SB FILE / 2006
Hawaii linebacker Timo Paepule helped Hawaii hold UNLV to 13 points last year.
Coach expects Rebels to rebound
This is the third in a series on UH opponents
Well, one good thing can be said for Mike Sanford.
Many other people have gone bust much faster in Las Vegas.
The UNLV coach is headed into his third year on the job. This might be his final hand if the Rebels don't rise to the occasion and fashion something better than the 2-10 (1-7 Mountain West) record of a year ago.
Sanford said UNLV is ready to improve significantly.
"We are a much more experienced football team. Our players have an understanding what our coaching staff expects of them on and off the field, but I still feel that's an ongoing thing. I expect us to be a much-improved football team," he said.
UNLV hasn't been to a bowl game since John Robinson was coach in 2000, and there aren't that many reasons to count on a return to the postseason now.
Sanford came from Utah, where he directed the offense during the Utes' glory days of Urban Meyer and Alex Smith. But the magic hasn't translated to Vegas, where the Rebels averaged just 20 points a game last fall.
Quarterback Rocky Hinds (6-foot-5, 220), a gifted USC transfer, was supposed to orchestrate a touchdown machine last year for Sanford. But Hinds played on a shaky knee all season. This year, he'll be working behind a new offensive line minus four starters from 2006.
The renovated front might include Johan Asiata of Kalihi, a 6-4, 325-pound JC transfer from Yuba, who has only been playing football three years. The graduate of the Youth Challenge Academy in Kapolei was listed as the starting right tackle headed into fall camp.
Receivers Casey Flair and Aaron Straiten are back. So is running back David Peeples (519 yards, seven touchdowns).
On defense, linebacker Beau Bell has stepped up as a team leader, according to Sanford.
"He sees the importance of the team, instead of living in his own world. He's really into our football team, and into our football (team) winning," Sanford said.
Bell (6-3, 245) made 76 tackles despite missing the last 5 1/2 games last year. He's the leading returning tackler and achieved career highs in tackles-for-loss and sacks despite missing nearly half the season.
Starting safeties Tony Cade (6-2, 205) and Daryl Forte (5-10, 185) return, as well as Jeremy Geathers (6-2, 245) up front.
UNLV was 113th in the nation against the pass last year, and the Rebels lose their top defender, Eric Wright.
Sergio Aguayo was one of the top kickers in the nation until he hurt his knee last year trying to make a tackle. Aguayo dropped off from 57 points in 2005 to 38 in 2006 (making just eight of his 16 field goals). He had surgery in December.
Nevada-Las Vegas rebels
2006 results (2-10)
|at Iowa State
|at Colorado State
|at San Diego State
||at Utah State
||at Air Force
||San Diego State
||at New Mexico