UNLV Football Offensive Preview
Last year's 2-10 Rebels are looking better after some solid transfer portal additions.
Last year’s UNLV Rebels went 2-10, including a loss to an FCS playoffs team (Eastern Washington). However, the Rebels were not as bad as the record may indicate. 6 of their 10 losses came by 1 score or less—sound familiar?— and they lost their best quarterback to injury. UNLV lost their all-time leading rusher, Charles “The Chuck Wagon” Williams, but they picked up some talented receivers via the transfer portal that should help them transition away from the run-heavy offense they ran last year.
UNLV is led by former Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo. He went 0-6 as the head coach in 2020, and started the season 0-8 in 2021 before finally emerging victorious over New Mexico:
I watched all of Cal’s OOC opponents’ games this offseason, and it was funny to me how UNLV contrasted with Notre Dame in a lot of ways. The offensive line is a big story for both of them. Both of them lost all-world running backs (UNLV’s Charles Williams, ND’s Kyren Williams). Both of them like to keep games close (UNLV playing up to their opponents, ND playing down). But UNLV would find a way to lose the close games, while ND would find a way to win.
UNLV has a very good quarterback, but I have to start with the offensive line.
Both UNLV and Notre Dame started the first half of the season with some of the worst offensive line play in college football. Although ND eventually fixed their line issues (and started blowing weaker opponents out), UNLV… didn’t. Well, they only allowed 1 sack in their 2 wins last season, but they otherwise gave up an average of 4 sacks per game. Their 41 sacks allowed last season puts them in the bottom 10 in the FBS.
So what’s the issue— players or scheme? Well, probably both.
Here it looks like the left tackle Daviyon McDaniel—a name I noticed a lot—simply doesn’t see the edge rusher on a 3 man rush:
How do you commit so many men to protection and still let the quarterback go down in under 3 seconds against a 3 man rush?
UNLV had less-than-mobile QB Justin Rogers (he of the famed Cheez-It Bowl), and so this sack is a little bit on him, but his offensive tackles are beat on both sides of him:
With the game on the line, the offensive line came up short in the following play. It’s a 5-man rush against 5 in protection, so it’s on the quarterback to shift his protection (or at least be aware of the unblocked rusher) here, but he was likely more preoccupied with the clock in this situation:
It’s not just the tackles that struggled, though. The interior of the line wasn’t all that much better:
There was a number of close games where the poor offensive line play was the difference between winning and losing. Just off the top of my head:
Or how about this:
UNLV picked up a new starting left guard via the transfer portal, Preston Nichols, from FCS Charleston Southern. I didn’t really intend to put a bunch of lowlights here (and I have way, way more if that were the point), but I just wanted to make the point that UNLV’s offensive line was game-breakingly bad last year. One factor that should help this year is a much more mobile quarterback returning from a season-ending injury early last year.
Doug Brumfield is the quarterback for UNLV. The preseason depth chart listed the starting QB as “Doug Brumfield OR Cameron Friel”, but I knew it wasn’t really a question. I remember remarking this preseason while watching UNLV that Doug Brumfield was way too talented to be playing at UNLV. Sure enough, he entered the transfer portal, but he had a change of heart and later withdrew his name. I assume the “OR” listing on the depth chart was not a matter of talent, but if his teammates would still view him as a leader after trying to leave.
Doug Brumfield is an extremely athletic, tough quarterback with a cannon for an arm. In fact, if there’s one knock I have against him, is that he has too strong of an arm—he’s throwing too hard for his receivers to catch.
First, let’s take a look at his mobility. He reminded me of Chase Garbers, because he’d break off some runs like this:
Not satisfied with one front-flip touchdown, he had to do it again the following week:
You don’t see a lot of lefty quarterbacks, but Brumfield has a cannon:
Brumfield is not afraid to stand in the pocket and make a throw under pressure, which is a requirement behind this offensive line:
(Although, UNLV probably wouldn’t need to rotate through 3 different QBs if they weren’t getting routinely blown up).
Brumfield pretty much only throws lasers. This is pretty much the only knock I have against him, which is that he could benefit from adding a little bit of touch to some of his throws:
I only saw Doug Brumfield in limited action last year (due to injury), but he absolutely torched FCS Idaho State this year (last game)— 21/25, 356 yards, 4 TDs… before halftime. I think Brumfield has the making of a star (presuming he can stay healthy), and he’s yet another scary MWC quarterback Cal will face. This is the game where we’ll see if this year’s Cal secondary can live up to years past.
