2010 UNLV Preview - Offense
UNLV QB Omar Clayton
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - UNLV Rebel Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The spread isn't dead and gone, the new coaching staff has to use it a little bit with the personnel returning, but offensive coordinator Rob Phenicie will incorporate a pro-style attack with more of an emphasis on the power running game while trying to keep the productivity of the passing attack. A more efficient passing game is a must, and the receivers are in place to be sharper. The veteran quarterbacks, Omar Clayton and Mike Clausen, know what they're doing, but they're going to have to get used to operating in a new style and being more traditional. Throw in a good, deep group of backs working behind a veteran line that returns four starters, and the offense that was so mediocre last year should be far more consistent.
Star of the offense: Junior WR Phillip Payne
Passing: Omar Clayton
196-326, 2,230 yds, 13 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Channing Trotter
114 carries, 541 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Phillip Payne
58 catches, 661 yds, 7 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore RG Doug Zismann
Unsung star on the rise: Senior C John Gianninoto
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Matt Murphy
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Payne, 2) OT Matt Murphy, 3) Gianninoto
Strength of the offense: Veterans, Line
Weakness of the offense: Line Depth, Consistency
Projected Starter: Could senior Omar Clayton make the change from the spread to a more conventional offense? He was fine this offseason but he'll have to keep fighting to stay in the No. 1 spot. The 6-1, 205-pound former walk-on struggled with interceptions, throwing 12, but he threw for 2,230 yards and 13 touchdowns while running for 238 yards and three scores. Staying healthy has been an issue without the size to get banged around, but he's a smart passer with a live arm and enough starting experience to ease in the new coaching era. As long as he can keep the mistakes to a minimum, he'll be the safest option.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Mike Clausen has been more than just a backup; he's been like a No. 1A quarterback stepping in and producing whenever he has gotten the chance. At 6-2 and 220 pounds he has good size and nice mobility, and he appeared to be on the verge of big things after stepping in for Omar Clayton and throwing well over the final three games of 2008. He lost out to Clayton in the derby last year, but he was able to see plenty of action finishing with four touchdowns, two picks, and 463 passing yards with 276 coming in the blowout loss to Nevada. The star recruit of three years ago has the skills, and he'll get several chances to win the job after he returns after suffering a concussion late in spring ball.
While it'll be tough to break through with two good veterans already on the team, the new coaching staff is giving redshirt freshman Caleb Herring chances to show what he can do. A pure passer who fits the new offensive philosophy, he has 6-3, 180-pound size and a winning mentality having taken his high school team to back-to-back California state championships. He might not be the starter this year, but he'll eventually be the main man.
Watch Out For … an ongoing quarterback derby. Clayton has been able to pick up the new system and has been fine, but the temptation will be there to go with Clausen or Herring and build. Everyone wants to win now, but if Clayton struggles at all, he'll be sitting.
Strength: Veterans. Clayton and Clausen might not be world-beaters, but they're proven, accomplished Mountain West veterans who can each step in and shine. If they get more help around them, they'll be far better.
Weakness: The spread. After being groomed to run the Mike Sanford spread attack over the last few years, now the quarterback have to operate under multiple sets and have to be better passers. They're not starting from scratch, but everything is changing.
Outlook: The quarterbacks haven't been the problem, but they haven't been good enough to carry the team to big things. With so many question marks and changes, the quarterback play has to at least be steady, and that means Clayton will likely be the top option with Clausen a hair behind. They'll get to do more passing with the running backs handling the ground attack.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Projected Starters: There will be a regular rotation of running backs, and C.J. Cox will get the first look. The 5-11, 205-pound junior was supposed to be the main man last year but he only gained 173 yards and a touchdown as he was rarely used. Extremely quick and tough for his size, he can run well inside or out and had a good enough offseason to deserve more carries this fall, but he has yet to show anything in game action.
Projected Top Reserves: Call it a motivational ploy or call it a message being sent, but last year's leading rusher, senior Channing Trotter , was moved to third on the depth chart. At 5-9 and 200 pounds, he's a compact back who hits the hole hard and is always going 100 miles per hour, but his production tailed off last year after starting out with 102 yards and three scores against Sacramento State. He finished with 541 yards and nine scores, seeing plenty of carries around the goal line, and he caught 19 passes for 103 yards, but he has to impress the new coaching staff.
