview | 2007 UNLV Defense Preview
2007 UNLV Depth Chart
| 2006 CFN UNLV Preview 

Take a deep breath, UNLV. Relax. Don’t try to be Mountain West champions in one big shot. Try to just be competitive.  

Playing in a town that worships winning and lives off losing, the UNLV football program has been the-next-big-thing for almost a decade now with no success to show for talent, potential and hype. John Robinson brought in loads of hyped recruits and did nothing with them. Mike Sanford brought in the high-octane Utah offense when he arrived two years ago, and it’s gone absolutely nowhere even with former USC Trojan Rocky Hinds at quarterback and one of the Mountain West’s most talented receiving corps. How bad have things been? Under Sanford, the Rebels are nine points away from being 0-22 against D-I teams.

Head coach: Mike Sanford
3rd year: 4-19
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 20, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best UNLV Players
LB Beau Bell, Sr.
2. DE Jeremy Geathers, Jr.
3. QB Rocky Hinds, Jr.
4. CB Mil'Von James, Sr.
5. WR Ryan Wolfe, Soph.
6. S Tony Cade, Sr.
7. WR Casey Flair, Jr.
8. C Joe Hawley, Soph.
9. DE Thor Pili, Jr.
10. WR Aaron Straiten, Sr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Aug. 30

at Utah State



Sept. 15


Sept. 22


Sept. 29

at Nevada

Oct. 6

at Air Force

Oct. 13


Oct. 20

Colorado State

Oct. 27

at Wyoming

Nov. 10

San Diego State

Nov. 17

at TCU

Nov. 24

at New Mexico

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record:
Preview 2006predicted wins

9/2 Idaho State W 54-10
9/9 at Iowa State L 16-10
9/16 at Hawaii L 42-13
9/30 Nevada L 31-3
10/7 at Colorado St L 28-7
10/14 New Mexico L 39-36 OT
10/21 at BYU L 52-7
10/28 at Utah L 45-23
11/4 TCU L 25-10
11/11 at San Diego St L 21-7
11/18 Wyoming L 34-26
11/24 Air Force W 42-39

The problem is that the team reflects the bad side of its city’s nature. Instead of trying to slowly work its way into respectability, it keeps trying to go for the jackpot in one big shot when it comes to its expectations and recruiting classes. The Rebels first have to get far, far better on the lines, come up with a defense that can slow someone down, especially in the first half, and build, build, build.

Yeah, right. It’s desperation time for Sanford to show the program is headed in the right direction, and he and his staff will rely on Hinds to be sharper after a year of experience, the good receivers, led by true sophomore Ryan Wolfe, to shine, and for the veteran defensive front seven to start to produce. A 42-39 win over Air Force to finish the season was a nice start, and now it’s time to be better in Mountain West play.

With a revamped secondary without star corner Eric Wright, who left early for the NFL, UNLV will be involved in shootout after shootout. If the offense can find something to rely on, hopefully Hinds, it might be able to keep up the pace and be far more dangerous. If not, the program will probably go back to the drawing board and have to try to rebuild yet again.

What to watch for on offense: Even more of a reliance on the passing game. The Rebels got pummeled so badly so early there was no time for any sort of a ground attack. In the end, the overall passing numbers looked good, but they were fake with a huge portion of them coming in comeback mode. The shotgun spread offense ideally would be balanced, but with four starters gone off the line and all the talent in the receiving corps, it’ll be too tempting, and too necessary, to bomb away from the start as long as Hinds’ injured knee is healthy.

What to watch for one defense: Selling out. The Mountain West’s worst defense hasn’t had the talent over the last few seasons to compete at even a mediocre level, and it’s shown as teams rolled early on, forced the UNLV offense to panic, and led to Rebel loss after Rebel loss. The D will look to be more aggressive, try to force more turnovers, and try to generate a little more pressure after struggling to get into the backfield until the outcomes were already decided.

The team will be far better if … it wins the turnover battle. UNLV needs breaks to come close to beating the better Mountain West teams, and that starts with limiting the mistakes and changing the momentum of games by forcing other teams to screw up. Last year’s team was 112th in the nation in turnover margin giving it away 29 times and only coming up with 12 takeaways. That has to be reversed this year.

The Schedule: For a program still trying to get on track in the Mike Sanford era, the start isn't all that great dealing with Wisconsin, Hawaii, Utah, and a trip to Nevada all in September. To make the first half of the year even worse, the Rebels have to travel to Air Force before hosting BYU. The second half gets a wee bit easier, but three of the five final games are on the road to go along with must-win home dates against Colorado State and San Diego State. Finishing up on the road at TCU and New Mexico should end the year with a thud.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore WR Ryan Wolfe. Even with a slew of more heralded receiver prospects to get excited about, the Rebels found a gem in Wolfe who came off grayshirt status to lead the team with 55 catches for 911 yards and five touchdowns on his way to first-team All-Mountain West honors. While others will likely be more explosive, Wolfe should be the number one target on key plays.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DE Jeremy Geathers. One of the few bright spots on a lousy defense last season, the former JUCO transfer turned into the team’s best pass rusher and main playmaker in the backfield. He’ll likely be the smallest player up front, but he should be the best as long as others take away some of the attention.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Rocky Hinds. As if Hinds didn’t have a painful enough season, he finished off his year with a torn ACL. While he might not be quite as mobile right off the bat, he should be a better decision maker and should be better now that the receivers know what they’re doing. At least that’s the hope for an offense that struggled to put points on the board. 

The season will be a success if ... the Rebels win four games. All the experience should count for something, even if the schedule isn’t going to be much of a help. Outside of the season opener against Utah State, UNLV might not be favored the rest of the year unless it starts winning big early on. Four wins might be optimistic, but it would be a nice step for a program that desperately needs something surprisingly positive to happen.

Key game: Sept. 22 vs. Utah. Step one back to the road to respectability is establishing a real, live home field advantage in Mountain West play. Beating Air Force to end the season was a plus, but coming up with a win over Utah in the league opener would be special. It also might be necessary coming off games against Wisconsin and Hawaii and with trips to Nevada and Air Force to follow.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 105 – UNLV 27
- Third quarter scoring: Opponents 103 – UNLV 23
- Average rushing yards per game: Opponents 161.4 – UNLV 89.5


Related Stories
2007 UNLV Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 21, 2007
2007 UNLV Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 21, 2007
2007 UNLV Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 21, 2007

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