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2008 UNLV Preview - Offense
UNLV WR Ryan Wolfe
UNLV WR Ryan Wolfe
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 12, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - UNLV Rebel Offense

UNLV Rebels

Preview 2008
- Offense

- 2008 CFN UNLV Preview | 2008 UNLV Offense
- 2008 UNLV Defense
| 2008 UNLV Depth Chart
- 2007 UNLV Preview
| 2006 CFN UNLV Preview 

What you need to know:
It's all about the experience in the Rebel Shotgun Spread with nine starters returning, several backups with starting experience, and a whole bunch of hope that this is the year the attack finally produces on a consistent basis. The line is big and strong led by emerging star Matt Murphy at left tackle. The receiving corps boasts one of the Mountain West's best 1-2 punches in Ryan Wolfe and Casey Flair, while Frank "the Tank" Summers should be among the league's rushing leaders. It all comes down to the quarterbacks, and the issue might not be settled all season long. Four players will get an equal shot at the starting job, but it'll come down to Omar Clayton and Travis Dixon to see who can be the most consistent.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Travis Dixon
159-299, 1,873 yds, 8 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Frank Summers
202 carries, 928 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Ryan Wolfe
66 catches, 784 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Frank Summers
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QBs Omar Clayton & Travis Dixon
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C John Gianninoto
Best pro prospect: Sophomore OT Matt Murphy
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Summers, 2) WR Ryan Wolfe, 3) WR Casey Flair
Strength of the offense: Wide receivers, offensive line experience
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback efficiency, consistent production

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: Sophomore Omar Clayton will be the starter ... maybe. At some point. Possibly. The former walk-on became one of the shocking stories of UNLV's 2007 season as he came from out of nowhere to come up with two big games in late October throwing for 304 yards and two touchdowns along with 135 rushing yards against Colorado State and 223 passing yards and a score against Wyoming. The problem was interceptions throwing five in those two games. Outside of the picks, he was accurate completing 61% of his passes for 618 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions, while finishing third on the team in rushing with 179 yards and two scores. A broken hand ended his season, but he's fine now. He has decent size at 6-1 and 200 pounds and excellent athleticism, but he has to cut down on his mistakes and he has to be consistent.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Travis Dixon started for most of the year and had some success, but he couldn't quite get the offense over the hump. He has some brilliant moments, like a 258-yard passing day against Wisconsin and a 129-yard rushing performance against Utah State. He ended up losing his job halfway through the season, but he ended up leading the team with 1,873 passing yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions,and was second in rushing with 324 yards and two scores.

Senior Dack Ishii got a little bit of work in garbage time and misfired on all three of his passes. At 6-2 and 220 pounds he has good size and is a decent all-around athlete, but the former Tennessee Volunteer has a long way to go to become a consistent passer and will only get the starting job if he's lights-out better than the younger options. He has the strongest arm of the bunch, but that doesn't translate to accuracy.

6-2, 200-pound redshirt freshman Mike Clausen is considered the future, and he might turn out to be the present. Last year's star recruit is the perfect fit for the Rebel spread attack with good size, fantastic athleticism and good passing skills. He'll need at least another year before he's even close to becoming a polished player, but he'll get every chance to win the starting gig.


Watch Out For ... a quarterback controversy all season long. The coaching staff has four options to choose from and there might be a quick hook if the anointed number one guy doesn't produce right away. There's a chance this could be a quarterback-by-committee situation.
Strength
:
Mobility. It's a prerequisite for the job at UNLV. Keep your pocket passers at home; these four quarterback options can all move.
Weakness
: A number one quarterback. The Rebels have a slew of good No. 2 options to come off the bench, but there's not a franchise player to build the offense around. Travis Dixon is close, but he's not there yet.
Outlook: It would've been nice if Rocky Hinds had been able to live up to his billing, but his career was cut short by a knee injury and isn't with the team anymore. Now there's a mess of four quarterbacks in the hope to find one who can play. In a perfect world the offense finds one guy, sticks with him through thick and thin, and suffers the consequences as he gets more experienced. This coaching staff doesn't have that kind of time.
Rating: 5.5

Running Backs

Projected Starter: Senior Frank Summers, a former transfer from Cal, barreled his way to a huge year running for a team-leading 928 yards and six touchdowns, but "The Tank" ran out of gas late in the season. At 5-10 and 240 pounds he's a big, punishing runner who put together a nice string of three 100-yard games in a row highlighted by a 190-yard outing against Utah, and he cranked out 187 yards against San Diego State, but he only found the end zone once in the final six games and was held to 63 yards in his final two games. A terrific receiver, finishing fourth on the team with 23 catches for 252 yards and four scores; he can be used in a variety of ways.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-9, 195-pound sophomore Channing Trotter is a powerfully built back with the potential to tear off big runs. He only saw four carries last year for 29 yards, and now he'll get much more of a role working behind Summers. While not necessarily a speedster, he's quick with excellent straight-line speed. He could grow into a breakaway back.

