Analysis: Early to-do list for next UNLV football coach

Posted Tuesday, 03 December 2019 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Being the head coach of UNLV football is a complicated, work-intensive job, but the position is a lot more promising than it used to be. Thanks in large part to recently fired coach Tony Sanchez, the Rebels no longer have subpar on-campus facilities, and the team has never been in better academic standing. And while the Rebels never posted a winning season under Sanchez, they weren't complete doormats either — in three of his five years, UNLV beat in-state rival UNR to claim the Fremont Cannon. Throw in the fact that the team will move into brand-new Allegiant Stadium next season, and UNLV doesn't have to be the dead-end job it has always been. It's not a stretch to say that the next head coach — whoever it ends up being — is better set up for success than any Rebels coach in program history. So what kind of job will this as-of-yet-unnamed coach be looking at when he gets to UNLV? Consider this an early to-do list: Save the recruiting class The early signing period begins on Dec. 18, and UNLV currently has more than 10 high schoolers committed from the Class of 2020. All of them are rated as 3-star recruits, according to 247Sports, and if the new coach is installed in time he might be able to persuade some of them to stick with UNLV despite the coaching change. One player has already reopened his recruitment since Sanchez's dismissal, but others have expressed a willingness to listen to the new coach's pitch. The longer he has to work on them, the better chance he'll have. But if the search lingers on and the recruits scatter, the coach will be forced to recruit leftovers and likely won't be able to put together a real recruiting class until 2021. Re-recruit Charles Williams UNLV's best offensive player in 2019 was Charles Williams, but will he be back in 2020? Assuming his academics are on track, the junior running back is eligible to leave and play right away as a grad transfer, and after coming off a 1,257-yard season, he will be coveted by other teams. The new coach will have to do what he can to keep the Chuck Wagon in Vegas. Figure out Armani Like Williams, junior quarterback Armani Rogers can leave as a grad transfer this offseason. Rogers hasn't improved as a passer since coming to UNLV, but he is such a gifted athlete that he'll have suitors. Does the new coach see Rogers fitting into the offense in some capacity? If he believes he can harness Rogers' pure talent, then keeping the big guy on campus for one final season will be a priority. If the coach doesn't have a role in mind for Rogers, then it's likely the QB will look for opportunities elsewhere. Dole out discipline Coming off the fracas at the end of the season-ending win over UNR, the new coach will have to make a statement about how he handles discipline within his program. Aside from Austin Arnold's sucker punch of Kenyon Oblad (which should probably end Arnold's college football career), the most egregious act may have come from a Rebel. One media report alleged that Giovanni Fauolo removed his helmet and swung it at spectators. Even if Fauolo was agitated or felt attacked by fans, using his helmet as a weapon crossed a line. The Mountain West is currently investigating the entire incident; if there is evidence of Fauolo swinging his helmet at fans, the MWC will undoubtedly suspend him for a significant portion of next season. It will then be up to the next UNLV coach to decide whether it's worth keeping Fauolo on the team for his senior season. Reach out to locals Recruiting is not easy at UNLV, as coaches have to board a plane to get to any of the nearby talent hotbeds (Southern California, Arizona, Texas). That makes it especially important to lock down some of the top local talent, something that was expected to be a strength of the program under Sanchez but which never really materialized. Local schools such as Bishop Gorman, Liberty and Desert Pines produce enough Division-I players that the new coach will have to prioritize his relationship with those programs. Assess Oblad Is Kenyon Oblad the future at quarterback? As a redshirt freshman he beat out three-year starter Armani Rogers and played the final eight games, and he was masterful against UNR (16-of-22, 229 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions). If the new coach thinks Oblad is the guy to run his offense for the next three years, the Rebels will be ahead of the curve; if he doesn't think Oblad is the right fit, then it'll be time to hit the recruiting trail/transfer portal right away. Oblad did just about all he could to make his case, as he passed for 2,081 yards with 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He'll probably head into spring ball as No. 1 on the depth chart, but ultimately it will be up to the coach. Identify possible staff holdovers Like with every coaching change, most of the current staff will be replaced so the new coach can bring in his own guys. But one current assistant who may have a chance to stay on is Cedric Cormier, the Rebels' wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. Cormier came aboard with Hauck and has already survived one coaching change, as Sanchez decided to keep him on. Cormier has produced for both coaches by playing a big part in recruiting some of the program's best players of the last decade (Devante Davis, Tim Cornette, Lexington Thomas and Devonte Boyd, to name a few). If the next coach wants to stay on top of the 2020 class and develop a foothold in Las Vegas, it might not be a bad idea to retain Cormier. Implement an overall recruiting strategy As covered earlier, getting players to UNLV is not an easy task. The last two coaches took wildly different approaches — Bobby Hauck recruited the same caliber of players he recruited at Division-II Montana, his previous job, while Sanchez went after too many players who were way out of UNLV's proverbial price range — and neither was successful. The next coach has to strike a balance and figure out how he wants his recruiting apparatus to work. Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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