A lack of wins belies a solid track record of development in Marcus Arroyo’s first two years, so who could be next to lead the Rebels?
Could these players be ready for the spotlight?
The UNLV Rebels haven’t won as many games in 2021 as they certainly hoped, but there’s little evidence the program is headed in the right direction under head coach Marcus Arroyo. As we head into year three, this team is expected to take a leap forward together.
That means both newcomers and young talent could play a big role throughout 2022. So who are the most likely candidates to become big players?
Cameron Oliver, DB
Nohl Williams has quietly established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the Mountain West, and Oliver could be the next rebel to join the conversation. Starting in all but one of 2021’s games, he held his own while acting mostly outside the slot as a true freshman, intercepting two passes while recording 33 tackles and 3.5 tackles for losses. Though there’s a bit more competition for a starting role this time around, Oliver could be the next big example of UNLV’s recent developmental successes.
Preston Nichols, OL
If Nichols can get anywhere near his level of play in 2021, the Rebels may have landed one of the transfer portal’s biggest steals. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-2, 280-pound lineman averaged an 86.7 overall in Charleston Southern last year, the fifth-best number among any FCS tackle.
Interestingly, it looks like the plan for now is to pair him with another Buccaneers graduate, Daviyon McDaniel, on the left side of the offensive line. Replacing a road grader like Julio Garcia won’t be easy, but Nichols’ ability to play both tackle and guard could make him a very valuable asset.
Jeffrey Weimer and Senika McKie, WR
Kyle Williams could use some reinforcements to be successful, so the Rebels dove into the Juco and Division II ranks and found some intriguing candidates to replace Steve Jenkins’ production. Weimer joined City College of San Francisco from Salinas and played an important role in the Rams’ run to a state title last year stretch the field.
McKie, on the other hand, comes to Las Vegas from Erskine College in his hometown of South Carolina, where he appeared as a second-team All-American pass catcher in the program’s first season since 1951. Between the spring and fall of the Flying Fleet campaigns in 2021, McKie averaged 12 yards per catch with ten touchdowns on 150 total receptions. If UNLV can make the right decision at quarterback, they both have the potential to have monster seasons.
Tyson player, p
With both Bryce Jackson and Phillip Hill exiting the program through the transfer portal, Player is among the closest men to safety. The good news? He’s shown a lot of promise in his three starts over the past year, amassing double-digit tackles against Iowa State and Air Force, giving him many more opportunities to establish himself as one of the toughest, hard-hitting athletes in the Mountain West at that position.