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The big 2015 UNLV football guide: Hire a high school coach? Why not?

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The 128-team countdown enters the Mountain West, looking at maybe the country's most interesting coaching hire.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Why not?

My first impression of UNLV's hire of local high school coaching legend Tony Sanchez: hiring high school coaches doesn't work! Why in the world would they think it could?

My second impression: well, nothing ELSE has worked, so why not?

In 1986, the program hired Wayne Nunnely, a UNLV grad and four-year Rebel assistant with loads of California connections. He went 11-11 in his first two years, then 8-14, and he was done. In 1989, the Rebels hired one of the hottest young assistants in the country, 34-year-old Notre Dame offensive coordinator Jim Strong. He went 17-27. In 1994, they hired Nevada head coach Jeff Horton, who had spent time on Strong's staff. He went 7-5, then 6-39.

In 1999, instead of another unproven young coach, UNLV brought in former USC and L.A. Rams coach John Robinson. He went 8-5 in his second year and 17-29 thereafter. So they brought in another star assistant in 2005: Mike Sanford, Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator at Utah. He went 16-43.

"Hmm, we haven't tried a successful FCS coach in a while," they said. So they brought in Bobby Hauck, who was 80-17 with three FCS title appearances in seven seasons at Montana. He went 15-49, and almost half of those wins came in one season.

Since Harvey Hyde was fired in 1985 for winning with ineligible players and trying to pull off a "Jerry Tarkanian, but football" routine, this program hasn't found its footing. Hiring young and old coaches, with local and national backgrounds, the Rebels have been to three bowls and finished .500 or better five times since 1987 and has won two games eight times in the last 11 years.

There will always be perceived potential for a program this close to California and in a city with what I will call a natural recruiting draw. But you cannot win this infrequently without serious program dysfunction. And you might as well turn to a local.

"We are delighted to welcome Tony Sanchez as the head football coach at UNLV," Kunzer-Murphy said. "We aren't changing the coach of our program today, we are changing our program. In Las Vegas, we aren't afraid to take a bold approach to responding to challenges and this qualifies. We have been talking about changing the entire culture of this program and that's what today's announcement signifies. With the support of the University and of our community, we are confident Tony Sanchez is the right person to change the culture of UNLV Football. Having already become a big part of this city, he has first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing Rebel Football while also recognizing and embracing the tremendous opportunities that exist in this unique community to help us make a lasting change."

That sounds sensible. And if you're going to fail, you might as well be creative.

Sanchez comes from about 20 miles away, where he built Bishop Gorman Catholic into one of high school football's most recognizable names. He has sent four-star talent to Notre Dame, USC, UCLA, Miami, Nebraska, and Duke, and a former Gorman quarterback (Anu Solomon) just led Arizona to the Pac-12 South title as a redshirt freshman.

In six seasons, Sanchez went 85-5 with six Class 4A state titles. He's still young (41), he's energetic, and technically he's got college experience (one year as a graduate assistant at alma mater New Mexico State before moving up the high school ranks).

To say the least, the cautionary tales against hiring a head coach straight from a high school -- the Gerry Fausts, the Todd Dodges -- are more noteworthy than whatever successes may exist. The skill sets are different; they are two different genres of music.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 2-11 | Adj. Record: 0-13 | Final F/+ Rk: 118
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
29-Aug at Arizona 28 13-58 L 5% -39.1 0%
6-Sep Northern Colorado N/A 13-12 W 27% -14.4 82%
13-Sep Northern Illinois 69 34-48 L 33% -10.2 16%
20-Sep at Houston 73 14-47 L 17% -22.0 2%
27-Sep at San Diego State 76 17-34 L 20% -19.6 3%
4-Oct at San Jose State 116 10-33 L 8% -32.1 4%
10-Oct Fresno State 102 30-27 W 25% -15.6 30%
25-Oct at Utah State 52 20-34 L 29% -12.8 7%
1-Nov New Mexico 94 28-31 L 45% -2.9 66%
8-Nov Air Force 48 21-48 L 17% -22.0 2%
15-Nov at BYU 46 23-42 L 12% -27.2 0%
22-Nov at Hawaii 111 35-37 L 41% -5.5 73%
29-Nov Nevada 64 27-49 L 8% -32.9 0%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 23.5 97 38.5 120
Points Per Game 21.9 107 38.5 116

