Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 129 of 163

128 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY RYAN TICE UNLV has not had a coach with a win- ning record since Harvey Hyde (26-19-1) was fired after the 1985 season due to vari- ous off-the-field problems. The Rebels have been to just three bowl games since, includ- ing a postseason trip in 2013, but Bobby Hauck resigned after a 2-11 mark last year. New boss Tony Sanchez is a familiar name in Las Vegas, but new to college football. Af- ter building a national powerhouse at Bishop Gorman High School, where he won six straight state titles, the 41-year-old returns to the college game, where his experience is limited to one year as an undergraduate assistant in 1996 at his alma mater, New Mexico State. Sanchez lost just five games in six years at his last stop, which featured plenty of future Division I talent each year. That might be something his new squad does not have in abundance. Sophomore wideout Devonte Boyd is one after he burst onto the scene last year and established himself as a bona fide star. The 6-1, 175-pound hometown hero hauled in nearly twice as many passes as the next lead- ing receiver, and finished with 65 receptions for 980 yards and four touchdowns. Classmate Kendal Keys was also im- pressive in his debut; the 6-3, 200-pounder ranked fourth with 310 receiving yards, while his two touchdowns through the air tied for third. Senior quarterback Blake Decker, who was also in his first season at UNLV as a junior college transfer, completed 57.6 per- cent of his throws for 2,886 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he must cut down on his 18 interceptions. However, the Rebels are expected to take more of a ground-oriented approach under new offensive coordinator Barney Cotton, a longtime offensive line coach and run game coordinator at Nebraska. Junior running back Keith Whitely ranked second on the team with 504 rush- ing yards, while Decker added 366 yards and five scores. Whitely, who measures 5-9, 185 pounds, will be complemented by the physical presence of 6-0, 215-pound senior George Naufahu, who debuted from junior college with 210 rushing yards and a touch- down last fall. The offensive line does not bring back any full-time starters. Kyle Saxelid is the most experienced returner after he opened five games as a true freshman left tackle. In what could be a common theme throughout the squad, junior college transfers could play a major role up front. The Rebels' pass defense ranked 50th na- tionally (219.6 yards per game) last year — but UNLV was rated 105th or worse in the other major categories, including 123rd in total defense (513.5 yards per game). Two building blocks return in redshirt ju- nior linebacker Tau Lotulelei, who posted 99 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles, and fifth-year senior safety Peni Vea, a two-time All-Mountain West honorable mention pick who has totaled 196 tackles over the past two years. Vea ranked second on the team with 88 stops in 2014, and also totaled 7.5 tackles for loss plus 3.5 sacks — which leads all returners — one interception and a forced fumble. Redshirt junior linebacker Ryan McA- leenan was a late junior college signee, but made an immediate impact and posted 70 tackles. He and fifth-year senior defensive end Sonny Sanitoa, who posted 44 tack- les and 2.5 sacks, round out the returning starters. All three kickers that combined to go 15 of 24 on field goals last fall return, along with starting punter Logan Yunker, who av- eraged 40.5 yards per attempt last year. Sanchez is only the fifth high school coach to move up to major college football. Mary- land's Ray Lester, Iowa's Bob Commings, Notre Dame's Gerry Faust and North Texas' Todd Dodge went a combined 61-125-1, which does not inspire much confidence in Sanchez turning the program around. However, he comes into the job with name recognition around town and a winning pedi- gree — he went 120-26 in 11 years as a prep head coach. The jump in levels is a steep one, but all reports indicate he has brought a new energy with him. Notes UNLV opens its season at Northern Illinois and then hosts UCLA — the two programs combined for a 21-6 record last year — before traveling to Michigan … Idaho State is the other non-conference foe; those four programs were 34-17 overall and 22-11 against league opponents last year. ❑ Rebels Take Unorthodox Route In Searching For Success GAME 3 • UNLV • SEPT. 19 2015 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2014 Result Sept. 5 at Northern Illinois L, 48-34 Sept. 12 UCLA — Sept. 19 at Michigan — Sept. 26 Idaho State — Oct. 3 at Nevada L, 49-27 Oct. 10 San Jose State L, 33-10 Oct. 16 at Fresno State W, 30-27 (OT) Oct. 31 Boise State — Nov. 7 Hawaii L, 37-35 Nov. 14 at Colorado State — Nov. 21 San Diego State L, 34-17 Nov. 28 at Wyoming — QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: First meeting Head Coach: Tony Sanchez, first year at UNLV and overall Off./Def. Systems: Multiple/Multiple 2014 In Review: 2-11 overall, 1-7 Mountain West (6th West) Final 2014 Ranking: Unranked Returning Star ters: 9 (3 offense, 4 defense, 2 specialists) Last Bowl Appearance: 2013 (Heart of Dallas, vs. North Texas, L 36-14) Mountain West Conference Championships (last): 0 (Won Big West Conference in 1994) RETURNING LEADERS Passing: Blake Decker (2,886 yards, 15 TD, 18 INT) Rushing: Keith Whitely (504 yards, 2 TD) Receiving: Devonte Boyd (980 yards, 4 TD) Tackles: Tau Lotulelei (99) Sacks: Peni Vea (3.5) Interceptions: Peni Vea, Marc Philippi and Brandon Baker (1) PLAYERS TO WATCH O ffense: QB Blake Decker, 5th-Sr., QB — He did not receive much help from his offensive line last year and played through some minor injuries while passing for 2,886 yards and 15 touchdowns … However, he was also picked off 18 times in his first year out of Scotts- dale Community College … Originally walked on at BYU. Defense: LB Tau Lotulelei, R-Jr., LB — The former walk-on is the younger brother of Rebel standout John, who was the team's defensive MVP in 2012 … Cousin of Carolina Panthers' defensive tackle Star Lotulelei … Led the team with 99 stops, 10.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles last fall. Sophomore wideout Devonte Boyd hauled in 65 receptions for 980 yards and four touch- downs as a rookie last year. PHOTO COURTESY UNLV PHOTO SERVICES

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