It didn’t happen until the sixth – and final – week of preseason camp, but Air Force finally featured all of its key offensive players healthy and practicing together.
Fullback Shayne Davern was the final player cleared, as he underwent shoulder surgery a week before camp to correct an issue that had him spraining his left acromioclavicular joint over and over again. There was hope the injury would correct itself, but as it lingered over the summer the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl MVP finally elected to fix it surgically.
Some bone was scraped from his clavicle and ligaments were tightened.
“It was my choice, either I could play with it or not play with it,” Davern said. “For me, personally, I felt like I couldn’t contribute all that I can with it, so I had to have the surgery. Now I feel great.”
The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Davern joined tailback Jacobi Owens (recovering from a foot injury) in missing some action in fall camp. Receiver Jalen Robinette (sore foot) also missed a few practices.
The Falcons are loaded with veterans at the skill positions, as Davern and fellow fullback D.J. Johnson each scored eight touchdowns last year, Owens ran for 1,054 yards in 10 games, Robinette posted the seventh-most prolific season in team history with 806 yards and Garrett Brown’s six receiving touchdowns were the most for an Air Force receiver since 1972. Tight end Garrett Griffin is also a two-year starter who averaged a team-best 19.2 yards per catch last year and scored four touchdowns.
Four of the five starters on the offensive line have started games in the past.
With that much experience, there doesn’t seem to be much concern on anyone’s part that everyone will be able to assimilate back into the offense together.
Still, with Nate Romine stepping in at quarterback to replace Kale Pearson, it certainly could have helped build continuity to have everybody healthy and working together for a few weeks. This is even more important as the team continues to drift further from its option roots and more to a multiple offense.
“It will vary week to week,” said Romine, who has logged six career starts split over the past two seasons. “The biggest thing for us is, whatever we do, we have to be good at it.”
Having all hands healthy and on deck should help in that cause.
Next game: vs. Morgan State, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (Root Sports)
Notable: No official announcement has been made at punter, but it appears as though sophomore Matt Moskowitz will take over the role. Moskowitz has been battling with senior Brett Dunn after the graduation of punter/placekicker Will Conant, last year’s Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year. Drew Oehrle will replace Conant as the kicker. … Air Force is 8-0 in season openers under Troy Calhoun. … The Falcons have won seven straight home games.
— Brent Briggeman, The Gazette
Boise State will host a unique season opener Friday when former coach Chris Petersen leads the Washington Huskies onto the blue turf.
Petersen coached at Boise State for 13 years and was 92-12 as a head coach, winning two Fiesta Bowls and three national coach of the year awards. He left after the 2013 season for a new challenge.
“There’s going to be attention on it,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, who worked with Petersen for 10 years. “That’s the storyline. It’s hard to get away from it. You’re playing a Pac-12 team, you’re playing (an opener) at home for the first time in six years and you’re playing the former coach who was there for 13 years and did a lot of great things for Boise State - and that’s an understatement. And so as you get into the game, it will be emotional - I know that.”
The Broncos enter the season riding a nine-game win streak and 14-game home win streak with 18 returning starters. A win against their former coach would be just the spark the nation’s No. 23 team needs to start another run at a New Year’s Six bowl.
The Broncos are 7-3 against the Pac-12 since 2006 but 1-2 against the Huskies.
“It’s going to be exciting for both sides,” Boise State senior safety Darian Thompson said. “Having coach Petersen come back to Boise and go against all the fans that used to love him, it should be quite interesting. I know we’ll be ready for the game. I know what kind of coach he is so I’m pretty sure they’ll be ready, too.”
Boise State’s lone major question mark going into the season is at quarterback, where sophomore Ryan Finley will start. Finley played a little more than a quarter in relief last year at Air Force and threw two touchdown passes. That’s the only experience he has playing in the regular flow of a college game.
“He’s done a nice job,” offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said. “He’s definitely taking ownership. ... Now it’s about him getting fine-tuned for the game plan.”
Next game: vs. Washington, 8:21 p.m. Friday (ESPN)
Notable: True freshman cornerback Tyler Horton of Fresno, Calif., will play this season. ... True sophomore Jeremy McNichols likely will start at tailback. ... The backup quarterback hasn’t been announced. True freshman Brett Rypien remains in the mix. ... The Broncos have won 19 straight non-conference home games. ... The Broncos carry their red-zone scoring streak into 2015: 47 straight trips with points, including 38 touchdowns.
— Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman
Sophomore Nick Stevens won the starting quarterback job in a two-man race that wasn’t decided until after the first scrimmage of fall camp.
But first-year coach Mike Bobo said Monday that he plans to give redshirt freshman Coleman Key a series in the first half of Saturday’s season opener and hopes to play both quarterbacks in every game this season.
He doesn’t want to risk having to put a backup in at a critical point in a game who never before has taken a snap in a college football game.
“A lot depends on how well the second quarterback prepares each week and is ready, but I think you always talk about building depth and getting guys in,” said Bobo, a former Georgia quarterback who went on to be the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at his alma mater.
Players at other positions, Bobo said, can gain valuable experience on special teams that will help prepare them for eventually playing on offense or defense. For quarterbacks, that’s not an option.
“We’re going to play the second-string quarterback in every game, and hopefully he prepares,” Bobo said. “If he prepares and does the things he’s supposed to do, we’ll give him that opportunity.”
Stevens, 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, backed up Garrett Grayson last season and made it into five games. He completed 15 of 25 passes for 136 yards and one touchdown.
Key, a 6-4, 220-pounder with what Stevens and other teammates call a “rocket arm,” ran the Colorado State scout team in practices last fall under former coach Jim McElwain.
Stevens is a quick learner, coaches and teammates alike said, so he picked up Bobo’s offense sooner than Key and was given the starting job, the coach said, based on his consistency and leadership. He’s improved in both areas since being named the starter, senior tackle Sam Carlson said.
All-American receiver Rashard Higgins and other players said they’re comfortable with either quarterback running the offense. Key still runs some plays with the No. 1 offense in every practice.
“It’s good that he’s still trying to give me opportunities to showcase what I can do,” Key said.
Next game: vs. Savannah State, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: Three of the 10 true freshmen CSU signed last winter were listed No. 2 at their positions on the depth chart for the season opener. Bisi Johnson from Lakewood, a Denver suburb, is backing up Deionte Gaines at slot receiver, Colby Meeks from Orlando, Fla., is listed No. 2 at center, and Braylin Scott from Bakersfield, Calif., is a second-string cornerback. Another true freshman, running back Izzy Matthews from Redding, Calif., could play, as well, Bobo said. … CSU will wear its throwback orange Aggies jerseys and helmets with special orange Rams horns for the opener, which doubles as the school’s annual Ag Day game. The original colors of Colorado A&M, as CSU was formerly known, were pumpkin (orange) and alfalfa (green). Colorado A&M teams were known as the Aggies. … Higgins (hamstring) and senior tight end Kivon Cartwright (ankle), who were both limited in recent practices to help them recover from injuries, are both healthy and will play in the opener, Bobo said.
— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
Whether they need to do so or not, the New Mexico Lobos will throw the ball on Saturday in their season opener against Football Championship Subdivision foe Mississippi Valley State.
Unless, of course, they don’t.
New Mexico (4-8 last year, 2-6 in Mountain West play) will face an FCS team for the first time since routing Southern 66-21 on Sept. 1, 2012, in UNM’s first game under coach Bob Davie.
In that game, the Lobos rushed for 347 yards and passed for 70 — setting the tone for what was to come in the succeeding 36 contests. New Mexico has finished fifth, fourth and fourth nationally in rushing the past three seasons, while ranking at or near the bottom in passing.
This year, In the spring and in fall camp, the passing game has been a point of major emphasis. The presence of junior college transfer quarterback Austin Apodaca, a prolific passer at Silver Creek High in Longmont, Colo., has pushed starter Lamar Jordan to a new level. The receiving corps has responded with enthusiasm, consistency and some outstanding catches.
Monday, Davie was asked if the Lobos would throw the ball against MVSU, assuming they probably won’t need to do so against the Delta Devils (2-9 last year).
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “We spent a lot of time out here (on the practice field) throwing it. I want to see if we can throw it in a game.”
But Davie stopped short of a guarantee.
“Best-laid plans,” he said, laughing. “Best-laid plans.”
Next game: vs. Mississippi Valley State, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (no TV)
Notable: Sophomore Toye Adewon, expected to replace departed all-conference center LaMar Bratton, suffered an as yet undisclosed injury at practice on Aug. 19 and is out for the foreseeable future. Senior Eden Mahina, who started at left guard last season but has worked out at center, is the logical candidate to step in for Adewon. But junior college transfer Tevita Fonua, who never had played the position, has shown a remarkable ability to consistently make the center snap out of the pistol formation. ... Junior offensive tackle Johnny Vizcaino, a starter in 2013, will not play football again because of recurring concussion symptoms. Senior linebacker Richard Winston has had recurring headaches (not specifically linked to concussions). A decision about his football future will be made soon, Davie said. ... Junior running back Teriyon Gipson underwent a procedure last week to repair a slight meniscus tear. He likely will miss UNM’s first two games.