2. An impossibly awful start

In last year's UNLV preview, I tried to show optimism. UNLV returned some fun skill position talent and had a late-season hot streak in 2013. But the "streak" was just three games -- a possible [dons sunglasses] Mirage -- and any semblance of program momentum was cut short by bowl sanctions. In attempting to build a winner, Bobby Hauck crafted a roster that failed the NCAA's APR standards dramatically.

And with nothing to play for in 2014, the team began about as poorly as possible. And things only improved to a slight degree.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 6 games): 18% (average score: Opp 39, UNLV 17)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 6 games): 28% (average score: Opp 37, UNLV 26)

With the writing on the wall, Hauck resigned before a season-ending dud against Nevada, prompting the Vegas Seven's Matt Jacob to ask, "Can anyone be a winner here?"

Whoever gets the gig, you can be assured of two things: 1) He will be a huge underdog to halt the lather-rinse-repeat cycle of losing that has come to define UNLV football for 30 years, and 2) he’ll most certainly share the optimism Hauck displayed to me at that coffeehouse in 2010: "Coaches around the country, we look at other programs and kind of gauge what goes on there," he said that summer morning. "And one of the questions that a lot of guys in my profession always asked was, ‘Why can’t you win at UNLV.’ And I’m one of those guys who asked the same question. Now I’m going to get the chance to find out."

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.82 83 IsoPPP+ 89.8 93
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 37.8% 107 Succ. Rt. + 90.5 108
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.9 47 Def. FP+ 102.0 44
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.9 103 Redzone S&P+ 85.3 112
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.4 ACTUAL 25 +1.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 81 96 106 93
RUSHING 105 85 88 85
PASSING 44 97 102 90
Standard Downs 94 100 83
Passing Downs 102 101 101
Q1 Rk 82 1st Down Rk 88
Q2 Rk 114 2nd Down Rk 68
Q3 Rk 98 3rd Down Rk 123
Q4 Rk 75

3. A Barney Cotton offense

Sanchez said "Why not here?" things when his hire was made official. And if you can win big at Kansas State, if you can craft a mid-major power out of a former community college, as Boise State did, then you can win anywhere with the right hire.

It will take a while to find out if Sanchez is that guy, but his early hires suggest he knows what he's getting into.

Sanchez crafted a staff with as much college experience as possible, especially near the top. He brought on four-decade coaching veteran Kent Baer as his defensive coordinator and three-decade veteran Barney Cotton as his offensive coordinator. Cotton brought offensive line coach John Garrison from Nebraska, and Baer brought safeties coach Andy Larussa from Colorado. Sanchez snared defensive line coach Joe Seumalo after a nearly 10-year stint with Oregon.

Sanchez's staff is full of both experienced assistants and, in guys like Seumalo, high-caliber recruiters. Or at least, guys who have been good enough at their current jobs to have been hired in the same jobs at big-time schools.

The downside is that very few have ever worked together. And it's going to be difficult to figure out identity.

The recent Nebraska offenses with which Cotton was associated were run-first attacks with mobile quarterbacks and a pretty high tempo. Blake Decker, UNLV's primary 2014 quarterback, proved efficient, if not explosive, on the ground. He also took quite a few more risks than recent Nebraska quarterbacks have, in part because he probably had to.

