UNLV appears finally to have enough depth and talent across the field to contend in every game this season. Its most pressing need is replacing Frank "The Tank" Summers; when Summers went down at San Diego in the last game of 2008, the Rebels' hopes for a bowl bid went with him. In 2009, UNLV returns 28 players who have started at least one game-- the most in the MWC. Look for this unusual experience and depth in Las Vegas, especially in the trenches, to push UNLV into the post-season.
Sophomore Phillip Payne (pictured) has gained some muscle, but not lost a step; Ryan Wolfe must now lead the Rebels' receiving corps, now that Casey Flair has graduated; Warren Ziegler (pictured), a JUCO-transfer at safety, appears to be meeting the high expectations that accompanied his early enrollment at UNLV; Ziegler and returning DB Will Chandler appear to have an edge on a starting spot going into fall; cornerback Quinton Pointer hopes to play at 100% next year; massive Samoan DE Issako Aaitui's football smarts have caught up with his size; his fellow lineman DT Malo Taumua is also impressing, wearing the day's best black jersey four times. LB looks to be a strong position for UNLV again; youth and inexperience are no longer problems on the Rebel o-line; former QBs Travis Dixon and Chris Jones are doing well as safeties. UNLV returns four starters to the O-line, and the newbie, RsFr Sean Tesoro, has drawn high praise. Coach Sanford says the 1st team defense and offensive line have improved, but the 2s need to improve, and the Rebs are still looking for a go-to runningback and punter.
In the Rebs' spring game, Mike Clausen outshone Omar Clayton, but hasn't ousted Clayton from the starting spot. JUCO transfers Kenny Brown and Warren Ziegler corralled Phillip Payne; senior Chris Brogdon and sophomore C.J. Cox lead at tailback, awaiting incoming freshman Bradley Randle. Sanford called this the Rebs' best spring ever, and listed likely battles in fall drills.