2009 CFN UNLV Preview
UNLV WR Ryan Wolfe
UNLV WR Ryan Wolfe
Posted Jul 30, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - UNLV Rebels

UNLV Rebels

Preview 200

By Pete Fiutak

- 2009 CFN UNLV Preview | 2009 UNLV Offense
- 2009 UNLV Defense
| 2009 UNLV Depth Chart
- 2008 UNLV Preview | 2007 UNLV Preview
| 2006 UNLV Preview

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Head coach: Mike Sanford
5th year: 11-36
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 19, Def. 23, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best UNLV Players
WR Ryan Wolfe, Sr.
2. LB Jason Beauchamp, Sr.
3. LB Starr Fuimaono, Jr.
4. DT Malo Taumua, Jr.
5. OT Matt Murphy, Jr.
6. OG Joe Hawley, Sr.
7. QB Omar Clayton, Jr.
8. OT Evan Marchal, Jr.
9. QB Mike Clausen, Soph.
10. DT Martin Tevaseu, Sr.

2009 Preview
CFN Prediction:
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 Sacramento State
9/12 Oregon State
9/19 Hawaii
9/26 at Wyoming
10/3 at Nevada
10/10 BYU
10/17 Utah
10/24 at New Mexico
10/31 at TCU
11/7 Colorado State
11/14 at Air Force
11/28 San Diego State

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 5-7

8/30 Utah State W 27-17
9/6 at Utah L 42-21
9/13 at Ariz St W 23-20 OT
9/20 Iowa State W 34-31 OT
9/27 Nevada L 49-27
10/4 at Colorado State L 41-28
10/18 Air Force L 29-28
10/25 at BYU L 42-35
11/1 TCU L 44-14
11/8 New Mexico W 27-20
11/13 Wyoming W 22-14
11/22 at San Diego St L 42-21

Just … can’t … get … over … the hump.

Just when it seems like UNLV will finally, finally make a dent in the Mountain West world and get back to a bowl game for the first time since 2000, it drops a 42-21 clunker to San Diego State in the final game of the season to avoid the necessary six wins to be bowl eligible. But even with all the positive strides made, it might have been a mirage.

The quarterback play has finally been steady. A problem for the program ever since Mike Sanford took over, the emergence of Omar Clayton into an efficient, careful passer, and with a good backup in Mike Clausen who’s ready to step in and shine, there’s finally the key piece in place to keep the offensive production going forward. The O line is fine, the running backs are all fast, and Ryan Wolfe leads an excellent receiving corps. And then there’s the defense.

The line returns almost everyone of note and the linebacking corps should be terrific, but the secondary is starting from scratch with several newcomers needing to shine right away. But even with the defensive positives, the team has a long way to go after finishing last in the Mountain West in almost every major category. There’s no pass rush, no run defense, and almost no big plays when the ball is in the air. At least those were the problems of last year, and there’s not going to be a night-and-day difference.

But even with all the issues, wasn’t the 5-7 record a positive step forward? Sort of.

Considering the program won two games a year for four straight seasons before last year, five wins is a major plus. However, there wasn’t a win over a team that went to a bowl, there were overtime wins over Arizona State and Iowa State, and Utah State, New Mexico, and Wyoming, the other three wins, all went shopping for a new head coach following the season.

All that matters in Las Vegas is winning, no matter how it happens or who the victories are against. It’ll take a few big upsets to get to six wins and get to a bowl game again, but it’s bottom-line time for the Sanford era. Just get over the hump.

What to watch for on offense: Even more of a reliance on the passing game. With Frank Summers gone, there’s no power and there isn’t a sure-thing back for the ground attack to rely on. That will mean even more pressure will be put on QB Omar Clayton to make things happen, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The receiving corps should be fantastic and the tight ends will be used more, so the potential is there for a good year through the air.

What to watch for on defense: The newcomers in the secondary. The defensive backs didn’t get a lick of help from a pass rush last season, and under the circumstances, weren’t quite as bad as the overall stats. Now it’s panic time with three spots needing to find a new starter and the fourth, the right cornerback job, occupied by Quinton Pointer, who’s just coming off a bad shoulder injury. JUCO transfers Warren Zeigler, Alex De Giacomo and Kenny Brown all have to be tremendous from day one to at least provide quality depth and a challenge to the players already in place.

The team will be far better if … it can get some production on the defensive front. Finding a pass rush has been next to impossible for the Rebels over the last few years with last season a true down moment with just 11 sacks and 50 tackles for loss. In the trickle-down effect, the secondary only picked off seven passes and got picked apart by quarterbacks who got ten days to throw. There isn’t a sure-thing pass rusher on the team, so if one doesn’t emerge early on, the coaching staff will have to find ways to get into the backfield.

The Schedule: It’s not a walk in the park for a team like UNLV that needs as many layups as possible. Starting off against Sacramento State is a plus, but getting Oregon State, Nevada and Hawaii in the non-conference schedule could be tough. On the plus side, BYU and Utah have to come to Vegas, but the down side is that those two games come in the middle of October in between four road trips; it could be an ugly mid-season. There’s a rough stretch of three road games in four weeks in the second half of the season before closing out against San Diego State.

Best Offensive Player: Senior WR Ryan Wolfe. The school’s all-time leading receiver will be option one in the offense on every play. He’s tough, makes every catch, and can do something with it when he gets on the move. There are just enough good threats elsewhere in the receiving corps to take some of the heat off, so a 100-catch season might be possible for Wolfe with the right breaks.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Jason Beauchamp. He’d be a sure-thing all-star if he played for a stronger team. The team’s leading tackler has good 6-3, 235 pound size, excellent tackling ability, and he plays fast. Really fast. He hasn’t been asked to get into the backfield on a regular basis, but that could change this season as he has the potential to be a killer blitzer in the right situation.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DE Isaako Aaitui. If you’re going to give up pass rushing ability by having a 300-pound defender on the end, you need to form a wall against the run. It’s not that Aaitui can’t move, on the contrary, he’s quick for his size, but he needs to get to the quarterback on a more regular basis and he has to use his bulk to help the line be stronger against the run.

The season will be a success if
... the Rebels get to a bowl game. It’ll be a tall task with a schedule that has few guaranteed wins, but there’s enough experience on both sides and enough speed and athleticism all across the board to pull off a few upsets, beat the teams like Wyoming and San Diego State, and get to a bowl for the first time since 2000.

Key game: Sept. 26 at Wyoming. It’s the Mountain West opener and it’s a winnable road game. Considering the conference home slate is tough with BYU, Utah, and Colorado State coming to Sam Boyd Stadium before San Diego State makes the trip to close out the year, the Rebels have to take advantage of every shot it has to pull off a road victory.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Passes picked off: Opponents 7 – UNLV 6
- Third quarter scoring: Opponents 102 – UNLV 49
- Sacks: Opponents 14 for 115 yards – UNLV 11 for 73 yards

- 2009 CFN UNLV Preview | 2009 UNLV Offense
- 2009 UNLV Defense
| 2009 UNLV Depth Chart
- 2008 UNLV Preview | 2007 UNLV Preview
| 2006 UNLV Preview