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StarBulletin.com

Rebels still looking for big payoff


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POSTED: Monday, August 24, 2009

UNLV briefly appeared headed for a breakout season, but instead endured another breakdown in the Mountain West Conference.

The Rebels shot out to a 3-1 start with overtime wins over Arizona State and Iowa State. A loss to WAC member Nevada then sent them on a five-game slide on their way to a 5-7 season.

Still, it was improvement on the back-to-back 2-10 campaigns they'd posted in 2006 and '07, and the Rebels are expected to continue to progress in Mike Sanford's fifth year as head coach. They drew a fifth-place nod in the preseason media poll—the program's highest such projection since 2004—despite going 5-27 in league play over the last four years.

; Strengths

The Rebels return dual-threat quarterback Omar Clayton and two of the MWC's top playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Clayton passed for 1,894 yards and 18 touchdowns with just four interceptions before a knee injury ended his season.

Receiver Ryan Wolfe is a preseason all-conference selection after catching 91 passes for 1,040 yards and six touchdowns last year and breaking the century mark in yards five times. Wolfe was named to the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award.

Linebacker Jason Beauchamp led the MWC and was tied for eighth nationally with 10.58 tackles per game.

Weaknesses

Lack of pressure up front contributed to issues in the secondary for a defense that gave up nearly 33 points per game in 2008. The Rebels recorded just 11 sacks last season and ranked 111th nationally in pass efficiency defense.