Marcus Arroyo will not have the benefit of having a “Justin Herbert” at quarterback when the Rebels take the field. However, he does have the benefit of having a lot of options to choose from to fill the position.
One of the biggest on-the-field issues for UNLV the past six seasons, among the long list of issues for the UNLV football program, has been a lack of consistent production at the quarterback position.
The issues at quarterback were evident in the last two seasons. One element of the quarterback issues has been the lack of depth. In 2018, the Rebels lost five of the six games that Armani Rogers missed due to injury. There was a significant drop off from Rogers to back up Max Gilliam and the drop-in play from the offense was evident.
And last year, after a combination of an injury and poor play from Rogers, the Rebels relied on Kenyon Oblad. He had moments throughout the season that were promising but did not have a breakout game that solidified him as the leader of the program moving forward.
Now, as Arroyo ventures in his first season as head coach of the Rebels, he is faced with the most important decision every coach faces and one that will have the most impact on how well the team does, picking a quarterback.
The Rebels have seven quarterbacks on the roster. Four are returning from last year’s roster: Oblad, Rogers, Gilliam, and Marckell Grayson. Travis Mumphrey Jr. was a midyear signee, he graduated early and joined the team at the beginning of the 2020 calendar year. And, there are two quarterbacks in the class of 2020, Doug Brumfield, and TCU transfer Justin Rogers (we are still waiting word from the NCAA if Justin Rogers will be immediately eligible for the season).
If we were in normal times, we would have an idea who among the seven quarterbacks would emerge as the leader for the starting job. But due to the pandemic, the team has not been able to go to campus and practice since the middle of March. And even if they are able to get a month or two of practice before the season starts, Arroyo and his staff will not have the full benefit of having spring football to see who will fill the role.
A few of the quarterbacks stick out above the rest and there are enough candidates to have a good competition for the starting job. The three quarterbacks that would have a legitimate shot at the job, those three would be Oblad, Armani Rogers, and Justin Rogers.
If Justin Rogers is eligible to play this season, he will play. He is a true dual treat who has a great arm and the quickness to keep defenses honest. With his arm, he has the ability to throw the deep ball, and with some of the receivers UNLV has, it could result in a legitimate passing game that the Rebels have been missing for some time.
Justin Rogers fits the mold on what an ideal quarterback would be in Arroyo’s system. He is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, with a big arm and the ability to run. And the fact that he is coming from a Power 5 program helps in terms of what type of competition he has faced.
The biggest challenge for Justin Rogers, besides acclimating to a new environment and system at UNLV, is his eligibility status. If you are UNLV, Rogers getting denied his immediate eligibility is not the worst thing in the world. The current situation of not having spring football, being unable to be on campus, and daunting non-conference schedule the Rebels face this season, it might be best that Justin Rogers saves his two-years of eligibility for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, when the Rebels should be competing to go to a bowl game.
Behind Justin Rogers as the next two likely options to start at quarterback at Oblad and Armani Rogers. Given the type of offense Arroyo wants to implement, it is highly likely that Armani Rogers starts and plays in a majority of UNLV’s games. Armani Rogers might not be the most popular opinion to start in the eyes of Rebel fans, but he best fits the mold of what Arroyo wants to do on offense.
Oblad is, slightly, a better and more consistent passer than Armani Rogers. But one thing Oblad lacks is the ability to be a real dual threat. When Armani Rogers is in the game, teams have to respect his ability to pull the ball and run. One thing Arroyo did with Herbert the past two seasons was call up more run plays for him, and Oblad is not the proven runner that Armani Rogers is.
Arroyo could see Armani Rogers as someone that he can work with and mold the system around to get the best out of him and provide the best results for the team this year.
There is a completely plausible scenario that the Rebels roll with a two-quarterback system. If Justin Rogers is not eligible this year, Arroyo could split snaps between Oblad and Armani Rogers. They could have Oblad in for the passing plays and Armani Rogers in for run and RPO plays.
After those top three options, there is a significant drop-off to the other options. Gilliam did not play well when he took over the starting job in 2018, Grayson has not played in a game yet in his college career, and Mumphrey Jr. will be a true freshman this year.
The last quarterback, Brumfield, should be one to keep an eye on. He is a 6-foot-5 dual threat quarterback that originally committed to UNLV under Tony Sanchez, but decided to stick with the Rebels after the change at head coach. Similar to both Justin Rogers and Armani Rogers, Brumfield appears to be the type of quarterback Arroyo would like to run his offense.
Arroyo has picked up a commit from a 2021 recruit, three-star quarterback Cameron Friel from Hawaii. Friel is 6-foot-4 and has qualities that Arroyo likes in quarterbacks. He can throw the ball deep and shows great presence in the pocket, he also can evade pressure and scrabble if need be.
To many, it might appear that having too many options at quarterback is a bad thing, but for the Rebels, it is the complete opposite. Having solid quarterback play in the Mountain West can elevate any team above the rest by a significant margin. The depth at the position not only gives the Rebels options, but a plan for the future at the position.
A possible time table for the next five years for UNLV’s quarterbacks could go something like this: If Justin Rogers does not get eligibility this year, the Rebels should start Armani Rogers or split play time between Armani Rogers and Oblad, while Brumfield redshirts. Then in 2021 and 2022, Justin Rogers would be the starter. And in 2023 on, Brumfield coudl start for the next two years or Arroyo could go with Friel or another quarterback that he has recruited.
The Rebels have the ingredients for a productive offense. They are led by running back Charles Williams who had 1,257 rushing yards last year. There are several options at receiver like Randall Grimes, Steve Jenkins, and Mekhi Stevenson that can make big plays. And, they are returning some key members of their offensive line. If UNLV could find the right quarterback, or get consistent play this year, they could have an efficient offense.
UNLV football players began returning to campus last week for voluntary workouts. If the season is expected to begin on time, that would leave just about two months for the Rebels to find its quarterback before the season starts. While there are plenty of question marks about this season, the future appears to be interesting at quarterback for the Rebels.