2010 UNLV Preview
UNLV LB Ronnie Paulo
UNLV LB Ronnie Paulo
Posted Jun 15, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - UNLV Rebels

UNLV Rebels

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Bobby Hauck
1st year at UNLV
8th year overall: 80-17
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 25, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best UNLV Players
1. WR Phillip Payne, Jr.
2. OT Matt Murphy, Sr.
3. CB Quinton Pointer, Sr.
4. LB Ronnie Paulo, Sr.
5. SS Alex De Giacomo, Sr.
6. C John Gianninoto, Sr.
7. DT Isaako Aaitui, Sr.
8. LB Starr Fuimaono, Sr.
9. QB Omar Clayton, Sr.
10. WR/KR Michael Johnson, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Wisconsin
Sept. 11 at Utah
Sept. 18 at Idaho
Sept. 25 New Mexico
Oct. 2 Nevada
Oct. 9 at West Virginia
Oct. 16 at Colorado State
Oct. 30 TCU
Nov. 6 at BYU
Nov. 13 Wyoming
Nov. 18 Air Force
Nov. 27 at SDSU
Dec. 4 at Hawaii

And here comes the backlash. Spread offense lovers, you knew this was coming.

Oh sure, the spread works great at Florida where there's a who's who of NFL talent across the board on both sides of the ball, but the offense is also supposed negate the talent gap a bit and give the mediocre teams a shot on the right day. All you need is the right quarterback and a little bit of precision, and boom, the spread works.

Except at UNLV.

The Mike Sanford era was a clunker in several ways. UNLV might be a tough place to win at, but Sanford never got the right quarterback and never found the offensive playmakers to make his offense sing. Quarterbacks Omar Clayton and Mike Clausen have done their part to carry the attack over the years, but they're not exactly Tim Tebow or Alex Smith. The lack of consistent offensive punch was a problem, but the bigger issue was a defense that hasn't provided more than a slight breeze of opposition over the last several seasons. And that's where new head man Bobby Hauck comes in.

All new head coaches claim their team needs to get stronger, work harder, and practice tighter, otherwise the old coaching staff might have still been in place. In this case, it's actually true. UNLV has to get a lot more physical, a lot more efficient, and a lot more effective. It's a stretch to say the program needs a strict disciplinarian, but it needs a swift kick in the pants.

So in comes Hauck, and even though there will be some elements of the old offense because of the personnel still in place, out goes the tippy-tappy, dinky-doo spread. In comes a pro-style, multiple set attack that will pound away, and out goes the idea of only using mismatches and plays in space to move the ball. In comes the 4-3 defense that will be all about being tougher up front, and out goes a bend-but-break-too-often 4-3 that didn't come up with nearly enough big plays.

The big question for Hauck will be if Sanford left any sort of a legacy. Did Sanford bring in talent over his five years that's good enough to compete with the top Mountain West teams, or is the cupboard bare? Are there great athletes in place who simply needed a new direction and a stronger coaching staff, or are all the veterans simply experienced and not better?

UNLV isn't exactly going to be an X factor in the Mountain West race, but with 16 starters back and good depth and upside on both sides of the ball, this likely isn't going to be a pushover program anymore. Hauck will make sure that his Rebels push back.

What to watch for on offense: The running game from the backs. The quarterbacks are going to be able to take off when needed and they're not going to be asked to sit in the pocket and be Peyton Manning, but unlike last year, when Omar Clayton was second on the team in rushing and backup quarterback Mike Clausen was third, the running backs will get the bulk of the work as the offense goes to a more power-oriented attack. The veteran line will be frothing at the mouth to line up and hit someone, and the backs are in place to produce with C.J. Cox, Bradley Randle, and Channing Trotter likely to combine for well over 1,500 yards.