— Rick Wright, Albuquerque Journal
After winning 30 games over the last three years, including back-to-back-to-back bowl victories, Utah State turns its attention to this season with a new goal in mind.
A Mountain West Conference championship.
Since 2012, the Aggies are 19-5 in league play, yet they have not won a league title and have been to the Mountain West championship game only once.
Utah State wants more.
“We have the mindset of no excuses,” junior linebacker Nick Vigil said. “It’s time for us to go out and win it now, and we think we will.”
The Aggies overcame a mountain of injuries to finish 10-4 last season, including a 21-6 cruise-control victory over UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl. The game’s MVP was freshman quarterback Kent Myers who — get this — might be third on the depth chart when Utah State opens Thursday night against Southern Utah.
Senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who has played in nine games over the last two years because of injury, is back. He will start his fifth straight season opener against the Thunderbirds. Myers has been battling Oregon transfer Damion Hobbs for the No. 2 job and coach Matt Wells has not yet declared a winner.
“I like what we are doing,” Keeton said of the offense. “We’re motivated, too. We know we have to take it one step at a time, but we have a good idea of what we want to do and accomplish this season.”
Elsewhere, the Aggies also have an abundance of talent. Led by Kyler Fackrell and Vigil, their linebacking corps was rated among the top 10 in the country by one preseason publication.
“We have had one of the most physical camps since I’ve been here,” Fackrell said. “We’ve had a lot of fights — not serious ones — but it’s a good thing. It shows our competitiveness and that this team wants to win.”
Said Wells: “I like how this team has come together. I like the attitude they have and the way they have worked hard. That means something.”
Next game: vs. Southern Utah, Thursday, 7 p.m. (no TV)
Notable: Utah State breaks in two new coordinators this season, Josh Heupel on offense and Kevin Clune on defense. Heupel comes from Oklahoma. Clune spent last season at Hawaii … On the conference race, Wells says: “The Mountain West title still goes through Boise, we know that. But as long as we go out and compete the best we can, that’s all I ask.” … Almost amazingly, Utah State has lost 16 of its last 17 season openers, going back to 1998 and its days in the Big West, WAC and Sun Belt conferences. The Aggies have played 13 of those 17 games on road, often looking for a big paycheck with games against teams like Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia and Texas Tech. … All-time, Utah State is 3-0 against Southern Utah, including a 34-3 victory in 2012. … Southern Utah is quarterbacked by senior Ammon Olsen, a one-time transfer from BYU.
— Steve Luhm, Salt Lake Tribune
One word to describe the 2015 Cowboys: young.
Wyoming has eight seniors on its roster, the second-fewest among all FBS teams in the nation. Only Wake Forest (six) has fewer. Thirty-seven of the 44 players on the two-deep roster on offense and defense are freshmen, sophomores or juniors.
Second-year coach Craig Bohl said 14 true freshmen will play this season. Most will see time primarily on special teams. Cornerback Antonio Hull is the team’s primary punt returner and walk-on Tristan Bailey will handle the place-kicking duties.
Twenty players listed on UW’s depth chart this week have never played a game for the Cowboys.
“This freshman class is similar to the freshman class that propelled us at North Dakota Sate to some greatness,” said Bohl, who guided North Dakota State to three consecutive FCS national championships from 2011 to 2013.
“I’m not guaranteeing that kind of success here, but a lot of these guys are going to be household names for a long time. They’re going to go through some growing pains. To say this in an immature group may not be accurate, but they’re certainly not seasoned. But we’ve spent a lot of time with them, and a lot of time mentoring them. For about the last month they’ve had one day off.”
Wyoming is confident in redshirt senior Cameron Coffman as its starting quarterback. Coffman transferred from Indiana last year and sat out to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He’s held the starting job since the first week of spring drills and shown steady improvement since then. Coffman was one of the Big Ten Conference’s top passers in 2012, the last time he was a full-time starter.
Coffman was named one of six team captains by the team this season.