Senior David Peeples was supposed to be the team's running game but he can't stay healthy. A shoulder injury has been the main problem holding him to 42 yards on just ten carries. Expected to make more of an impact now that he's healed, he's a speed back with some of the best wheels on the team. While he hasn't shown it yet, he could be a home-run hitter if he's able to get into space on a regular basis.

Junior Chris Brogdon is a compact 5-7 and 215 pounds with decent power between the tackles when he gets a chance. He got garbage time over the last two years, but he hasn't shown enough in practice to warrant more carries and more work.

Watch Out For ... one of the two running back recruits to play a role at some point. C.J. Cox has more talent, but
Imari Thompson could be in the mix for playing time sooner than later. There might be a logjam of backs behind Summers, but the coaching staff will use anyone who can bring more pop to a ground game that averaged just 3.9 yards per carry.
Strength
:
Variety. Summers is the running game, but there are plenty of other options to play around with and form a decent rotation. If Peeples is healthy, the Rebels will have a great 1-2 punch to revolve the offense around. However ...
Weakness
: Proven No. 2 back. For all the options and all the backs in the mix, no one carried the load last year outside of Summers. How shallow was the depth? The team's second and third top runners were quarterbacks and WR Ryan Wolfe was fourth.
Outlook: The ground game puts up nice stats because the quarterbacks run, but the Rebels have a pounder in Summers to count on to carry the offense at times. Now he has to get some good blocking in front of him and he has to be consistent. A steady, productive second back has to emerge right away to keep "The Tank" fresh.
Rating: 6

Receivers

Projected Starters: UNLV has brought in a slew of good receiver prospects over the last few seasons, but it's been Ryan Wolfe who has been the star of the show. The junior has caught 121 passes for 1,695 yards with seven touchdowns in his first two years becoming a dangerous all-around target who'll once again be the go-to guy. If he had a steady quarterback throwing to him, he'd be a superstar. As is he's able to crank out big games here and there with ten catches for 164 yards against Air Force and a 11 grabs to 135 yards and a touchdown against Colorado State, but he only found the end zone twice last season and was shut down in too many big games. He has good 6-1, 205-pound size and enough speed to separate, but again, he needs a quarterback.

Senior Casey Flair is a quick former walk-on who's been ultra-productive with 153 career catches for 1,820 yards and nine scores. He had two ten-catch performances last year, but even though he has the nation's second longest streak of consecutive games with a catch, 35, he was held in check in too many games and had a one catch, -1-yard day against Hawaii. He's a tough, smart target who's usually great at finding the openings. If everything breaks right and he has another decent year, he'll finish his career as the school's all-time leading receiver (but Wolfe could quickly change that).

6-5, 220-pound junior Rodelin Anthony has the potential to be a matchup nightmare, and he needs a bigger role in the attack. With his size and hands, he's a home-run threat who was a decent No. 3 receiver last year leading the team with a 15.8-yard averaged and finished with 19 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns. He closed out the season strong and is expected to put up huge numbers with everyone paying attention to Wolfe and Flair.

Junior Jerriman Robinson saw a little bit of action catching two passes for 21 yards. Now he's in the No. 4 role with 6-1, 185-pound size and good practice skills. A big surprise after walking on from Texas Southern, he has worked his way into a starting spot and has the potential to be the passing game's breakout star.

When the team uses a tight end, 5-11, 255-pound Ryan Worthen will get the call. The former fullback was used a little bit last season in a starting role catching three passes for 14 yards, but he'll mostly be used as a blocker.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Renan Saint-Preux hasn't been a total bust, but he's been close. A a star recruit who hasn't been able to find his niche, he didn't make a catch last season and has 35 career grabs for 254 yards and no scores. A phenomenal athlete, he was the Florida state high school triple jump champion, he hasn't been able to make his skills translate to the field even with all his experience.