That comes with the territory when your receiving corps consists of freshmen (Devonte Boyd and Kendal Keys combined for 145 targets) and a major all-or-nothing threat like Devante Davis (18.2 yards per catch with a paltry 44 percent catch rate). With Davis gone, Cotton might be able to wire a little more conservatism into Decker's decision-making.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Blake Decker 6'2, 205 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7533 231 401 2886 15 18 57.6% 34 7.8% 6.2
Jared Lebowitz
26 62 344 1 1 41.9% 3 4.6% 4.8
Nick Sherry
9 29 78 0 2 31.0% 1 3.3% 2.2
Kevin Thomson 6'1, 185 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7744
Kurt Palandech 6'1, 190 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7685
Dalton Sneed 6'0, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7973

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Keith Whitely RB 5'9, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115 118 504 2 4.3 4.5 32.2% 2 1
Shaquille Murray-Lawrence RB
117 552 9 4.7 7.2 28.2% 1 0
Blake Decker QB 6'2, 205 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7533 113 566 5 5.0 2.9 46.9% 3 1
George Naufahu RB 6'0, 215 Sr. NR NR 52 210 1 4.0 2.4 32.7% 0 0
Marcus Sullivan WR
11 33 0 3.0 1.9 27.3% 0 0
Jared Lebowitz QB
6 29 1 4.8 6.3 33.3% 0 0
David Greene RB 6'0, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8000 3 14 0 4.7 2.5 33.3% 0 0
Jamal Overton RB 5'9, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) NR







Xzaviar Campbell RB 5'11, 220 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7785







Lexington Thomas RB 5'9, 170 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7733







4. Got enough backs?

If UNLV's offense ends up resembling Nebraska's, that means plenty of opportunities for running backs. Nebraska backs averaged 33 carries per game over the last two seasons, and while there are interesting prospects from a "former three-star recruit" perspective, none have done much damage.

Keith Whitely looked strong early in 2014 -- in a five-game span from September 6 to October 4, he rushed 55 times for 298 yards (5.4 per carry); in the last six he rushed 39 times for 118 yards (3.0). His explosiveness numbers were average, and his efficiency was poor.

Former Rivals three-stars David Greene and Jamal Overton have combined for three carries and 14 yards. Sanchez signed a couple of incoming freshmen and could turn to them if nothing works out among the upperclassmen, but you never want to count on that.

If the running game can establish itself, it does appear there are high-caliber receiving options in the play-action game. Devonte Boyd was as steady as Devante Davis wasn't, combining a 64 percent catch rate with a solid average of 15.2 yards per catch. If the safeties are distracted, he could put up huge numbers. And at the very least, fellow sophomore Kendal Keys survived and had some bright moments -- two catches for 57 yards against NIU, two for 34 against Hawaii.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Devonte Boyd WR 6'1, 175 So. 2 stars (5.4) NR 100 64 973 64.0% 21.6% 66.0% 9.7 199 9.7 98.1
Devante Davis WR
78 34 619 43.6% 16.8% 57.7% 7.9 171 7.9 62.5
Maika Mataele WR
53 29 355 54.7% 11.4% 41.5% 6.7 -7 6.6 35.8
Kendal Keys WR 6'3, 200 So. 2 stars 0.8539 45 24 310 53.3% 9.7% 60.0% 6.9 9 7.0 31.3
Taylor Barnhill HB
45 29 275 64.4% 9.7% 62.2% 6.1 -75 6.1 27.7
Anthony Williams WR 5'11, 190 Sr. 2 stars 0.7200 39 24 234 61.5% 8.4% 48.7% 6.0 -59 6.1 23.6
Marcus Sullivan WR
33 16 176 48.5% 7.1% 51.5% 5.3 -29 5.4 17.7
Keith Whitely RB 5'9, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115 28 23 193 82.1% 6.0% 39.3% 6.9 -74 7.1 19.5
Shaquille Murray-Lawrence RB
24 16 136 66.7% 5.2% 45.8% 5.7 -56 5.8 13.7
George Naufahu RB 6'0, 215 Sr. NR NR 6 3 5 50.0% 1.3% 83.3% 0.8 -33 0.6 0.5
Jake Phillips TE 6'6, 255 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 5 5 67 100.0% 1.1% 40.0% 13.4 11 12.7 6.8
Andrew Price TE 6'6, 250 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793 5 1 14 20.0% 1.1% 60.0% 2.8 -3 2.7 1.4
Antonio Zepeda TE 6'6, 265 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7683
Brandon Presley WR 6'0, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7933









Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 98.1 3.02 3.22 35.4% 63.4% 15.7% 85.2 9.0% 4.9%
Rank 84 57 72 100 96 20 91 123 29
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Brett Boyko LG 42 2014 2nd All-MWC
Robert Waterman C
51
Andrew Oberg RT
26
Ron Scoggins RG 6'3, 335 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8065 25
Nick Gstrein RG 6'4, 295 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 13
Eric Noone LG 6'2, 300 Jr. NR NR 6
Kyle Saxelid LT 6'7, 270 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7594 5
Patrick Carroll LT 6'5, 310 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 0
Brian Roth LG
0
J'Ondray Sanders C 6'5, 270 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 0
Will Kreitler OL 6'0, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7652
Justin Polu OL 6'4, 310 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8389
Alex Neale OL 6'3, 290 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8083

5. An ill-timed rebuild up front

Nothing does a new coach more of a favor than inheriting a steady offensive line. The odds are good that any new guy coming in after the previous coach failed is going to have some changes in mind for the offense, but if he can count on steady blocking, he's got a chance.

Unfortunately, a line that was decent (20th in Stuff Rate, 29th in passing downs sack rate) must replace three players who had combined for 119 career starts, including four-year starting center Robert Waterman and all-conference guard Brett Boyko. There are experienced options on the interior, but a youngster like three-star freshman Justin Polu might have a chance to make an immediate impact at tackle. Cotton and John Garrison have a decent track record as line coaches, but it might take them a while to find traction.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.95 111 IsoPPP+ 76.0 124
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 46.5% 115 Succ. Rt. + 83.7 122
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 29.6 79 Off. FP+ 100.0 65
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.7 94 Redzone S&P+ 88.1 111
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 18.7 ACTUAL 17.0 -1.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 126 122 122 124
RUSHING 126 117 121 107
PASSING 51 123 116 125
Standard Downs 121 122 121
Passing Downs 117 117 120
Q1 Rk 120 1st Down Rk 125
Q2 Rk 109 2nd Down Rk 126
Q3 Rk 123 3rd Down Rk 112
Q4 Rk 123

6. A Kent Baer defense

Stick in any one profession for long enough, and you're going to rack up your share of successes and failures. That's certainly been the case for Kent Baer, who has now served as a coordinator for 8 percent of all current FBS teams (not to mention 42 percent of Pac-12 teams and 21 percent of Mountain West teams): Utah State (1983-85), Idaho (1986), California (1987-91), Arizona State (1992-94), Stanford (1999-2001), Notre Dame (2002-04), Washington (2005-07), San Jose State (2010-12), Colorado (2013-14), and now UNLV.

Baer has served under Bruce Snyder, Ty Willingham, and Mike MacIntyre. He was named a Broyles Award finalist after his 2002 Notre Dame defense allowed 16.7 points per game and prompted a 10-1 start, and his 2012 SJSU defense ranked a healthy 32nd in Def. S&P+.

Of course, his Colorado defenses ranked 98th and 101st. That's why he was available.

