Spring practice is underway in Las Vegas, and UNLV Rebels head football coach Tony Sanchez has some big decisions to make before the 2017 season kicks off on September 2nd against the Howard Bison.
The coming season will be one of the most important in the history of UNLV football. Fans will be looking for Sanchez, in his third season with the program, to take a significant step forward. The university has invested in the former Bishop Gorman coach heavily, including signing him to a three-year contract extension in January.
To be clear, we’re talking bowl game. Or at least bowl eligible. In year one under Sanchez, the Rebels won three games overall. Expectations were rock bottom for UNLV fans, so it was a feather in our cap simply to say we beat the Vegas over/under on win total that season.
Last year the Rebels won four games. A step forward, but mostly on paper. The overtime home loss to Idaho on September 24th was a bitter pill, as was the blowout against rival Nevada-Reno to close out the season.
So this year is a big one. And just like every program in America, everything starts at quarterback. It will be a hotly contested battle this month in Las Vegas, but Sanchez isn’t shy about giving his opinion regarding who will be under center. Here are the three signal callers competing for the starting job.
The most seasoned of the UNLV quarterbacks is senior Kurt Palandech. In 2015 as a junior, he had the opportunity to start three games courtesy of a Blake Decker injury. Last season he started the year number two, and was once again handed the starting job when Johnny Stanton went down.
Palandech has served admirably in spots where he’s been called into action, but he’s not getting the Rebels over the hump this year. Really that’s never been the expectation. A skilled athlete and competent under center, he’ll play a similar role in 2017-18 as he did last year. If Palandech is starting, something bad happened.
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It didn’t take long for Johnny Stanton to get fans excited last season. The once heralded recruit of Nebraska’s 2013 class torched Jackson State in the air and on the ground last season in his first game as a Rebel.
That was the best we’d see from Johnny Stanton. He’d appear in three more games, all losses, before a knee injury eventually ended his season. UNLV fans needn’t wonder if they’ll see Johnny Stanton as a starter this season.
The future is now, and the future is Armani Rogers. Last season there was some conversation among fans that Rogers may have his redshirt pulled as injuries continued to befell the Rebels all over the field, including the quarterback position. In fact, depth at wide receiver became so thin that QB Dalton Sneed was eventually reassigned from throwing passes to catching them.
Rogers never took a snap under center, and this fall the Rebels will be better for it. The UNLV faithful can allow themselves to dream a little bit this season. Tony Sanchez’s club will enter the 2017-18 campaign with an enthusiasm that the program has not felt in awhile.
Talking with the Las Vegas Review-Journal before spring practice got underway, Sanchez talked about the development of his freshman QB and his plans for naming a starter.
“(Rogers) 100 percent benefited from that one year of sitting out,” Sanchez said. “He traveled to every game, he signaled stuff in, saw the way we talked to our quarterbacks and the competitive situations that we were in. It was his first course into Division 1 football.”
“We have high expectations for Armani, as we do for the other guys. We have brought in guys for our type of style. Dual-threat quarterbacks who can make plays. When it comes to arm strength and stuff like that, Armani has a little bit of an edge.”
“We feel we can come out of the spring and have a starter named. It could change, but I have my mind set on having a starter by the spring game.”
6-foot-5, 225 pounds, dual threat quarterback, Rogers is the real deal. There won’t be a lot of drama this spring. Armani Rogers is the Ferrari that’s been sitting in the garage, and Sanchez is ready to show him off. He’s one of the highest rated recruits in UNLV history, and he’ll be taking the snaps when the season gets underway. Check out his highlights from senior year at Hamilton High School in California, courtesy of Hudl.