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 wide receivers with thoughts and insights on the Mountain West Conference's top receiver tandem in Juniors Devonte Boyd and Kendal Keys. We will also preview Junior Christian Clapp, Sophomore Brandon Presley, Redshirt Freshman Darren Woods Jr. along with Freshmen Allen Cui, Elijah Trosclair, Andre Collins Jr. and Mekhi Stevenson.
The Rebels most talented and deepest positional group are the wide receivers led by the All-Conference duo of Devonte Boyd and Kendal Keys. Boyd is the top receiver in the MWC and has the potential to set every UNLV receiving record by the time he leaves the school. Boyd has the size, hands and route running ability that can take him to the next level to go along with decent speed. He does a great job separating himself from corner backs and has a knack for finding the soft spots in zone coverage. Keys is a big, strong, tough receiver that complements Boyd. He also have enough speed to get deep but is the type of red-zone threat that NFL teams love. Woods Jr. had a tremendous spring and looks to build on that performance. He will most likely line up in the slot and has the quickness to be a match-up issue against linebackers and safeties. Presley also had a good spring and is the type of balanced receiver that would be perfect to round out this receiving group but could be pressed by Freshman Andre Collins Jr. (from highly regarded high school Mater Dei in Southern California). Collins is not a speed burner, but he is reliable catching the ball, has a knack for getting deep and was seldom caught from behind in high school.
The deep talent at the receiver position is evident with Freshmen Cui, Stevenson and Trosclair along with Junior Christian Clapp. Stevenson is intriguing because he can also return kicks and punts and knows how to make defenders miss when the ball is in his hands. He is a raw prospect, but with Cedric Cormier, UNLV's receiver coach, teaching him the tools of "the craft" there is no doubt in my mind that Stevenson could be an impact player for the Rebels in time. Trosclair is built in the mold of Boyd in terms of build to go along with the tools to be a very good receiver in time.
While there are plenty of positives with this group they do lack a pure speed receiver that can blow the top off the defense and make defense think twice about putting eight in the box. If who ever is playing quarterback for the Rebels can get the ball to this talented group, UNLV fans will have plenty to be excited about. The fact that there is no Seniors and to have the type of talent this group currently has, has to make coach Sanchez and offensive coordinator Barney Cotton giddy. When the Rebels do add that speed threat the offense will be even more dangerous. The "Rebels Air Show" should be in full effect this season and I fully expect Boyd and Keys to not only lead the Rebels receiving group, but also give MWC defensive coordinators and opponents nightmares all year.
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