Next game: vs. North Dakota, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (no TV)
Notable: The Cowboys’ back seven defensively has a lot to prove. Two of its three starting linebackers played offense a year ago — junior middle linebacker Eric Nzeocha (tight end) and strong-side linebacker D.J. May (running back). ... In the secondary, five of the seven players on the two-deep roster have never played a game for the Cowboys. Two redshirt freshman walk-ons are slated to start — free safety Marcus Epps and cornerback Anthony Makransky. ... Wyoming will pay North Dakota $325,000 for this game. ... The Cowboys are 11-1 against FCS foes since 2000, 75-41-2 all-time in season openers and 56-17-1 in season openers at home.
— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports
Fresno State opens its season at home Thursday against Abilene Christian with a very young team and, because of that, a lot of questions in a lot of position groups.
The most pressing for the Bulldogs is whether the young talent in the program is enough to get them past some low-yield classes that really showed last season when they won the West Division of the Mountain West Conference but also suffered blowout losses to USC, Utah and Nebraska and managed to lose to the teams that finished last in the West and Mountain divisions in UNLV and Wyoming.
There were warning signs of what was coming, back even in 2012 when all of the winning started, with a true freshman offensive lineman reporting two weeks into fall camp and only a short time later playing in games and eventually starting them, with running back Robbie Rouse touching the football as many times as some quarterbacks in the conference, with the same players listed on the depth chart at left and right tackle, left guard and right guard, left defensive end and right defensive end.
There were more the following season, with a junior college cornerback showing up the day before fall camp started and just two days in taking reps with the first unit.
Through it all, Derek Carr kept firing touchdown passes and the Bulldogs kept winning, capturing 20 football games and back-to-back Mountain West Conference championships.
But the depth and balance between classes was not good.
The Bulldogs made it through that 2012 season with 13 scholarship offensive linemen, and four of those 13 were players that had been added by Coach Tim DeRuyter in his first recruiting class.
In the secondary, Fresno State wants to have seven to eight cornerbacks and seven to eight safeties on scholarship, but on the 2012 roster there was a total of 10 players across both positions.
The defensive line was a rebuild in switching to a 3-4 from a 4-3, and quarterback, running back and tight end also were trouble spots on the roster.
So where are the Bulldogs? DeRuyter believes they are close, and talented enough to compete again for the West Division title and berth in the conference championship game.
“I feel like we’re on the leading edge of a really good run right now,” he said. “I like our competition. I think we’re a lot closer depth wise to where we need to be. I think we’ve recruited at a really good level the past couple of years. Our young linemen on both sides of the football are going to be terrific players. We’re going to be young this year, but I see us trending up.”
Those young players will, however, have to grow up fast.
Fresno State has 10 sophomores and 13 freshmen, including six true freshmen, in the two-deep for its opener against Abilene Christian.
Next game: vs. Abilene Christian, 8 p.m. MT Thursday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: The secondary was a problem last season when the Bulldogs allowed 54 pass plays of 20 or more yards and were ranked in a tie for 125th of 128 Bowl Subdivision teams in yielding 8.8 yards per pass play. But they were able to improve the depth in the position groups and go into the season healthy, which is not to be discounted considering cornerbacks Charles Washington and Malcolm Washington and safeties Dalen Jones and DeShawn Potts missed time during camp due to injuries. Jones was initially thought to be out for six to 10 weeks with a knee injury, but made it back in two and has been a full-go this week in practice. … The outside receivers in the two-deep for Abilene Christian have zero career receptions. Inside, senior Justin Johnson leads the group with 19 career catches. … Redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee will get the start at quarterback, but DeRuyter said that they will play more than one quarterback early in the season. Freshman Chason Virgil would be the first off the bench, followed by junior transfer Ford Childress. … Greenlee won the job by taking care of the football better than the other two quarterbacks, and rebounded from his one poor practice in fall camp by immediately hitting the film room. That is an area where he has improved significantly. “I’ve learned so much. I’ve been around great guys like Derek Carr and Brandon Connette, a graduate transfer from Duke,” he said. “You learn a lot from those redshirt senior guys. They’re fifth-year guys. They’ve watched a lot of film so you learn a lot from guys like that. I attack film so much differently than when I first got here. I came out here and it’s college football, things were flying around and I was just worried about getting the ball snapped. It’s a little overwhelming when you first get here, but I’ve learned a lot.” … The Bulldogs have three senior starters returning on the offensive line in left tackle Alex Fifita, right tackle Justin Northern and center Bo Bonnheim. Bonnheim, though, will be lining up at right guard with junior Jacob Vazquez moving in at center.