What to watch for on defense: The tackles. There's no excuse to not be better against the run on the inside with 350-pound Ransey Feagai, 350-pound Nate Holloway, 315-pound Isaako Aaitui, and 285-pound lightweight Isaiah Shivers the main foursome in the rotation. The Rebels haven't generated any sort of a pass rush in years, and while the tackles won't get into the backfield, they have to anchor the front so everyone else can operate. However, the painful truth might be that the Rebels don't have a sure-thing pass rusher who can get to the quarterback. That's why …

The team will be far better if … someone, anyone can get into the backfield. Linebacker Jason Beauchamp made 6.5 of the team's 15 sacks and 12 of the 49 tackles for loss, and now he's gone. How weak was the front seven? Corner Quinton Pointer finished second on the team in sacks (two) and tackles (72). In a trickle-down effect, the lack of a pass rush (finishing 117th in the nation in tackles for loss and 106th in sacks) meant the mediocre secondary had to be far better.

The schedule: The new era of Rebel football has a chance to start out with a seismic bang with Wisconsin coming to town to open the season followed up by a date at Utah. If UNLV can miraculously come up with a split, the season might be a success before getting out of mid-September. Getting non-conference games at Idaho and West Virginia and hosting Nevada means there isn't a layup in the bunch, and closing out the year with a bowl-like trip to Hawaii isn't going to be easy. Going on the road to BYU will be an almost certain loss, but that comes in the midst of a nice run of three home games in four weeks.

Best offensive player: Junior WR Phillip Payne. The best player needs to be either Clayton or Clausen, and one of the running backs, either last year's leader, Channing Trotter, or the likely starter, C.J. Cox, has to be terrific. Left tackle Matt Murphy is destined for all-star honors, while center John Gianninoto was one of the team's best players this offseason. But it's Payne, last year's second leading receiver, who needs to be a steady factor after catching 58 passes for 661 yards and a team-leading seven scores. He can be the No. 1 target, but he can't afford to disappear like he did during a late-season stretch.

Best defensive player: Senior CB Quinton Pointer. Can he actually cover someone? He didn't do much in pass coverage over the last few years, but he has been a whale of a tackling corner with 108 unassisted stops and 166 total tackles. He has four career interceptions, but none of them came last year as it seemed like he spent all his time bringing someone down. Now he'll be asked to do more in coverage and won't have as many responsibilities against the run.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Omar Clayton. Mike Clausen can run the offense, and he'll get his chances to win the No. 1 job all season long (Hauck is in no hurry to name a starter), but it's Clayton who has the most experience and has been the steadiest hand when the offense has been at its best. With a veteran team around him, he needs to keep the mistakes to a minimum and be a consistent midrange passer.

The season will be a success if … UNLV gets to six wins. The team isn't all that great and the schedule is a bear, but after going 5-7 in each of the last two seasons, it's time to win that one extra game. However, with a 13-game slate, six wins doesn't quite cut it, and worst of all, there aren't any pure layups. A bowl team should be able to beat Idaho, San Diego State, and Hawaii on the road, and New Mexico and Wyoming at home, but there can't be any slip ups and there will need to be a few upsets. On the plus side, if it doesn't happen, going to Hawaii in early December is always a plus.

Key game: Sept. 11 at Utah. The Rebels aren't going to win this game, but they have to show how much things have improved. It's the Mountain West opener, and after losing ten of the 11 games in the series since joining the league from the WAC, it's time for an upset. The Rebels pulled off a stunner in 2007 winning 27-0, and carried that momentum to lose the last eight games of the season. In the ten losses to the Utes, nine were by double digit margins.

2009 Fun Stats:
- 2nd quarter scoring: Opponents 115 – UNLV 68
- Punt returns: Opponents 22 for 122 yards – UNLV 9 for 59 yards
- Penalties: Opponents 92 for 859 yards – UNLV 63 for 613 yards

- 2010 UNLV Preview | 2010 UNLV Offense
- 2010 UNLV Defense | 2010 UNLV Depth Chart
- UNLV Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006