Scouting Report: UNLV Offense

Total Blue Sports takes a look at UNLV's offense. Giving Cougar fans the scouting report on the Rebel offense are Ben Criddle, Quinn Gooch and Eathyn Manumaleuna.

The Running Rebels look to stop a two-game losing skid after shutting out the Utah Utes 27-0. Accomplishing that task will be somewhat difficult, as they have to face a Cougar team fresh off a bye week and ready and anxious to play. The Cougar defenders understand that although UNLV coming off losses to Nevada and Air Force, the latter of which being a team that BYU soundly beat 31-6, there is no room for complacency.

"They have some good skill guys," said cornerback Ben Criddle. "They have a talented quarterback [Travis Dixon] who is young and a redshirt freshman from Arizona."

Travis Dixon is a 6-foot-1-inch, 190-pound freshman out of Chandler, Arizona and was one of the top passing quarterbacks in the state as a senior at Hamilton High School.

"[Dixon has] got good quicks and is shifty, and they like to do a lot of option with him, a lot of slow right option, and he also has a decent arm too and can throw the ball downfield," said Criddle. "He's still a bit inaccurate at times, probably because he's still developing as a young quarterback, but you can see how he is improving with each game."

"In past times their quarterbacks haven't been as athletic as the one they have now," said safety Quinn Gooch. "So now they have a guy that can help facilitate the different aspects of what Coach Sanford wants to try and run or develop within their offense."

Former Utah offensive coordinator and third year UNLV head coach Mike Sanford is tweaking the Rebel offense more towards the running spread offense that the U of U had under former head coach Urban Meyer in 2004.

"They run a spread offense with a lot of right option," said Criddle. "There are times when they like to pound the ball, and they'll go double tight ends and give the ball to their feature back Frank Summers and try and run it down your throat a little bit. But I think they're going to try and spread us out a lot.

"They're doing more of what Utah used to do. They have a more athletic quarterback now that can run the ball and throw the ball and that's the key to being able to run that style of an offense. The guy they had last year [6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound Rocky Hinds] wasn't quite as quick. I don't think he liked to run the ball as much and I think he had a knee injury, so he was a little timid in running in between the tackles. When he ran to the outside he wasn't as fast as [Dixon], so with a more athletic quarterback they can do a lot more right option. They like to spread you out and then take advantage of that athleticism and maybe try and juke out a linebacker."

"The scheme has been better than it has been in recent years," said Gooch. "It may be that the team has progressed farther into their playbook with Sanford being there in his third year now, so I think they've progressed and have gotten more into the scheme-side of building their program. They're a lot better scheme-wise and their route combinations are good."

Running the ball as UNLV's featured back is Frank "The Tank" Summers, as he is affectionately called by his teammates. The 5-foot-10-inch, 240-pound junior running back from Oakland, California transferred to Laney Junior College after redshirting one year with the Cal Bears.

"Their running back is like a bowling ball," said Criddle with a chuckle. "He's probably a little quicker than [New Mexico's] Rodney Ferguson, but Rodney Ferguson is probably one of the best backs we have in the league. Frank Summers runs hard and he breaks arm tackles and gets five yards a pop, so we have be sure we secure the tackle. I don't know if I'll be making the tackle high on that guy. I'll be hitting him low because he's 240 pounds."

While at Laney Junior College, Summers set school records for carries in a game (48) and carries in a season (254) in 2005. Summers also set school records for rushing yards in a game (280) and rushing yards in a season (1,515).

"He is just a big bruiser," said a chuckling Gooch. "He's around 5'8", so if you can get lower than that to make a tackle, good luck. He's going to be a tough one, so hopefully we can muddle it up in the middle enough to where he can't get going enough downfield with a full head of steam."

The Rebel offense possesses tall receivers that like to play physical ball with smaller cornerbacks. The Cougars have faced tall, physical receivers in previous games against Tulsa and UCLA, so matching up against the more physical receivers is nothing new to the Cougar secondary.

"They also have number-84, Rodelin Anthony [6 feet 5 inches, 220 pounds], and he's really good," said Criddle. "He's a tall, big receiver that catches a lot of balls for them. They also have number-one, Aaron Straiten [6 feet 3 inches, 195 pounds]. He's another tall, big receiver that is pretty quick off the ball. They have a lot of decent receivers with good size on their team.

"They have [2006 Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year] Ryan Wolfe coming back, and he's a great receiver. They like to throw to him a lot and sometimes will put him in the tight end position. They try to get him the ball and he's kind of their feature receiver just because he's a big target and has good hands.

"Then they have Casey Flair [6 feet 1 inch, 190 pounds], a senior who has decent speed and good quicks. He's one of those receivers that catches everything you throw to him, so we have be on top of our game. Casey Flair isn't quite as tall as their other receivers."

"They've got guys with good hands," said Gooch. "They can also catch the ball in tight spaces and can go up and grab it because of their size. They're pretty good at finding the crease or the hole in the zone when the quarterback is rolling out or scrambling from the pocket to find that receiver that has sat down in a hole in the defense. They've been doing a good job so far in doing what's been asked of them by their coaching staff."

The Cougar defenders will face a rather large Rebel offensive line in the trenches. Among the UNLV linemen are senior guards Tim Goins [6 feet 4 inches, 295 pounds] and Mike McKiski [6 feet 6 inches, 310 pounds], and Ramsey Feagai [6 feet 2 inches, 360 pounds] in the middle. To give BYU fans the rundown of the Rebel offense is BYU nose guard Eathyn Manumaleuna.

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