"They have very physical linebackers," said Harvey Unga. "They have Beau Bell who is returning, and he is our leading tackler in our conference, so props to him. I've never had the chance to play against him, but I've heard a lot about him."
Bell has battled injuries throughout his career, but despite such, he was named as a preseason First-Team All-MWC selection. Bell was also ranked as college football's 14th-ranked outside linebacker by Phil Steele, and was a preseason First-Team All-MWC selection by Sporting News, Lindy's, Athlon and Blue Ribbon magazines.
"Beau Bell is their primary linebacker," said Andrew George. "I know last year he got hurt right at the beginning of our game with [the Rebels] last year, but he's healthy this year. He's their pride and joy on that defense, basically because he's so athletic and strong and is all over the field creating havoc for offenses. He's a great player."
Bell's 2006 Defensive Stats
Games played-Games started: 7-7
Unassisted tackles: 41
Assisted tackles: 35
Total tackles: 76
Tackles for a loss: 9 for 34 yards
Sacks: 4 for 21 yards
Forced fumbles: 0
"Beau Bell is everything everybody says he is," said Collie. "He's a great linebacker and he's an athlete. He can run, and all the hype he's receiving is true and it's completely accurate. He's one of those guys that we have to take into consideration. We're not going to run our offense around [him], but it's definitely one of those things where we will be aware of him on the field.
"He's definitely the heart and soul of their defense. He's their best athlete and I think he's the team leader of their defense and probably for their entire team."
UNLV defensive coaches have another up-and-coming player that will become a major cog for the Rebel defense. Linebacker Starr Fuimaono (5 feet 11 inches, 210 pounds), from Chula Vista, California, has become a hybrid player for the Rebels.
"They run primarily a 4-3-4 defense," said George. "[Fuimaono] is very athletic and is kind of a half-linebacker, half-safety. They had him play safety for them last year, so he knows how to read offenses from the backside as well as being able to play safety. They've moved him to linebacker this year. He's a really good player for them and BYU actually recruited him out of high school. I remember his brother played for UNLV, so that's why he went down there."
"From what we've seen as a whole on film, they're a group of very physical guys," Unga said. "They move around really well and from the film [it seems] they play very aggressive. They're not afraid to lower the helmet, so the characteristics of their linebackers are kind of a mix of finesse and power. I know they're going to give us a good game."
On the Rebel defensive line, one standout player is 6-foot-2-inch, 245-pound speed rushing defensive end Jeremy Geathers. Geathers, who has family that plays in the NFL, was named a preseason First-Team All-MWC selection by Sporting News, Street & Smiths, Athlon and Blue Ribbon magazines.
"[Geathers is] not really a big guy but he brings a lot of speed off the edge for them," said George. "They have some good players on the d-line, but he's probably their top guy right now."
Geathers' 2006 Defensive Stats
Games played-Games started: 11-10
Unassisted tackles: 11
Assisted tackles: 21
Total tackles: 32
Tackles for a loss: 9.5 for 54 yards
Sacks: 5.5 for 43 yards
Fumble recoveries: 2
Forced fumbles: 3
The defensive backfield of UNLV runs primarily out of a four-man formation that favors a cover two scheme.
One member of the Rebel defensive backfield is 5-foot-10-inch, 185-pound sophomore Daryl Forte, known for his toughness and hard-hitting style from the safety position.
Forte's 2006 Defensive Stats
Games played-Games started: 11-8
Unassisted tackles: 23
Assisted tackles: 14
Total tackles: 37
Tackles for a loss: 0
Forced fumbles: 1
At the cornerback position, senior Mil'Von James, at 6 feet, 210 pounds, is the Rebel version of BYU's Ben Criddle. A fast physical player at the cornerback position, James is a transfer from UCLA and a second-year starter for the Rebels.
James' 2006 Defensive Stats
Games played-Games started: 12-9
Unassisted tackles: 36
Assisted tackles: 19
Total tackles: 55
Tackles for a loss: 6 for 19 yards
Sacks: 0.5 for 4 yards
Interceptions: 0 Forced fumbles: 0
However, UNLV defensive coordinator Vic Shealy, who also coaches the safeties, likes to call various defensive coverages out of the cover two formation to mix things up and cause confusion.
"They like to run some cover two," George said. "They also like to mix it up a bit where they will run some man coverage as well. The last couple of weeks we saw primarily man coverage from their secondary. The coaches at UNLV like to switch it up a lot more. They'll go cover two sometimes, they'll go man coverage at times, and they'll go three quarter coverage at times. They like to bring different looks."
BYU wide receiver Michael Reed feels this UNLV team is much improved from the one that the Cougars defeated the last year at LaVell Edwards Stadium 52-7. Now you can listen to Reed give his thoughts on the Rebels in this exclusive audio interview.
On A Side Note
Manase Tonga, who has suffered a minor injury recently, was out on the field during practice on Wednesday. The bye week had been helpful for the big fullback, who mentioned while heading to the locker room that he is expecting to play this weekend.
Tight end Vic So'oto is still a little banged up from a thigh injury he suffered during the Arizona game. He was out on the practice field on Wednesday, but wasn't sure if he would play this weekend against UNLV.
Wide receiver Austin Collie was out on the practice field on Wednesday, but didn't participate in the day's drills. He mentioned that he will also be ready to play this weekend against UNLV.