Unlv football preview
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview: Going All In



Franchise Sports Media’s 2020 UNLV Football Season Preview


Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – NFL Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi


UNLV Football Preview
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

New UNLV football head coach Marcus Arroyo is set to lead his Rebels onto the field for the first time on Saturday when UNLV travels to Southern California to take on the San Deigo State University Aztecs. While this isn’t what anyone envisioned when coach Arroyo was hired on December 11th, 2019, the first time head coach is as prepared as anyone to handle the adverse circumstances.

In his short time as the Rebels’ head coach, the Rebels’ players have bought into Arroyo’s philosophy and system. Players have told me that they feel fortunate to have Arroyo and his staff leading them through such a difficult time. The players feel they have been told the truth and that their best interests are in mind. As for on the field, the players love what the new staff has brought to the program and feel reenergized to turn the program around.


UNLV Football Preview
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Coach Arroyo is also armed with something no head coach in college football has; a school, a city, and a state with over $2 billion invested into the Rebels’ football program. It started with the $37 million Fertitta Football Complex, the football team, and the staff’s new everyday home. The FFC is one of the best football complexes on the west coast and in all of college football. Coach Arroyo also has the Rebels’ new home stadium, Allegiant Stadium, the $2 billion crown jewel of the desert, to use to his advantage as a recruiting tool.

So far, it has worked.

Coach Arroyo has brought a different swagger and attitude to the program that the Rebels’ players have embraced. No longer will losing, a lack of effort, finger-pointing, or making excuses be accepted. No longer will the lack of past success be a fallback statement for fans. Coach Arroyo and his staff have built a specific culture that they have cultivated and created, starting with nothing short of going 1-0 every day.

It’s time to deal in to Marcus Arroyo’s UNLV football program. There will be no flinch because it has been designed by hard work, dedication, toughness, confidence, success, and swagger. Welcome to the new era of UNLV Rebels football.



The big question heading into the 2020 season is who will be the Rebels’ starting quarterback?



UNLV Football Preview
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Will it be former Las Vegas Liberty High School star Kenyon Oblad? The red-shirt Sophmore finished the 2019 campaign as the starter and helped lead the Rebels to a last-second victory over UNR to keep the Freemont Cannon scarlet red for the third time in five years. Oblad’s arm talent is undeniable, and his teammates know what to expect from him. One of the questions that remain to be seen is, can Oblad use his legs to be a threat in the pistol offense, keeping opposing teams defenses honest?

Max Gillam, the red-shirt Senior, has had a solid camp and has entered the conversation as well. Gilliam has been the most consistent quarterback in camp and also has experience starting while at UNLV. “Mad Max” has sneaky good mobility, an accurate arm, and nice touch on his deep balls.

A few weeks into coach Arroyo’s tenure, he got more good news when former TCU quarterback Justin Rogers transferred into UNLV. Rogers has to remain healthy and get game experience, but the Rebels could have a superstar. The NCAA recently ruled Rogers is eligible to play in 2020. The former Louisiana high school star was the highest-rated QB ever committed to TCU and the #4 quarterback in the country coming out of high school. Rogers has a rocket arm as well as make plays with his legs.

Lastly, freshman Doug Brumfield has shown that he has the tools to be very much in the starting quarterback conversation. Ths Serra, Gardena (CA) product has the size and arm to make every throw and has impressed the coaching staff so far. The strong-armed lefty has a bright future in Las Vegas and for the Rebels.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Gilliam takes the first snaps for the Rebels in their opening game. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Rogers and Oblad played early and often, and UNLV used a multiple QB system for the 2020 season.



UNLV returns the Mountain West Conference’s regular-season rushing champion, senior Charles Williams. “The Chuck Wagon” is looking to break the school rushing record, and has been named to numerous pre-season watch lists.



UNLV Football Preview
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Williams is 1,288 yards away from breaking the school’s all-time rushing record held by Tim Cornett, and in Arroyo’s offense, it was very likely that he would eclipse that mark if we were in a normal season. “The Chuck Wagon” was the heart and soul of the Rebels’ offense last season when he ran for an MWC leading 1,257 yards despite missing a game due to injury. Williams is a do-everything back that can run by or run over you and runs with good pad level. He is solid as a pass blocker and should be utilized more in the passing game, where his game has improved since he arrived from Bullard High School in Fresno, CA.

Williams is one of just 91 players in the nation named to the Maxwell Award Watch List; an award is given to college football’s top player at the end of each season. He also was named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List and a member of the official Preseason All-Mountain West Team.