— Robert Kuwada, Fresno Bee
The Rainbow Warriors will play 13 regular-season games in 13 weeks beginning with Thursday’s opener against Colorado. UH and Colorado are the only FBS schools scheduled to play 13 games without a bye.
The Warriors will play six road games this season, accumulating 40,122 frequent-flier miles. They will play in five time zones — Eastern (Ohio State), Central (Wisconsin), Mountain (Boise State and New Mexico), Pacific (Nevada and UNLV) and Hawaiian. Because of El Nino, there have been five weather systems (tropical storms and hurricanes) that passed or were scheduled to pass waters outside the island chain this summer. Without an indoor facility, the Warriors have practiced in the rain and thick humidity.
Norm Chow is entering his fourth season as UH coach. None of the nine full-time assistant coaches remain from his initial staff in 2012. There are five new coaches this year, including all three coordinators — Don Bailey on offense, Tom Mason on defense and Jake Cookus on special teams.
For the third time in four years, an FBS transfer will start at quarterback. Max Wittek, who transferred from USC last year, is the No. 1 quarterback and a co-captain.
Next game: vs. Colorado, 11 p.m. MT Thursday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: The Warriors have expanded the passing attack, going with three-wide formations and a motion tight end. … Two outside linebackers in the rotation began their careers at Pac-12 schools. Jeremy Castro was at UCLA and Makani Kema-Kaleiwahea transferred from Arizona. Kema-Kaleiwahea and his wife were certified as foster parents when they were 18 years old. Kema-Kaleiwahea, who was raised in the foster system, moved back to Hawaii to adopt two boys who used to be his foster brothers.
— Stephen Tsai, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Like many Mountain West teams, the Wolf Pack was searching for a quarterback in fall camp. Nevada is hopeful they’ve found one in junior Tyler Stewart, who was named the starter last week.
Wolf Pack coach Brian Polian isn’t dipping just one toe in with Stewart, either. He’s going all in.
Initially, Polian said he was going to split time with Stewart and freshman Hunter Fralick in the opener before backtracking. Polian said Stewart will play the entire game with the first string.
“The more I think about it, the more you want your quarterback to get into a rhythm and get used to each other,” Polian said. “We’ll just kind of go as it goes but the more I thought about it, the more I think we just need to let the guy go.”
Stewart has started one game in college, a 31-9 win over Hawaii in 2013. Stewart was 14 of 20 for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the win. His QBR that game was 97.2, the highest at Nevada since 2010.
Next game: vs. UC Davis, 8 p.m. MT Thursday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: The Wolf Pack aren’t expected to be down any two-deep players because of injury for their season opener. … Junior Jake Henry, who has zero career starts, won the right tackle job after Joey Angelmire suffered a concussion early in fall camp. Both are expected to play versus UC Davis. … The only true freshman certain to play this season is long snapper Wes Farnsworth, although WRs Dominic Christian and Victor Gonzalez also could play, Polian said. … UC Davis and Nevada have played 53 times, which makes the Aggies the Wolf Pack’s most common opponent in program history.
– Chris Murray/Reno Gazette-Journal
SAN DIEGO STATE
The battle for the starting quarterback job at San Diego State was deemed close by the coaches, but it didn’t come down to a game-time decision.
Aztecs head coach Rocky Long said Monday after practice that graduate transfer Maxwell Smith will be the starter over redshirt freshman Christian Chapman in the season opener Saturday against crosstown opponent University of San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium.
“I think he’s been a little more consistent in his play,” Long said. “He’s more in tune with what we’re trying to do. He’s been more accurate with the pass in all of the drills. I think it’s totally about maturity.”
Smith appeared in 21 games for Kentucky, including 11 starts spanning his first three seasons for the Wildcats. He threw for 21 touchdowns against only nine interceptions but was slowed by an ankle injury and eventually lost the starting job. His last playing time came at the end of the 2013 season.
By contrast, Chapman (Carlsbad High) has yet to play in a college game after redshirting last season. At 6 feet, 200 pounds, Chapman is considerably smaller than Smith (6-5, 235).
Every play in practice is charted, Long said, “and when you’re charting it comes out pretty clear who is having the better camp. It’s not a huge difference, but it was enough of a difference to make a decision.”
Nearly every other position for the Aztecs was well established before this first game week. SDSU returns eight starters on defense, including all five members of the defensive backfield, from a unit that ranked 13th in the country in points allowed per game (19.8) and 16th in yards allowed per game (332.5). The only true newcomer will be one of three potential players taking over the “Mike” linebacker position in Long’s 3-3-5 defense.