Charles Williams left a huge hole in the running back room, after being a staple of UNLV for so long, and left no obvious replacement. Based on the Idaho State game the other week, it looks like the new RB #1 is the transfer from Louisville, Aidan Robbins. Robbins is a big, power back, looking to power his way through defenders:
He hasn’t played a whole lot, so I don’t really know what to expect out of him, other than that he was too big and strong for Idaho State.
He was also used briefly in the passing game, so perhaps there’s some versatility here:
The backup to Charles Williams last year was Courtney Reese, a much smaller (5’8”, 165 lbs) and shiftier back, who is used in the passing game and often runs routes out of the backfield—likely because he’s not much of a blocker.
Here’s a typical Reese play, where UNLV looks to get him the ball in space:
Also in the backfield for UNLV is a transfer from Oregon, Jayvaun Wilson:
I haven’t seen enough of Wilson to have an opinion, but Oregon obviously at one point believed in him, so I assume the former 4-star big-bodied back has some potential.
Last, but not least, is Chad Maygar. Maygar most often functions in a sort of fullback role, and he’d always be the back in to block on obvious passing downs, but he also would get some touches. I love how simplistic his running style is— I think I could best describe his running style as “bowling ball.” But that wouldn’t be completely accurate, because sometimes bowling balls change direction. No, Chad Maygar runs like he’s a bowling ball, and defenders are pins. I don’t think I’ve seen him do anything other than run people over:
In contrast to years past, I can’t imagine UNLV still being a run-first team without Charles Williams, so I expect we’ll see a lot of the passing game instead.
UNLV’s best receiver last year, in my opinion, was Kyle Williams. I took a ton of clips of him expecting that this section would largely be about him. Instead, however, UNLV got an absolute stud from the transfer portal, for reasons I still don’t understand.
Without question, Ricky White is by far the best receiver on this team. Ricky White is absolutely ridiculous. Doug Brumfield posted absurd stats in the first half of the Idaho State game, but the majority of those were to one receiver: Ricky White. White had 8 catches for 182 yards (22.4 yards/catch) and 2 touchdowns.
He straight up embarrassed the FCS defenders trying to cover him:
Unlike Aidan Robbins, this was a transfer I was aware of, so I went back and watched his previous games. As a freshman, Ricky White played a pivotal rule in helping Michigan State upset a ranked Michigan team. I can’t find why he transferred away from MSU, other than vague references to an “off the field issue.” Regardless, landing Ricky White is a huge coup for UNLV.
First, he’s a fantastic route runner. Here he gets a ridiculous amount of separation on his double move and acceleration:
WR Ricky White has speed and an ability to lay out and make the catch:
White was so much faster than the corners covering him that he didn’t have a ton of contested catches, but when the ball was underthrown, he still somehow managed to come up with it:
Ricky White is even pretty good at bouncing off tacklers:
I don’t know about his off-field issues, but there’s no question that Ricky White can ball. He played a little bit of slot receiver, but as evidenced from the above clips, I think he excels as an outside receiver and deep threat.
Opposite White is UNLV’s best returning receiver, Kyle Williams. Like me, the announcers were prepared to talk about Kyle Williams, but not so prepared to talk about Ricky White, and their similar numbers didn’t help (White is #1, Williams is #11). That is, the announcers frequently mistook White for Williams. Williams is also a speedy, athletic receiver:
And he can also make contested catches, putting his body on the line to do so:
And he’s got great hands, even when interfered with:
I have a feeling that Williams will be overshadowed by White, but Williams is a pretty good receiver in his own right. Brumfield will have at least two very capable pass-catchers at his side.
Last year, there was a pretty big drop-off between Williams and the next best receiver (subjective, but I’d say Zyell Griffin). UNLV found a new starting receiver from the transfer portal, former CCSF WR Jeff Weimer. Weimer is a slot receiver, and based on the entire half-game I watched of him, I’d say he’s in the mold of a scrappy Julian Edelman slot receiver:
Zyell Griffin was a feature receiver last year, but is now buried on the depth chart, so I guess I won’t spend too much time here. Griffin was the outside receiver opposite Kyle Williams because he has speed and reliable hands:
Doug Brumfield is a fantastic quarterback, and Ricky White is a fantastic wide receiver. I don’t want to draw too many parallels to last year, but you may remember a Mountain West team last year that also had an NFL-caliber QB and WR pair (Carson Strong and Romeo Doubs). I thought Strong was a bit one-dimensional, but Brumfield is a dual-threat quarterback with at least two quality receivers to catch passes. The young Cal secondary is definitely going to have their hands full.
You can find my full clips here.
Although, I personally attribute the flip TD more to Ross Bowers than Garbers :)
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