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2013 Pre-Season Preview: UNLV Rebels

2012 Record: 2-11 (2-6 in MWC)

Head Coach: Bobby Hauck (6-32 at UNLV, 86-49 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2000 Las Vegas Bowl: beat Arkansas 31-14

Stadium: Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, NV (capacity = 36,800)

Home Field Advantage: ranked 47th out of 55 mid-major teams

Schedule Glimpse:

2013 Schedule Link

Out of Conference: 8/29 at Minnesota, 9/7 vs Arizona, 9/14 vs CMU, 9/21 vs Western Illinois

Toughest Conference Home Game: 11/2 vs SJSU, 11/9 vs Utah St, 11/30 vs SDSU

Toughest Conference Road Games: 10/19 at Fresno State, 10/26 at Nevada

 

Statistical Snapshot:

2012 Statistics Link

Stats to Fear: scored TDs on only 56.41% of red zone trips (9th in MWC), gave up 33 plays of 30 or more yards (last in MWC)

Stats to Cheer: increased ppg by 4.7 over previous season, decreased ppg allowed by 7.8 over previous season

Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 106th out of 124 teams

 

Personnel:

Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 8, Defense: 10, Special Teams: 1

Key Defensive Returnees: DE Sonny Sanitoa (5 sacks), LB Tim Hasson (76 tackles), MLB Tani Maka (70 tackles)

Key Offensive Returnees: QB Nick Sherry (2538 yds pass, 53.2% completions, 16 TD, 17 INT), RB Tim Cornett (1232 yds rush, 7 TD)

 

Inside Scoop with Jacob McGhee of Mountain West Connection

CFBZ: Bobby Hauck is 6-32 in three seasons. What are the thoughts on him around campus and what does he need to do better as a coach this season?

Jacob McGhee: As of right now, the general understanding is that this is Hauck's make it or break it season. I am one of the few optimistic UNLV fans when it comes to Hauck. Personally, I see him changing the culture of the program and last season, while our win total certainly didn't change, we weren't blown out nearly as often and we were competitive, even against some of the better teams. That's something that wasn't happening even in the Mike Sanford era. Unfortunately, I do not represent the general feeling in Las Vegas. Most fans are very unhappy with his job so far, and that doesn't change when it comes to a national scene either (Hauck was the second worst football coach in America according to Athlon Sports). The bottom line is that Hauck now has to shift his players' mentality to the point where moral victories are not okay. The players need to understand that anything short of a victory needs to be considered a total failure and that every sacrifice needs to be made to put the Rebels in the best position to win. If Hauck can change that mentality, then I think UNLV has the talent to do some damage this season.

 

CFBZ: UNLV has a lot of returning players on offense. Who needs to have a break-out year for the Rebels to be successful in 2013?

Jacob McGhee: Nick Sherry. Plain and simple. Sherry started as a true freshman last season and put up better minutes at the quarterback position for UNLV than has been seen in a while. His flashes of good decision making and tight spirals showed that he could easily mature to be a good quarterback for UNLV. Now that really needs to become a reality. The running game should be the foundation point of the offense, with a decent rusher in Tim Cornett returning along with a relatively talented offensive line, but it's certainly not good enough to carry the offense by itself. The Rebels are going to need a consistent passing attack to keep defenses offset or the offense will turn into what it was last season – a one dimensional ground game in which the defense consistently loaded the box and stagnated the offense.
 
 
CFBZ: What games do the UNLV fans have circled on their schedule?
 
Jacob McGhee: Most of the winnable games for UNLV come in the forefront of the schedule. Last season, the Rebels lost in triple overtime to Minnesota, so hopefully the Rebels will have a chance in the season opener. Two home games against Central Michigan and Western Illinois also look to be winnable. The road game against New Mexico should be a good contest, as neither team has been particularly good in recent years. Hawaii wasn't very good last season and the Rebels destroyed the Warriors the year before that, so hopes are high on that game. Unfortunately, if UNLV is going to get lucky and go bowling this season, then they are going to have find a win against a team that looks to be substantially better than them at this point. In last season's Battle for the Fremont Cannon, UNLV blew a 28 point lead against Nevada, so they may have a shot with that game. They also did actually beat Air Force last year, so maybe the Rebels can get a win there. It's just going to be tough to see it.
 
 
CFBZ: What makes this season successful in your eyes?
 
Jacob McGhee: A successful season is one that keeps Hauck's job. And the only season in which Hauck will remain at UNLV is one where the Rebels are at least .500. Anything less than a bowl game at this point is simply failure, as this will be Hauck's 4th season at UNLV. The problem is, as I outlined above, the Rebels don't have more than 5 games where they're expected to be competitive. The Rebels will have to make 1, maybe 2 upsets in order to go bowling this season.
 
 
 
Verdict:
 
UNLV clearly improved last year but can they take the next step and get into the win column on a more consistent basis in 2013? Last year, they lost eleven games. Yes, eleven games. That's a lot of losses. Glass half full: five of those losses were by single digits so they weren't too far off in almost half of their losses. This year will be Hauck's fourth so he's had four recruiting cycles to get his guys on campus and in tune with his system. He also starts this year with new coordinators on both sides of the football so there will be tweaks as the coordinators will want things done their way. As Jacob mentioned, this is a make it or break it year for Hauck.
 
The offense returns a bunch of starters but still skews young as the projected depth charts that I've seen show just one senior (RB Tim Cornett). A big key will be how much improvement we see out of young QB Nick Sherry. Cornett is a good RB (5.1 ypc) and the Rebels could get some help from Northwestern transfer Adonis Smith. The WRs are all back. They are a solid but unspectacular bunch. It would help if someone can step up as a play-maker from this group. The OL wasn't bad last year and despite losing it's two most experienced players it returns four guys who have started ten or more games.
 
On defense, they showed some improvement allowing ten less TDs, posting a better third down rate and also got to the QB more. Unfortunately, they still gave up a lot of big plays and didn't improve in the red zone. The DL returns seven of it's top nine contributors. Despite the returning players, Hauck was obviously not satisfied with the status quo as he went out and landed three JUCO early enrollees (two DEs and one DT) and added another JUCO DE that will be coming to campus to compete this fall. The Rebels return two seniors at LB but look for RS frosh Tau Lotulelei (his brother John led the team in tackles last season) to be a key cog in the defense. In the secondary, the Rebels must replace FS Kenny Brown but they have experience coming back at every position. 
 
The schedule is pretty tough as the Rebels will start on the road against a Minnesota team that is getting better, then they must play two teams that went bowling last year (Arizona and CMU). In conference they play New Mexico, Fresno State, Nevada and Air Force on the road and they play Hawaii, SJSU, Utah State and San Diego State at home. When I look at the schedule, it looks like it's going to be another tough year for UNLV. On paper there is a big gap between the leagues top teams and the bottom teams (UNLV, Colorado State, Hawaii). But that's why they play the games. UNLV's best shot is getting off to a good 2-2 start in out of conference play and then attacking the weak part of their conference schedule (at New Mexico, Hawaii). This team needs to win early because at the end of the season wins are going to be very hard to come by on this schedule. This team will be better but I'm not sure you will see it in the W/L record, I see this team finishing the year with three wins. 
 
 

Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:

MWC- Air ForceSDSU
The American- HoustonMemphisTempleUCFUSF

 

Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, writer for Crystal Ball Run and founder of College Football Zealots

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