5-7, 195-pound redshirt freshman Bradley Randle isn't going to run over anyone, but he's one of the team's fastest players and will get the ball in his hands in a variety of ways. A tremendous kick return prospect and tough for his size, he's getting a long look at the starting tailback job after looking like a flash of lightning at times in practices.
When the offense uses a fullback, 6-1, 240-pound sophomore David Blair will step in as purely a blocker. The former linebacker hasn't been able to do much yet, but he found a role on the offense with the strength and the agility to be used in a variety of ways. The more physical he can be for the ground game, the more action he'll see.
Sophomore Jordan Barrett spent the first part of his career at linebacker, and made three tackles on special teams. Now he'll move over to the offensive side to be used as an H-Back. At 6-3 and 250 pounds, he's built like a tight end, or a tall fullback, and he has the athleticism to be a part of the passing game. He has seen time as a tight end, making two catches for five passes, and now he'll find a niche as a do-it-all option.
The coaching staff is leaving the door open for a couple of true freshmen to step in and get a shot at the job. 6-0, 195-pound Tim Cornett is a speedster who has the wheels to see time in some way shape or form right away. After averaging 10.32 yards per carry in his senior year, and being part of a state title-level 4x100 relay team, the Texan will come in and be seen as an immediate home run hitter. 6-0, 200-pound Dionzo Bradford is the power to Cornett's speed with inside, pounding running ability. He can crank out yards in chunks and could be used as a workhorse.
Watch Out For … a running game from the backs. While not necessarily forgotten by the old spread offense, the running backs didn't do enough as quarterbacks finished second and third on the team in rushing. That'll change this year.
Strength: Options. Trotter was the team's leading rusher last season and now he'll have to fight just to see playing time with Cox, Randle, and the true freshmen all expected to get their chances. The new coaching staff will go with the hot hand.
Weakness: Proven production. The Rebels finished seventh in the Mountain West in rushing gaining just 1,522 yards with QBs Mike Clausen and Omar Clayton combining for 526 and ten of the 20 touchdowns. Trotter was fine, but it's not like the Rebels have one star back to count on.
Outlook: The running game will rely on a good rotation of backs with several players getting their chances. Ball security is a must, and that shouldn't be a problem for a team that lost just five fumbles last year. There are enough options to run with power, speed, and everything in between, and with a good line paving the way, this could be one of the team's most improved areas.
Unit Rating: 6
Projected Starters: While losing an all-timer of a target in Ryan Wolfe hurts, there are good targets returning led by Phillip Payne, a 6-3, 205-pound junior who finished second on the team with 58 catches for 661 yards and a team-leading seven scores. A do-it-al 6-3, 205-pound receiver, he's not afraid to block and he has a knack for getting open for scores. While he wasn't consistent last year, with ten of his catches coming against Nevada, he has the ability to make 5-to-7 catches a game and be the reliable go-to playmaker. The big concern, though, will be concussion problems suffered in the past. He's a big hit away from possibly being on the shelf for a stretch.
Junior Michael Johnson has been on the verge of big things since coming to UNLV after coming up with a nice first two seasons making 45 catches for 487 yards and a touchdown, while also working as a runner with 33 carries for 159 yards. He's only 5-8 and 175 pounds, but he has tremendous speed and has gamebreaking potential whenever he gets the ball in his hands.
6-0, 195-pound sophomore Mark Barefield got a little bit of work last year catching three passes for 26 yards, but he has the speed and the talent to do far more. A deep threat who'll get his shot in the starting role, he'll be a regular in the starting lineup with several chances to blow up now and again as long as he can be physical for the ground game.
Welcome to the offense, tight ends. After being afterthoughts over the past several years, the new offense will utilize the tight end with former defensive end Austin Harrington getting involved in the attack. He didn't catch any passes last year, but he'll be a short-range target and should be a solid blocker with a lineman mentality.
Projected Top Reserves: After having academic issues, 5-9, 180-pound freshman Marcus Sullivan appears ready to become a big part of the attack working behind Phillip Payne. Extremely quick, the Las Vegas native has the raw skills to become a gamebreaker, but he needs time and seasoning.
A possible defensive back prospect coming out of high school, redshirt freshman Brandon Babineaux , the brother of NFL players Jordan and Jonathan, will be a wide receiver. At 6-3 and 200 pounds he has excellent size and a world of upside, but he was only an average high school target and needs time to grow into a polished college target.