Senior Gerald Rodriguez was a huge recruit for UNLV, transferred to Arizona, where he was moved to corner, and transferred back to UNLV where he caught three passes for 17 yards last season. He'll be a quick, experienced backup who'll work behind Ryan Wolfe.

Ryan Worthen is the blocking tight end, and 6-3, 230-pound redshirt freshman Austin Harrington will move over from defensive end to do a little of everything. A good, physical athlete, he'll grow into the job over the next few years.

Watch Out For ... more shots down the field. This is a veteran receiving corps with plenty of talent and returning production. There hasn't been a quarterback since Rocky Hinds who can push the ball deep, but there will be more long throws to stretch things out.
Strength
:
Experience. This is one of the deepest most experienced receiving corps the Rebels have ever had, and that was the case last year. Ryan Wolfe and Casey Flair will finish their careers as 1-2 on the UNLV all-time receiving charts (in one way or the other), and Rodelin Anthony has been around long enough to blossom into a major star.
Weakness
: The quarterbacks. The coaches might want to open up the passing game a bit more, but there isn't a steady enough passer to make it happen. This receiving corps would blow up with a consistent, pro-style quarterback.
Outlook: This should be one of the Mountain West's better receiving corps, even if the stats don't necessarily show it. Wolfe and Flair form a brilliant 1-2 punch, while Anthony and Robinson are exciting options who'll get more involved. It would be nice if there were more options to emerge in the mix, like Saint Preux or Knutsen, but the passing game will work just fine with Wolfe and Flair.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The key to the 2008 Rebel line is the move of junior Joe Hawley from center to guard. The 6-3, 295 pounder is more natural at guard, playing on the right side, and he should be far more productive. He wasn't bad in the middle, but he should be better now that he can just line up and hit someone. Athletic and quick, he turned down places like Wisconsin and Arizona to be a Rebel.

With Hawley moving to guard, sophomore John Gianninoto will step in and quarterback the line. The 6-3, 295-pound center got a little practice work as a true freshman as the standout of last year's class full of line prospects. He has to shine or else Hawley has to move back to the middle.

The star of the front five is sophomore Matt Murphy, a tough 6-4, 300-pound mauler who was the surprise of 2007 having taken over the starting role early on and becoming the line's best player. While he still has work to do in pass protection, he was terrific for the running game and consistently plowed over end after end. He earned honorable mention All-Mountain West honors, and he's only going to get better as the anchor of the line at left tackle for the next three years.

Eventually, 6-4, 315-pound senior Johan Asiata will start at left guard after spending most of his time at tackle. Battling with Ramsey Feagai for the gig, Asiata was out this spring to get his banged up shoulders healthy. While he isn't Feagai's size, he's a big blocker who's good for the power running game and has the experience to build on to have a more consistent season. He was a star from Yuba College before coming to UNLV and has seen enough playing time to be a solid blocker next to Matt Murphy.

It'll be an ongoing battle for time at right tackle with sophomore Evan Marchal getting the first look since Richie Plunkett is injured. The 6-6, 295-pounder is still developing and is still getting stronger with room to add another ten pounds on his frame, but first he has to keep improving and hold down the job. He's a smart player who won't make many mental mistakes.

Projected Top Reserves: Battling for the starting left guard job will be sophomore Ramsey Feigai, a massive 6-2, 360-pound run blocker who can play either guard spot and provide some serious power. While he's not going to do too much against the lightning quick tackles, he'll steamroll over the smallish ones when he's able to lock on. He could also play center if needed.

Looking to push for the right tackle job is senior Richie Plunkett, a Colorado State transfer who sat out a year and was a starter throughout last year for a time. He's 6-6, 290 pounds and experienced, but he has back problems and was out this spring and will be a question mark all season. If he's 100% healthy he's the likely starter.

Watch Out For ... the combination to be tinkered with throughout the year. There are several veterans and several versatile players able to move around and switch spots. The best five linemen will be out there no matter what.
Strength
:
Experience. Four starters return and a few backups are good enough to start. If everyone's healthy there are talented, veteran options for each spot.
Weakness
: Pass protection. The quarterback had something to do with this considering they held on to the ball for a while and trued to use their mobility to produce. Even so, the line had problems with good defenses with athletic defensive fronts.
Outlook: While it's not saying a lot, this should be the best line of the Mike Sanford area. There's experience and even some talent to get excited about. Murphy has the potential to be special and sophomores Gianninoto and Feagai will grow into their roles over the course of this season and be fixtures for the next few years. There's size, depth, and good returning production. Now it all has to lead to more offensive output.
Rating: 6