UNLV's offense last season struggled to score at many times last season, and don't expect anything much different. The Rebels problems almost always came back to a bad offensive line which couldn't run block or give the quarterback time to throw. Well, it's most likely going to get worse along the line. UNLV is going to start four freshman on the offensive line and, in one of the positions were experience is very important, the Rebels will lack much experience.
The good news is that the line should have time to play together in the next couple of years and should be very good down the road. In the meantime, UNLV is going to be stacked at the skill positions in the 2011 season, well, at least for UNLV standards.
The Rebels best position on offense this year is by far Wide Receiver. UNLV returns Phillip Payne, who was selected for first team All-MWC, and Michael Johnson, who was selected for second team All-MWC. Johnson is a speedy slot receiver who is good with wide receiver screens and basically any route with a quick pass. Payne is a tall, fast receiver who is best known for getting the deep ball and being a big target in the red zone.
Both Payne and Johnson may have some distractions to get rid of when they head into Fall Camp's first practice. Payne had a dismal season last year compared to his expectations and Johnson was suspended for violating the team rules this past off-season. If they aren't able to get those distractions out of their head, they may struggle in 2011.
UNLV's running game was atrocious last season, averaging three yards per carry. Some of that can be contributed to the fact that UNLV's talent at running back, while very promising, was very young last season. Tim Cornett, a freshman, turned out to be the starter at running back towards season's end. Cornett rushed for only 546 yards, yet that was more than double what Channing Trotter, who was the starter for the first five weeks, went for.
The fact of the matter is that UNLV's running game was ineffective last season and in order for that to change, the offensive line is going to have to execute blocking schemes better and Cornett is going to have to show a jump in experience. UNLV has two or three running backs whose first season was last season and they are a very talented bunch. Unfortunately, they are just too young right now to be able to contribute to this team.
Heading into fall camp, all eyes will be on the quarterback race between Caleb Herring and Sean Reilly. Reilly is a JUCO player who signed with the Rebels this past off-season. Herring is the clear favorite due to his style of play and the fact that he has one year of experience in the offense. Herring is a drop-back pocket passer who fits Coach Hauck's pro style offense perfectly and was highly touted coming out of high school. Reilly is a dual-threat QB who would have better fit Mike Sanford's system a couple of years ago.
The bottom line for the UNLV offense this season? They have a lot of talent, but it is very young. The Rebels are the youngest team in the FBS for the second straight season and this offense will simply struggle to move the ball without the kind of experience along the line in order for it to function well. UNLV does have some good talent at the skill positions, but without a good offensive line, the point is moot. No run blocking means no big runs and bad pass blocking means rushed throws and lots of incomplete passes.
In 2012 the Rebels should be very good on offense, but until then they are just going to have to hope that the offensive line comes together quickly for the 2011 season.