(Courtesy of UNLV Athletics / Steve Spatafore)
Friday, September 24, 2021 | 2 a.m
The rebel room
UNLV 0-3 football start
The UNLV football team have started the season 0-3 and are struggling to get consistent play from their quarterbacks. The Rebels have played four signalers this season. We discuss all things UNLV football in this edition of the Rebel Room.
As an old football adage goes, the less you hear about the offensive line, the better.
You hear about the UNLV offensive line.
In the first three weeks of the season, the Scarlet and Gray blockers made way too much noise. And that’s almost always a bad thing, because the fastest way for an offensive line to draw attention to itself is to blow up running games and allow sacks.
UNLV has the fifth-worst dismissal rate in the country, as their quarterbacks were beaten on 17.4% of dropouts.
The team’s blocking of the run was almost as hideous, as UNLV running backs averaged just 2.0 yards per attempt – the seventh worst mark in the entire country.
It’s impossible to win without blocking the defense, and UNLV is currently registering an appropriate 0-3 on the season as they head to Fresno State No.23 for the Mountain West opener tonight.
What went so horribly wrong from the start?
It is difficult to attribute the bad play of the offensive line entirely to recruiting. The program has consistently fielded strong O-lines under former coach Tony Sanchez, and two of that team’s starters (second-year center Leif Fautanu and left-back Julio Garcia) were signed to UNLV by Sanchez.
Current coach Marcus Arroyo brought in junior guard Daviyon McDaniel and senior left tackle Clayton Bradley as college transfers from Charleston Southern and USC, respectively, so youngsters can’t be used as an excuse. The only player along the line who isn’t seasoned is right tackle Tiger Shanks, a freshman in a red shirt who was recruited out of high school by Arroyo.
After the UNLV quarterbacks were sacked three times out of 22 losses in a 48-3 loss to Iowa Sate, Arroyo said Shanks struggled to cope physically and it could take “A few years” to catch up.
Asked about his team’s blocking of passes at this point in the season, Arroyo said it was a work in progress.
âLots of room for growth,â Arroyo said. “We have to protect the quarterback and we have 1-on-1 situations against good opponents who are going to take technique, fundamentals and time, especially with guys who are new.”
On the ground, UNLV averaged just 1.3 meters over 31 rush attempts against Iowa State.
Arroyo hinted he might mix up the offensive line in an effort to create a more cohesive blocking unit.
âWe take pride in becoming a physical program,â said Arroyo. âIt’s going to be a big part of what we do, who we are. So running football is what we have to do. Gel early on and get guys, mix up a few positions early on to see if we can get more chemistry right off the bat.
Senior running back Charles Williams has seen his production drop sharply since Arroyo arrived. In four years behind Sanchez’s lines, Williams has averaged 5.7 yards per carry, culminating in a 2019 campaign that saw him rack up 1,257 yards and win first-team All-Mountain West honors. In two years under Arroyo, he’s fallen to 4.3 yards per carry.
Williams said the team tries to focus on the next nine games, not the three that have already been played.
âWe are working so hard and we haven’t got the result we want but we are working,â said Williams. âMost people would just throw in the towel. It’s a little hard to block out outside noise sometimes, but you have to do it.
Blocking Fresno State is not going to be easy. Bulldogs rank 31st nationwide in run defense, allowing just 3.1 yards per carry, and they get past the quarterback to the tune of an 8.2% sack rate, good for 38e in the countryside.
The good news is that Williams has a history of good performances against his hometown team. The Fresno native has logged two of his 11 career 100-yard games against FSU, and he’s averaging a healthy 5.7 yards per catch in four games.
Arroyo believes that establishing formidable ground play will make life easier on the offensive line and the offense as a whole.
âWe will continue to feed Chuck,â Arroyo said. âChuck is a workaholic for us. We believe in the racing game, of course.
Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [emailÂ protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.