Baer's Colorado defenses wanted to be aggressive but didn't have enough athletes. They recorded 55 tackles for loss (115h in FBS) and 49 passes defensed (89th), resulting in a dreadful Havoc Rate of 13.1 percent (105th). And while UNLV was better in the TFLs department, some of that was due to a defensive line that must now be rebuilt. Technically, Baer did improve the Colorado defense -- it ranked 117th in Def. S&P+ the year before he arrived -- and he will probably do the same for the Rebels. But the bar's really low.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 87.7 3.26 3.85 41.7% 69.1% 15.9% 106.2 5.8% 8.0%
Rank 114 111 116 96 77 109 55 39 52
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Brandon Willis DT
13 34.5 4.1% 4.0 1.0 0 1 0 0
Siuea Vaesau DE
13 32.5 3.8% 8.5 5.0 0 1 0 0
Sonny Sanitoa DT 6'3, 260 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 13 29.0 3.4% 4.0 2.5 0 1 1 0
Jordan Sparkman DE
8 22.5 2.7% 3.0 2.5 0 1 2 1
Dominic Baldwin DE 6'5, 240 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7752 12 18.0 2.1% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Asten Koki DT
13 16.5 2.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Josh Shirley DE
13 13.0 1.5% 4.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Najee Johnson DE 6'4, 220 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593 12 13.0 1.5% 1.0 0.0 0 1 1 0
Mike Hughes Jr. DT 6'3, 300 So. NR 0.8007 7 10.5 1.2% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Antonio Zepeda DL 6'6, 265 So. 2 stars 0.7683 13 3.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tuli Fakauho DL 6'1, 300 Sr. NR NR 11 2.0 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Joseph Salazar DE 6'4, 210 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793
Mark Finau DE 6'3, 230 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7619
Salanoa-Alo Wily DT 6'0, 290 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8196







7. An ill-timed rebuild up front, part 2

UNLV linebackers could be awesome. Tau Lotulelei is an all-conference candidate (though the MWC does not lack for linebackers), and every contributing LB from last year returns. Plus, three-star JUCO transfer Ryan McAllenan could force his way into the rotation. Sanchez said a lot of nice words about the linebackers during spring ball, so he sees the same.

But linebackers can only do damage if the line does its job. And of last year's seven leading tacklers up front, only two return: reserve end Dominic Baldwin and undersized tackle Sonny Sanitoa. And while the 2015 recruiting class can potentially address needs at running back, offensive line, and defensive back, there don't appear to be surefire early contributors up front. Players like sophomore Mike Hughes Jr. and JUCO transfer Mark Finau almost won't have a choice but to make early plays.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Tau Lotulelei WLB 6'1, 220 Jr. NR NR 13 72.5 8.6% 10.5 3.0 0 0 2 0
Ryan McAleenan MLB 6'2, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8300 13 52.0 6.2% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Matt Lea SLB 5'10, 210 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7800 13 42.0 5.0% 3.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Trent Langham SLB 6'2, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7800 13 26.0 3.1% 0.5 0.5 0 1 0 0
Iggy Porchia MLB 6'2, 225 Jr. NR NR 9 23.0 2.7% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Marc Philippi WLB 5'10, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.7600 12 23.0 2.7% 1.0 0.0 1 0 0 0
Nicolai Bornand LB 6'1, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 7 2.0 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Elexious Perkins II LB 6'0, 210 Sr. 2 stars 0.7593
Ryan McAleenan LB 6'2, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8300
Bailey Laolagi LB 6'1, 215 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7983








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Peni Vea SS 6'1, 205 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 12 72.0 8.5% 7.5 3.5 1 2 1 0
Mike Horsey FS
13 60.5 7.2% 5 0 1 3 0 0
Kenny Keys FS 6'4, 190 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 13 44.5 5.3% 3 0.5 0 2 0 0
Tajh Hasson CB
13 40.5 4.8% 3 0 1 3 0 0
Kenneth Penny CB
13 31.5 3.7% 1.5 0 1 9 0 0
Matt Vinal SS
13 31.0 3.7% 2 0 0 0 0 0
Blake Richmond SS 6'3, 190 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7519 13 28.5 3.4% 0 0 0 2 1 0
Torry McTyer CB 6'0, 180 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8179 13 25.5 3.0% 2 0 0 2 0 0
Sidney Hodge CB
11 21.5 2.5% 2 1.5 1 0 0 0
Brandon Baker CB 6'1, 175 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8300 12 17.0 2.0% 0 0 1 1 1 0
Troy Hawthorne FS 6'3, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7400 13 7.5 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jonavaughn Williams DB 6'0, 190 Jr. NR 0.8117 6 4.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kimble Jensen DB 6'0, 205 Sr. NR NR 11 4.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Fred Wilson DB 6'0, 175 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 12 2.0 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dominique Fenstermacher DB 5'10, 170 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8181
Jay'Onn Myles CB 5'8, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8507
Darius Mouton DB 5'10, 170 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8051
Javin White DB 6'3, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7917