Behind Williams, coach Arroyo has his choice of running backs, all of whom have different skill sets. Chad Magyar, who backed up Williams last year, is returning. The Junior running back is a powerful, north/south runner with nice hands out of the backfield. Red-shirt freshman Courtney Reese also is back to add even more explosiveness to the Rebels’ offense. Reese was starting to come into his own before an injury that resulted in him red-shirting.

UNLV also has a pair of freshmen that could see time behind Williams. Dylan Dowling, an early enrollee, was listed as Williams’ top back-up on the initial depth chart. The freshman from Indianapolis, Indiana, is a powerful runner who has deceptive speed to hit the home run. Another freshman, Spencer Briggs, has the ability to be a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. He runs powerfully and has good vision. He is decisive when he makes his cuts and opens up on the second level of the defense.

The Rebels have red-shirt junior Jamaal Neal as their fullback/H-Back. Neal is a big dude (6’1/260) and has the skill set to be not only a devastating blocker but also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.



The Rebels have a very skilled set of wide receivers and tight ends that have seen a lot of live action. Whomever is throwing them the ball has some playmakers who look to score with every touch.



UNLV Football Preview
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Junior Tyleek “Hollywood” Collins and sophomore Stevie Jenkins are the Rebels two most explosive returning receivers. Both players have the ability to score anytime they touch the ball and, at times, could be the two fastest players on the field. Collins has to remain healthy after a 2019 season that had “Hollywood” battling through various injuries. When he is healthy, Collins could be the most electrifying receiver in the MWC.

Jenkins showed the Mountain West Conference what they could expect in 2020 with his coming out party against UNR. In that game, Jenkins caught 5 balls for 140 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner.

Even with Randal Grimes out, UNLV will still have a cast of receivers that can make plays. Seniors Jacob Gasser, Mekhi Stevenson, and AJ Collins, along with junior Jeremy Clark, redshirt sophomore Pat Ballard, sophomore Marcus Phillips Jr., and redshirt freshman Malik Wesley all return. Gasser, Stevenson, Ballard, and Wesley should see significant time, especially with Brandon Presley lost for the second consecutive year.

UNLV will also see the three freshmen from the 2020 recruiting class get plenty of action. Kyle Williams, Zyell Griffin, Kalvin Sounders all provide a different skill set to the position and have been extremely productive during their high school careers. Williams is listed as a starter for the Week 1 SDSU game along with Gasser and Collins.

The tight ends are a deep and talented group led by one of last year’s team captains, Giovanni Fauolo. The senior is a tremendous blocker and has a knack for making a clutch play when the team needs it most. Noah Bean is back and is another tight end poised to have a big year. The redshirt junior from Los Angeles finished last season third on the team with 22 receptions for 336 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He is a receiving threat and knows how to get himself open, especially in the red zone.

I have to report that Fauolo and Bean still have to serve suspensions for the fight after the UNR win last season. Gio was hit with a 2 game suspension initially but had his suspension reduced to a game and a half, while Bean has to serve a full game. UNLV appealed to the Mountain West Conference to have those suspensions reduced to fit this season’s length, with the season now shortened to 8 games due to COVID-19.

The Rebels also have high expectations for redshirt sophomore Shelton Zeon III, who has the size to be a mismatch for DB’s and the speed to give linebackers issues. The same can be said for incoming freshmen Alex Lines and Kaleo Ballungay, who are big targets with extremely high potential. Both Lines and Ballungay are expected to make an impact this season.



The Rebels’ offensive line is arguably the best in the Mountain West. This group is deep, big, strong, and nasty.



UNLV Football Preview
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

The Rebels’ offensive line is the strength of their offense in my opinion. They are a big, strong, tough, deep unit with four returning starters, and has paved the way for one of the nation’s top rushing attacks. Justice Oluwaseun, Matt Brayton, Julio “Chato” Garcia, and Jaron Caldwell all return as starters, with redshirt freshman Leif Fautanu getting the start at center.

UNLV also added former USC Trojans’ offensive tackle Clayton Bradley as a graduate transfer. Bradley, who has appeared in 17 games in his career, with 3 starts for the Trojans, will give the Rebels even more depth up front and play either the left or right tackle position.

The Rebels also return Jackson McCoullough, Garrett Beckman, Bryan Catchings, Ryan Tantum, Armani Trigg-Wright, and Michael Bray. This is a group that, should an injury happen, will be able to come in and be “plug-and-play” guys for coach Arroyo. Freshmen Tiger Shanks, Alani Makihele, Jeminai Leuta-Ulu, and Marcus Miller are all expected to compete for playing time, with Shanks and Miller listed as back-ups on the SDSU game depth chart.

Last season the Rebels rushing attack finished 58th nationally, fourth in the MWC, averaging 168.2 per game. As for pass protection, they gave up 29 sacks on the year, but some of those sacks were not necessarily on the offensive line. The Rebel offensive line’s average height as of August 2020 is 6’3.2 and weighing 318.2 pounds, which combined ranks 19th nationally.