With new offensive coordinator Jeff Horton, who replaced the retired Bob Toledo, there will be an emphasis on better execution of fewer play selections. The “In-N-Out offense,” as Horton has dubbed it. SDSU still will have a run-first attack with the top returning running back in the conference in Donnel Pumphrey, who will also be used more in the passing attack. The biggest question mark on offense is a line that has only two returning starters. It was porous at times against its own defense in fall camp.
Next game: vs. University of San Diego, 6 p.m. MT Saturday (Mountain West Digital Network)
Notable: SDSU and USD are nine miles apart, but this is only their second all-time meeting. The first was in 1961, when the Aztecs, in Don Coryell’s first year as head coach, beat the Toreros 42-12. … This game’s scheduling came about because of some difficulty SDSU had in getting teams following its aborted jump to the Big East several years ago. … A crowd of more than 40,000 is expected for the game that will feature a postgame fireworks show. … The game will not count toward SDSU’s bowl eligibility. … Junior receiver Lloyd Mills, second in the MW in punt return average last season, has lost both his starting receiving job and punt return duty. … CB J.J. Whittaker and LB Jake Fely, both starters, are each in their sixth year at SDSU because of early-career injury problems.
— Tod Leonard, San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN JOSE STATE
Spartans coach Ron Caragher has played everything close to the vest during this offseason, so it’s no surprise he’s not handling his announcement of a starting quarterback any differently.
Caragher is declining to announce who will start Thursday’s opener against New Hampshire, a Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse.
Caragher said he’s yet to make that decision, with senior Joe Gray and junior Kenny Potter both expected to get snaps.
The smart money is on Gray opening the game behind center. Indications are that he’s performed better recently in practices and he brings experience after starting seven games and playing in 11 last year.
“The next step for evaluation for a quarterback is an actual game,” Caragher said. “The nice thing is there is no rule that says we have to name a starter at a certain time for the convenience of the fans or the press.”
Considering Caragher earlier said he’d like to name a starter 7-10 days prior to the opener, it’s perhaps a sign that neither has pulled ahead enough. Both struggled in the lone open scrimmage of training camp. Gray completed 7 of 17 passes for 60 yards and Potter was 4 of 13 for 55 yards and an interception.
Next game: vs. New Hampshire, 8 p.m. MT Thursday (no TV)
Notable: A pair of true freshman wide receivers will miss this season due to injuries. Bailey Gaither is out with a shoulder injury and Colin Baker had surgery on his collarbone. Along with the dismissal of Kanya Bell last month, that’s three potential additions at receiver who won’t be available to help jumpstart the offense this season. Junior defensive tackle Keenan Sykes is out 4-6 weeks with an MCL injury and junior running back Jarrod Lawson will be limited with a hand injury.
— Jimmy Durkin, San Jose Mercury News
The news at UNLV has been how new coach Tony Sanchez has brought buzz to a long-ignored program by selling Las Vegas, aggressively recruiting and hiring a veteran college coaching staff.
Now the news will be what he can accomplish on the field, and Sanchez is excited to get started.
“All the talking ends Saturday,” Sanchez said. “All the this and all the that and all the speculation and all the picks, they mean nothing. You go out and you play the game. There’s a winner and a loser, and that’s fantastic. That’s America.”
Sanchez is making his college debut after spending the past six seasons at Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High, which won six consecutive Nevada state championships. The Gaels also were the mythical national champions last year.
Winning at UNLV is another conversation, and little is expected of the Rebels this season. Little is even expected this weekend, with the Rebels 21-point underdogs at Northern Illinois.
Sanchez will try to succeed where other coaches have failed.
“I just know this is an opportunity that I’ve been afforded, and I’m going to take advantage of it,” he said. “We’re going to give a phenomenal effort. I 100 percent believe we will get this thing going. We will turn it around for a lot of different reasons.”
Next game: at Northern Illinois, 5:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Notable: Junior college transfers Will Kreitler at center and Mark Finau at defensive end are slated to start. Freshman nickelback Darius Mouton is the other newcomer who could start. He will be in the lineup if the Rebels open with a 4-2-5 defense, but their base set is a 4-3. … Nine incoming freshmen are listed on the depth chart, and all are expected to play immediately. … This is the first of a brutal three-game stretch for the Rebels, who host UCLA on Sept. 12 and play at Michigan on Sept. 19. … UNLV is the only Mountain West team on the road this week. The Rebels also are one of only three teams in the conference playing an FBS opponent.
— Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review-Journal