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UNLV Rebels football spring preview: Defensive backs

Veteran leadership has departed, but the Rebels must get better in the secondary.

NCAA Football: Idaho State at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In 2016 teams liked to throw on UNLV. A lot. Last season the Rebels finished third from the bottom in the Mountain West Conference in passing yards allowed. Opposing offenses hit Tony Sanchez’s team for 243 yards per contest. That makes for a plenty of interception opportunities. Things didn’t exactly work out, the Rebels picked off just five passes, tied for last in the MWC.

So depending on how you consume those numbers, it may be a good or bad thing that defensive backs Troy Hawthorne, Kenny Keys, and Torry McTyer were lost to graduation. Hawthorne and McTyer accounted for four of those interceptions and all three finished in the top six for tackles.

UNLV has explosive talent and known commodities at several positions on the field. If they’re to flirt with bowl eligibility in 2017 these guys will have to improve upon the Rebels pass defense considerably.

Tim Hough

Tim Hough already has significant experience as a critical part of the UNLV secondary. As a freshman in 2015 he tied Marlon Beavers’ 1973 school freshman record for interceptions in a season with four.

Hough can make plays all over the field, and he’ll be expected to contribute on special teams as well. He’s a versatile, athletic player who will have to assume more of a leadership role in 2017 in the Rebel secondary.

Darius Mouton

Mouton is another player who saw the field plenty as a freshman. In 2015 he appeared in ten games, totaling twenty tackles.

Last season a strong spring led to a full-time job starting at corner. Mouton is coveted for his speed, and fans can expect that he’ll emerge from 2017 spring practice as number one on the depth chart at one of the cornerback positions.

Robert Jackson

Last season was to be Jackson’s first as a defensive back on the Division 1 level. He transferred to UNLV from College of the Sequoias and saw limited playing time with the Rebels before a broken wrist in the Wyoming game prematurely ended his season.

If he can improve upon the things he showcased while in California, Sanchez can feel comfortable with Jackson at the cornerback position. Once upon a time he was a three-star recruit tabbed to be go-to option at nickelback while providing depth at corner. Entering this season, a starting job in the secondary is his to lose.

Jericho Flowers

Jericho Flowers may not be as high on the depth chart at corner as some of these other names, but he has an impressive skill-set.

UNLV fans saw his wide range of talents last season when he was called upon to line up at wide receiver after the Rebels lost a number of receivers due to injury. The expectation in 2017 is that he grow as a cornerback. If needed though, he’s more than capable of catching passes from his former high school teammate Armani Rogers.

Dalton Baker

Dalton Baker and Tony Sanchez know each other well. Baker played under Sanchez at Bishop Gorman before the two were reunited at UNLV.

Baker red-shirted, was on the field for ten games in 2015, and climbed his way up to second on the depth chart at strong safety behind Troy Hawthorne last season. A successful spring will ensure that he’ll be starter in 2017, with significantly heightened expectations.

Kyle Moses

Kyle Moses is a 5-foot-11, 180 pound corner from San Diego, California that was at one time committed to Holy Cross. Post-signing day 2017, Sanchez and his team of recruiters stepped in and stole Moses from the Crusaders.

Moses is a two-star recruit that was pursued by multiple Ivy League schools as well as some lower-tier P5 teams. After signing him to become a Rebel, Sanchez called his newest asset, “a special player for the future.”