UNLV tries to rebel against poor '05 season
Wright, a transfer from USC, leads an experienced defense
SECOND IN A SERIES
IMAGINE Hawaii's defense of last year without the offense and you get a simplified, yet apt description of UNLV's woeful 2005 season.
As for special teams, if it weren't for kicker Sergio Aguayo's two game-winning field goals, UNLV would've been 0-11.
The Rebels allowed the most points in the Mountain West (34.6 per game) while scoring the fewest (18.8). It was a deadly combination that left former Utah offensive coordinator Mike Sanford's team with a 2-9 record in his first season -- the same mark they turned in the previous season under John Robinson.
Much of UNLV's hopes for improvement this season rests on two transfers from USC, cornerback Eric Wright and quarterback Rocky Hinds.
Some say Wright might be the best defensive player in the conference, although he hasn't played a down in it yet. He joins five starters from last year's defense; tackle Howie Fuimaono, safety Jay Staggs, cornerback John Guice and linebackers Beau Bell and Matt Pattison. Bell was in on 92 tackles and Pattison had 54 in just seven games.
Fuimaono was named to the preseason Outland Trophy watch list after 4 1/2 tackles-for-loss and two fumble recoveries last season.
The hybrid shotgun spread offense Sanford brought from Utah might be more effective this year with four returning starters on the line, including seniors Chris Bowser and Brandon Gray on the left and juniors Tim Goins at center and Mike McKiski at right guard. But maybe not, since this group allowed 39 sacks last season.
Goins has been moved to right tackle, allowing Damien graduate Kea Toledo (one of four Hawaii prep products on the Rebels roster) to move up the depth chart at center. Aaron Mueller was No. 1 going into fall camp.
Two experienced quarterbacks return in Shane Steichen and Jarrod Jackson. But neither was very effective or consistent, and Hinds could get the start even though he hasn't played in three years.
Coming out of high school in 2004, Hinds was considered one of the nation's top recruits even though he didn't play his senior year because of a knee injury. He redshirted at USC behind Matt Leinart, and then transferred to UNLV last year.
Tailback Erick Jackson returns after leading the Rebels with 673 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Jackson also is the leading receiver back in the fold; he caught 36 passes for 370 yards and a score. He also led UNLV with a 21.8 average on 12 kickoff returns.
2005 record: 2-9
Starters returning: 14
Head coach: Mike Sanford (2-9 in one season at UNLV)
Last meeting with UH: UNLV 33, Hawaii 22, Sept. 19, 2003, Sam Boyd Stadium
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