The most important person in UNLV athletic history, is this guy:
Why did I begin the post with a picture of Jerry Tarkanian, UNLV's former basketball coach? Because UNLV is in the running for being least relevant football program of all time, and because Tark coached Larry Johnson, who happens to be awesome. UNLV does have some notable football alumni however, they include; Randall Cunningham, Kenny Mayne, Keenan McCardell and Suge Knight. Anyway, everyone should be pretty familiar with the Rebels, as we look ahead to the Cougs trip to Vegas in September. Last season WSU curb stomped UNLV in Pullman by a score of 59-7. Full highlights from that game are available here. You can also go back and check out what Mark and Jeff had to say about the game. Moving on, let's take a deeper look at what the Rebels look like coming out of 2011 and heading into 2012.
UNLV brought in the 86th rated class in the country according to Scout. When you look closely at UNLV's class it is essentially a Coug fan's nightmare of Paul Wulff recruiting Armageddon, wherein almost all of the players only D1 offer was from UNLV. On paper, even Kyle would probably admit Robert Barber would be in the top half of their class. The highest rated guy in the class is WR Jonavaughn Williams a 3 star recruit with offers to ASU, Arizona, Colorado, Duke and Oregon State and he for whatever reason signed with the Rebels. Another intriguing prospect is JC QB James Boyd who originally played at USC, but not as a QB. Boyd was a backup defensive end for the Trojans, who was tried out at quarterback during Spring and then moved back to defense before transferring to a JC. Also of note, while UNLV mainly recruits California and Nevada, they did sign two PNW players this season, WR Marcell Frazier from Portland and TE Andrew Price from Blaine. Before you even ask, yes both were offered by Paul Wulff and staff according to their profiles. On paper it's a weak class but don't be surprised if you seem one or two of the wide outs on the field for UNLV this fall.
Class Breakdown: HS-18, JC -2
QB- 1, RB- 0, WR- 4, TE- 3, OL- 5, DL- 2, LB- 2, CB- 0, S- 3
UNLV was very young offensively in 2011 and return nine starters in 2012. The two not returning are graduating seniors; WR Philip Payne and TE Austin Harrington. Payne and Harrington were UNLV's first and third leading receivers last season and losing them certainly won't help the nations 118th ranked passing offense. Payne by far had the most production of any receiver on the team with 44 catches for 509 yards. Payne also caught 7 of the 10 touchdowns thrown by UNLV passers in 2011. The Rebels also lose backup Senior tight end Anthony Vidal.
Defensively the Rebels will no longer have starting defensive ends James Dunlap and BJ Bell, middle linebacker; Nate Carter and secondary members; Will Chandler, Daniel Harper, and Quinton Pointer.
The 2011 Season:
UNLV was pretty awful in 2011 and the Cougs saw that first hand in Pullman. UNLV gave up the third most points per game last season at 40.4 and only managed to score a little over 17 per game, 113th nationally. The Rebels did miraculously manage 2 wins. Certainly the highlight of their season came a week after being pulverized on the Palouse, the Rebs came home and beat 2011 bowl team, Hawaii, 40-20. Of course, being that they're UNLV football they followed that surprising win up with a 41-16 home loss to FCS school Southern Utah! UNLV also beat fellow MWC cellar dwellar Colorado State 38-35 in Vegas. Another positive in a season of ineptitude was the Rebels rushing attack that averaged 164 yards per game and a respectable 3.9 yards per carry, nearly a full yard per carry improvement from 2010. Expect the ground game to get better as the Rebels return their entire offensive line and their top four rushers from 2011. While the running game was solid, the passing game, as I mentioned above, was atrocious. In his first season as a starter junior to be Caleb Herring struggled with accuracy and with ability to generate much of a vertical passing game. He is the early favorite to start in 2012 and will have to improve dramatically for UNLV to kick start it's offense.
Coaching Staff and Schemes:
Head Coach Bobby Hauck enters 2012 in year three of a three year deal with UNLV. Hauck is almost certainly coaching for his job in 2012 as the Rebels are only 4-21 in his tenure. He'll certainly have a better chance for wins playing in a conference that has lost Utah, BYU and TCU in the last two seasons. Before coming on board in the desert Hauck was the head coach at Montana from 2003-2009, where he won seven consecutive Big Sky championships. Before taking over at Montana he was the defensive backs and special teams coach for Rick Neuheisel at the University of Washington.
Scheme wise, Hauck employs a fairly traditional 4-3 defensively. However against many of the Cougs four and five wide receiver sets last season, UNLV used two stand up ends in a nickel package as their base defense. Offensively they try to play into what few strengths they have. Herring is decently athletic and a capable runner, they also have several productive backs to run through their variation on the spread option. However, Herring's inability to make certain throws and the lack of play makers at wide receiver, allow teams to load up the box against them to stop the run, without fearing consequences on the back end.
This is a very nice match-up for WSU, if it were at home I'd like it more than our game against Eastern. At this point UNLV can't exploit our two biggest weaknesses on the offensive line or in the secondary. Even if the team comes out flat, on the road, in front of a half full Sam Boyd Stadium, I can't see UNLV, with their plodding offense and porous defense hanging with the Cougs and Mike Leach's offense for more than a half.