8. Options for attacking

The line is an immense concern, but if it is only a partial liability, then Baer could have pieces in the back seven, namely big-play safeties Peni Vea and Kenny Keys (combined: 10.5 tackles for loss, five passes defensed). Losing corner Kenneth Penny hurts, as he was the only decent on-the-ball defender in the secondary. But Vea in particular is a hell of a blitzer when asked to do so. And newcomers like star recruit Jay'Onn Myles (a JUCO transfer from Pierce College) and former star recruit Dominique Fenstermacher (who redshirted in 2014) could make a difference.

This won't be a spectacular secondary, but it also won't be the defense's biggest weakness.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Logan Yunker 6'2, 200 Sr. 81 40.5 4 27 30 70.4%
Nicolai Bornand 6'1, 225 Jr. 3 44.7 0 1 0 33.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Nicolai Bornand 6'1, 225 Jr. 31 59.3 8 3 25.8%
Jonathan Leiva 5'11, 175 Sr. 25 50.2 1 1 4.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Jonathan Leiva 5'11, 175 Sr. 32-33 8-11 72.7% 3-6 50.0%
Nicolai Bornand 6'1, 225 Jr. 0-0 1-1 100.0% 3-5 60.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Marcus Sullivan KR 21 26.0 0
Jay Mitchell KR 13 17.5 0
Jay Mitchell PR 14 8.9 0
Keith Whitely PR 5'9, 185 Jr. 5 0.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 52
Field Goal Efficiency 97
Punt Return Efficiency 83
Kick Return Efficiency 62
Punt Efficiency 12
Kickoff Efficiency 45
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 126

9. A good set of legs

Special teams was a strength for UNLV, and while since-departed return man Marcus Sullivan was one reason, the biggest reasons were the legs: Jonathan Leiva at place-kicker, Leiva and Nicolai Bornand on kickoffs, and, in particular, Logan Yunker at punter. Yunker's return alone should assure UNLV of decent results.

We'll just have to see how much inefficiencies on offense and defense undo the damage he does.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
5-Sep at Northern Illinois 69
12-Sep UCLA 12
19-Sep at Michigan 54
26-Sep Idaho State NR
3-Oct at Nevada 64
10-Oct San Jose State 116
17-Oct at Fresno State 102
31-Oct Boise State 21
7-Nov Hawaii 111
14-Nov at Colorado State 49
21-Nov San Diego State 76
28-Nov at Wyoming 113
Five-Year F/+ Rk -34.0% (120)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 108 / 105
2014 TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -8 / -4.7
2014 TO Luck/Game -1.3
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 11 (6, 5)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 2.8 (-0.8)

10. I have no idea if this will work

UNLV's not going to be very good. The Rebels have experience at quarterback, potential at receiver, a strong linebacker, a couple of solid safeties, and a mountain of unknowns. Plus, very few members of Sanchez's staff have ever worked together. This all screams "Year Zero!" to say the least.

But the Sanchez hire wasn't about 2015. It was about making the next three decades better than the last three decades. When you've gone 2-11 so many times that they should just call it "pulling a UNLV," you can afford to think long-term, and that's what Sanchez symbolizes.

Still, he'll have to win at some point, and there's no telling how likely that is. Sanchez made smart hires and managed to put a combination of coaching veterans, high-upside recruiters, and familiar faces (like QBs coach Ron O'Dell, whom he brought from Gorman), and his first signing class was decent (seventh in the MWC, according to the 247Sports Composite). Now he'll need a few more.

Las Vegas isn't a patient town, but Sanchez will probably get more patience than others would.