Junior Kyle Watkins was supposed to take on a big role last year moving over from the JUCO ranks, but the 6-2, 240-pounder ended up being an afterthought at tight end making just three catches for 24 yards. More like an athletic fullback than a receiving tight end, he can be used as a blocker and an H-Back.
Watch Out For … the tight ends. Never used in the old attack, the new offense will make regular use of the tight ends and will get them the ball as safety valves to open up the rest of the passing game.
Strength: A change in offense. While the old spread hardly ignored the receivers, making Ryan Wolfe the school's all-time target, it didn't make efficient use of them. Now with a more pro-style attack, the receivers will get their chances to fill more traditional roles. Payne, Johnson, and Barefield should be even more productive.
Weakness: Blocking. Bobby Hauck has made no secret that he wants this to be a hard-nosed, tough team, and that includes the receivers. If you can't block, you can't play for Hauck. It remains to be seen just how physical the UNLV receivers can be.
Outlook: While the loss of a No. 1, steady receiver like Ryan Wolfe hurts, getting back Payne and Johnson will make the passing game explosive and consistent. If Barefield and Sullivan emerge as expected, and if there's steady quarterback play, the passing game should be more efficient and more effective.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Projected Starters: Four starters are back but the one loss, NFL draft pick Joe Hawley, is a big one. Taking over at right guard will be Doug Ziemann , a 6-3, 295-pound sophomore who came to UNLV as a top center prospect and could end up moving into the position next year. A mauler who was a top high school wrestler, he should be terrific for the ground game.
Senior Matt Murphy is the star of the line with three years of starting experience as a rock at left tackle. The 6-4, 300-pounder is great in pass protection and is more than tough enough to pound away for the ground game. Improving by the year, he has refined his technique and has the experience to become one of the team's steadiest performers. He'll be an all-star.
Returning to his spot at left guard is sophomore Jason Heath , a starter in nine games and a good, strong run blocker. At 6-3 and 280 pounds, he's not a big mauler, built more like a tackle, but he's good on the move with the versatility to see time at either guard job or at center. He'll have to fight this fall to keep his job, but he should be a key part of the front five over the next three years.
Ready to shine now that he'll get to bang away more for a power running game, senior John Gianninoto should emerge as an all-star center. The 6-4, 295-pounder has trimmed up a bit and is in great shape, but he hasn't lost any power. While he wasn't a big-time recruit, now he's on the verge of being an all-star anchor for the middle of a veteran line.
6-7, 320-pound senior Evan Marchal has a big frame and good enough quickness to grow into an even stronger pass blocker. He started every game at right tackle after showing excellent promise early in his career. Very big, very smart, and consistent, he's a nice right tackle who could work on the left side without of a problem with just enough athleticism and experience to be a rock against the speedier pass rushers.
Projected Top Reserves: Can Sean Tesoro get back healthy? Expected to become a key blocker at left guard, he started the first two games before suffering a bad ankle injury that he has yet to be able to return from. While he's not going to get back a starting job any time soon, when he's right, the 6-2, 290-pound sophomore could be one of the team's most promising interior blockers.
Working at left guard but able to work on the right side if needed is Thomas Wren , a 6-6, 290-pound junior who has nice size and just enough talent to step in and be decent for the running game. While he's nowhere near the talent that Heath is, he has a big frame and he has been just good enough in practice to finally see action.
Watch Out For … Gianninoto. The center took his game up a few notches in spring ball as he proved to be a strong quarterback for the front line. He's a powerful blocker who should be a star now that he gets to be more powerful.
Strength: Veterans. With four starters returning and Zismann a decent option at right guard, the cohesiveness should be there for a line that wasn't all that bad last season.
Weakness: Developed depth. With a notable exception at left guard, the line stayed healthy throughout last year with the other four spots having the luxury of the same starter for all 12 games. It's asking way too much to have the same luck this year, and unfortunately, there's a mega-drop from the ones to the twos.
Outlook: All offensive linemen prefer to line up and smack defenders in the mouth, and this like will get to do that. Able to use a more powerful style, this veteran group should be more physical and more effective for the running game, while the tackles have already proven they can pass block. While it might be a stretch to call this the Mountain West's best line, the starting five should be terrific.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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