UNLV fans join publisher Joe Arrigo and the InsideTheRebels.com staff for our new UNLV season and positional preview. In this series, we'll break down each positional group as we move through fall camp, discuss whose returning and share insights on the athletes that are expected to shine this year for the Rebels.
The 2016 UNLV Rebel football team has high expectations. After losing 4 games by a eight points or less in 2015, the Rebels look to have their second winning season since 2000 and fifth in school history. The Rebels are returning the best wide receiver tandem in the Mountain West Conference (if not all of college football) with Juniors Devonte Boyd and Kendal Keys, have skill set positions that are loaded with talent and the majority of the Rebel defense returning, head coach Tony Sanchez and Rebel fans have plenty of reason to be excited.
Coach Sanchez is the right man to lead the Rebels into their “New Era.” Sanchez's high energy, focus, enthusiasm, dedication to not only the football program but the city of Las Vegas and his drive to make the Rebels a perennial contender was evident during spring practices. The team took on his personality and his high energy and competitive nature and the improvements on the practice field were easily seen by all. Sanchez has a plan that he is sticking to and executing to perfection. The future is bright for the Rebels under Tony Sanchez.
There are questions that the Rebels need to have answered, like can the Rebel defense get to the opponents quarterbacks consistently and can they hold opponents to under 30 points for the first time in eight seasons? On the offensive side of the ball can the young offensive line, which looked good in spring practices and who looked bulked up, continue to improve and grow into a quality line? But the biggest question that the Rebels have to answer is who will be their starting quarterback for the upcoming season?
Here is our preview of the Rebels quarterbacks with thoughts and insights on Juniors Johnny Stanton, Kurt Palandech, Redshirt Freshmen Dalton Sneed, Christian Lopez and the Rebels highest rated recruit in the 2015 recruiting class, Freshman Armani Rogers.
Quarterbacks: UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez put an emphasis on improving the quarterback position with the 2015 recruiting class. While the Rebels returned Junior Kurt Palandech as well as redshirt freshman Dalton Sneed and Christian Lopez, he added former Nebraska and Junior College transfer Johnny Stanton and three star California recruit Armani Rogers to the mix as well. The two juniors are the front runner for the Rebels starting quarterback spot. Both have attributes that you look for in a quarterback, but also have flaws that are glaring.
Stanton is an impressive physical specimen (6’2/245) with a rocket for an arm, athleticism and surprising quickness running the ball. Stanton’s arm strength is the first thing that stands out. He can make all the throws the NFL looks for and throws a pretty deep ball. Stanton also has the frame to last a full season, but he struggles with the shorter throws and is inconsistent overall both mechanically and as a passer. Stanton’s ability is better than Palandech, which could give him the advantage to start week 1 for the Rebels.
Palandech on the other hand has a year in Sanchez’s system and commands the huddle well. He is an accurate passer who makes the shorter throws look easy. But Palandech’s arm strength is nowhere near Stanton’s (it is below average at best) and on film (from last year) he seems to get flustered when times get tough which leads to confidence issues. If he can overcome the confidence issues that plagued him last year, Palandech has a legit chance to start week 1 despite not having the same physical tools Stanton has.
While the juniors are the early front runners to start for the Rebels, UNLV’s future is tied to the true freshman from California, Armani Rogers. Rogers possess all the tools you look for in a quarterback, great size (6’5/210), a strong, accurate arm, an advance mental approach to the game and running ability. He was a Cal commit before decommitting from the Golden Bears and had the likes of UCLA and Fresno St. wanting his services. While Rogers has the speed to get outside and run, he also looks to pass first when he gets out of the pocket. The question for Rogers is when he will be ready to go this season or will he be redshirted?
As of Monday August 8th, Coach Sanchez made it clear to the media that there is no front runner between Stanton and Palandech and that he had hoped that he’d have a starter named by this point. One could take it two different ways; the first being neither has stepped up nor took control of the position like he had hoped and the second school of thought being both quarterbacks have performed well enough to drag the competition on further (much like what is happening at USC currently). I prefer to think it is the latter and the depth and talent UNLV will have at quarterback in 2016 will be a huge upgrade for the Rebels. While the future may not be week 1 for Rogers, it is bright with Coach Sanchez being the mastermind and Rogers being the triggerman of the Rebels future.
Joe Arrigo is the publisher of InsideTheRebels.com after years of hosting and producing sports talk shows in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Fresno. You can follow him on Twitter at @joearrigo & @InsideTheRebels or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org