clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UNLV Rebels football spring preview: Running backs

Entering the 2017 season, UNLV’s biggest strength is its rushing game.

NCAA Football: UNLV at Central Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, now a return to college football is starting to feel real. We’re up to the running backs in our look into the 2017 UNLV football Rebels. Monday we gave you a breakdown of the QB battle that is playing out in Las Vegas as spring practice continues throughout the month of March. While we expect to see a significant change under center, UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez has known commodities at the running back position, and that’s arguably the biggest strength of the Rebels.

UNLV was fourth in the Mountain West Conference in rushing offense last season, churning up a stout 241 yards on the ground per game. They also earned the distinction of having three different quarterbacks who produced 100 yard rushing games.

Those impressive numbers all added up to a four-win season. After the season concluded there was a shakeup among the coaching staff with running backs coach DeAndre Smith leaving the program to a take a job at North Carolina. Travis Burkett takes his position, and if UNLV is going to take a significant step forward in Sanchez’s third season, the Rebels can’t see any regression from the following three backs.

Xzaviar Campbell

NCAA Football: Nevada at UNLV Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Xzaviar Campbell returns for his third year after a sophomore campaign that saw a drop in his production from his freshman season. This can largely be credited to a logjam at the position, and playing time won’t be any easier to come by as newcomers Tariq Hollandsworth, Lantz Worthington, Evan Owens, and Tyree Jackson are all expect to compete for carries.

At 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, Campbell is the most bruising of all the ball carriers in the Rebels backfield. Last season David Greene turned eight of his 50 carries into touchdowns as the UNLV go-to option at the goal line. WIth Greene graduated, Campbell can expect to occupy that role in 2017.

2016 Game Logs Table
Rushing Receiving
Rk Date School Opponent Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
1 2016-09-01 Nevada-Las Vegas Jackson State W 10 52 5.2 0 0 0 0
2 2016-09-24 Nevada-Las Vegas Idaho L 1 4 4.0 0 0 0 0
3 2016-10-01 Nevada-Las Vegas Fresno State W 1 8 8.0 0 0 0 0
4 2016-10-08 Nevada-Las Vegas @ San Diego State L 1 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
5 2016-11-12 Nevada-Las Vegas Wyoming W 19 83 4.4 1 2 18 9.0 1
6 2016-11-18 Nevada-Las Vegas @ Boise State L 13 60 4.6 0 2 -2 -1.0 0
7 2016-11-26 Nevada-Las Vegas Nevada L 4 26 6.5 0 0 0 0
7 Games 49 233 4.8 1 4 16 4.0 1
CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/7/2017.

Lexington Thomas

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

The other half of the “Lex and X Show” is good, and only getting better. In 2016 Lexington Thomas followed up on an impressive freshman season and led the Rebels with 10 touchdowns, two through the air, eight on the ground. His top effort was 190 yards on 16 carries in a disappointing home loss to Idaho on September 24th.

October 5th, Thomas again topped the century mark against Hawaii. In the three games to close out the season, the Rebels second leading rusher only carried the ball a total of 13 times. This shouldn’t discourage UNLV fans. Late in the year, with bowl hopes dashed and injuries all over the field, Sanchez experimented with a variety of lineups. Regardless of who collects the bulk of the carries, Thomas will remain a fantastic option in the UNLV rushing attack in 2017.

2016 Game Logs Table
Rushing Receiving
Rk Date School Opponent Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
1 2016-09-01 Nevada-Las Vegas Jackson State W 11 68 6.2 2 1 2 2.0 0
2 2016-09-10 Nevada-Las Vegas @ UCLA L 19 112 5.9 1 0 0 0
3 2016-09-17 Nevada-Las Vegas @ Central Michigan L 17 113 6.6 1 1 5 5.0 0
4 2016-09-24 Nevada-Las Vegas Idaho L 19 160 8.4 2 0 0 0
5 2016-10-01 Nevada-Las Vegas Fresno State W 15 19 1.3 1 1 -4 -4.0 0
6 2016-10-08 Nevada-Las Vegas @ San Diego State L 9 27 3.0 0 0 0 0
7 2016-10-15 Nevada-Las Vegas @ Hawaii W 21 102 4.9 1 2 43 21.5 1
8 2016-10-22 Nevada-Las Vegas Colorado State L 4 13 3.3 0 1 37 37.0 1
9 2016-10-29 Nevada-Las Vegas @ San Jose State L 5 18 3.6 0 0 0 0
10 2016-11-26 Nevada-Las Vegas Nevada L 4 10 2.5 0 0 0 0
10 Games 124 642 5.2 8 6 83 13.8 2
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/7/2017.

Charles Williams

NCAA Football: Fresno State at UNLV Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

I won’t say that UNLV fans should pin their hopes and dreams on Charles Williams. Armani Rogers, maybe. But Williams should be one of the players the Rebel faithful are most excited about entering the 2017 season.

As a freshman last season the Fresno, California product grabbed some headlines, no small feat among this talented group of running backs. When the season ended he led the Rebels in rushing yards, and also served as a dynamic option in the punt return game.

It may be early to say that Williams will be the feature back in 2017, but depending on how March practice and the Spring Game on April 1st goes, the job is certainly his if he wants it.

2016 Game Logs Table
Rushing Receiving Kick Ret
Rk Date School Opponent Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Ret Yds Avg TD
1 2016-09-01 Nevada-Las Vegas Jackson State W 12 96 8.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
2 2016-09-10 Nevada-Las Vegas @ UCLA L 1 1 1.0 0 0 0 0 4 96 24.0 0
3 2016-09-17 Nevada-Las Vegas @ Central Michigan L 10 33 3.3 0 3 11 3.7 0 4 54 13.5 0
4 2016-09-24 Nevada-Las Vegas Idaho L 8 30 3.8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
5 2016-10-01 Nevada-Las Vegas Fresno State W 18 153 8.5 1 0 0 0 3 55 18.3 0
6 2016-10-08 Nevada-Las Vegas @ San Diego State L 9 21 2.3 0 0 0 0 2 48 24.0 0
7 2016-10-15 Nevada-Las Vegas @ Hawaii W 14 85 6.1 0 0 0 0 6 105 17.5 0
8 2016-10-22 Nevada-Las Vegas Colorado State L 8 41 5.1 0 0 0 0 2 28 14.0 0
9 2016-10-29 Nevada-Las Vegas @ San Jose State L 22 141 6.4 1 1 -3 -3.0 0 1 23 23.0 0
10 2016-11-12 Nevada-Las Vegas Wyoming W 13 64 4.9 0 0 0 0 2 13 6.5 0
11 2016-11-18 Nevada-Las Vegas @ Boise State L 17 50 2.9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
12 2016-11-26 Nevada-Las Vegas Nevada L 9 48 5.3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
12 Games 141 763 5.4 3 4 8 2.0 0 24 422 17.6 0
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/7/2017.