UNLV's 2011 football season isn't expected to be much different than the 2010 season was. The Rebels finished 2-11 with wins over Wyoming and New Mexico. The good news? The team is young and will grow up together over the next couple of years. The bad news? UNLV is going to have to wait 1 or 2 years before that starts to show up.
In the meantime, any kind of improvement this season would be a great sign. Getting 3 or 4 wins would be great news for a team so young. When I say this team is young, I'm mostly talking about the offense. More than half the starters on that side of the ball are underclassmen, but that's not so much the case on the defensive side of the ball.
UNLV's depth chart (which was just released today) shows a lot of youth behind the current starters on defense, but the starters themselves have some notable experience.
The 2011 UNLV defensive line is losing it's two inside tackles in Isaako Aautui and Daniel Mareko, but it returns two seniors on both defensive ends. Both James Dunlap and B.J. Bell are seniors and have considerable experience at the position, but as a commenter in a thread from about a year ago put it, experience doesn't help without talent.
The fact of the matter is that neither of these guys have really performed well in their careers. Unfortunately for the Rebels, there isn't much of an option as the players behind each of them aren't much better.
The secondary is expected to be a strong point for UNLV this season, as they have Quinton Pointer returning after missing all of the 2010 season due to a fall camp injury as well as Will Chandler, who was responsible for 5 turnovers last season. Pointer came out atop the depth chart at cornerback, but Sidney Hodge surprisingly beat out Chandler for the other corner position. Expect to see Chandler come in at some point during the season if Hodge doesn't perform well.
Both safety positions are a mess with battles that still haven't been decided according to the depth chart. At strong safety, Daniel Harper and Eric Tuiloma-Va'a have been going back and forth during fall camp and neither came out on top. It looks like Hauck could decide on gameday who he wants to start there as well as the Free Safety position. At Free Safety, Tajh Hasson and Kenny Brown are fighting, with Hasson having a slight lead.
For Hauck, the question when making the decision as to who to start at the safeties is whether you want to get the young guys experience or put in the guys who already have experience. Hasson is a redshirt freshman and Tuiloma-Va'a is a sophomore. Harper is a senior and Kenny Brown is a junior. If Hauck thinks the Rebels have a legitimate chance of getting to a bowl game, then he'll put his most experienced guys on the field. If not, then look for Hasson and Tuiloma-Va'a to get some valuable experience.
The Linebacking core looks to be good this season, especially at MLB where the Rebels have two players of considerable talent in Nate Carter and JUCO transfer Princeton Jackson. Carter beat out Jackson in camp, even though Jackson was highly touted (at least for a UNLV recruit) when he decided to come to UNLV. Carter is a senior and has a year of starting experience in Hauck's defense from last season. If Jackson is able to get a good grip on Hauck's defense soon, Jackson just might take over first string.
Converted running back C.J. Cox was named the starter at the Sam Linebacker position and should hopefully bring some speed to the position. Cox beat out Tim Hasson, who started as a freshman last season. At the will linebacker, Coach Hauck named sophomore Tani Maka the starter.