The Rebels’ defense will use multiple fronts, with the defense changing throughout the game or week. Coach Arroyo and UNLV defensive coordinator Peter Hansen like fast, long, athletic defensive players who can be interchangeable, especially on the backend. The Rebels’ defensive players will resemble what the University of Oregon looks like physically, which can be seen in the type of players they recruit. The key to the Rebels’ defense will sound familiar to long-time UNLV fans; they need to pressure the quarterback. Sacks, disruptions, and making the QB uncomfortable will be key once again and help the defense create turnovers. 



The Rebels defensive line needs to generate pressure and they should be helped with some players who missed time last season due to injury.



UNLV Football Preview
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

The biggest issue for UNLV football has been the lack of pressure on opposing team’s quarterbacks. Sacks are great, but disrupting the quarterback and making him consistently uneasy is just as effective and sometimes is more effective than a sack.  Doing this without blitzing every play would be ideal, and it starts upfront with the defensive line.

The Rebels have one of the MWC’s best defensive tackles in Kolo Uasike. He is one of the anchors to the Rebels’ line, and opposing teams need to account for him on every play. Tavis Malakius, who redshirted last season after playing in only four games, including starting three, finished with seven total tackles. Malakius can be a dominant player as a run defender or pass rusher and was developing into that before going down with an injury last season.

Last year the UNLV staff had high expectations for Tavai Tuitasi, who was a pass-rushing machine while attending San Francisco City College. Tuitasi tore his ACL midway through camp and was lost for the year. This season he is healthy, reshaped his body, and is itching to get back on the field. Coach Arroyo got another TCU transfer to come to UNLV in former Bishop Gorman High School star Adam Plant Jr. The former Gael has all the tools a coach would want to be successful, including a strong family support group. A player with his size and strength should be an impactful player right away for the Rebels.

Nate Neal, a well-respected senior in the locker room, is also ready to make an impact. Neal is well-regarded by the staff and plays the run and pass well. He has the size that you want upfront and the temperament to lead the defensive line. Jacoby Windmon and Seth Robinson will both see time on the edge. Windmon is a player who coaches from both the last staff, and this staff felt could be a guy to play at the next level. He has elite tools to be a player who makes an impact early and often. Robinson redshirted last season and was known for getting to the quarterback when he came out of high school. After a year of getting bigger, faster, and stronger, the hope is he can translate that on the field this year. Freshman Alvin Johnson is also in the mix for serious playing time.

A name to keep an eye on is freshman Daniel Caloca. The former high school wrestler is as strong as an ox, has a quick first step, and plays with a nasty temperament and toughness. Jalen Graves, a junior who is listed as a starter against SDSU, is also a player that UNLV expects to get an impact from in 2020, and the same can be said for Eliel Ehimare, who is another strong player that should help to get to the quarterback from the defensive tackle position.

LeShaun Bell is a highly touted freshman who passed on bigger schools and chose UNLV. He is a freak athlete who is explosive and could be a game-changer off the edge. Ose Egbase is another long, athletic freak who is explosive and does a great job getting to the quarterback. Kue Olotoa, a transfer from Riverside Community College, can play inside or out and is a smart, instinctive player who is a sure tackler. Malcolm Johnson is coming off a shoulder injury but is a player who also gets after the quarterback. Johnson could be a player who specializes in rushing on pass rush downs.



Senior Farrell Hester II leads an athletic group of linebackers that has become a deeper group this season. The question is will they make the type of impact UNLV needs?



UNLV Football Preview
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Hester II is a four-year starter, a team leader, and an extension of the coaching staff. He is the signal-caller for the defense and responsible for making sure everyone is lined up correctly. Hester II increased his mobility last year to become a three-down player and is another coach on the field. He is a tackling machine that is tough and plays the game with passion and quiet confidence.

Vic Viramontes will start next to Hester II. “Vegas Vic” didn’t have the impact he wanted last season, but he learned how to play linebacker after making the transition from quarterback. Viramontes is arguably the most athletic linebacker, and in the Rebels’ new defense, he will be the guy running all over the field to make plays. Where Hester II is quiet, Vic is the guy that shows his emotion and fire every play.

The expectation is for both Hester II and Viramontes to be the Rebels’ two leading tacklers and become a highly disruptive tandem.

The Rebels have excellent depth at linebacker this season. Kyle Beaudry is a guy that has a chance to be special. He is athletic, has a high football IQ, and plays like his hair is on fire. Should Hester II or Viramontes go down, Beaudry is one of the guys that can step right in and start.

The other guy Malakai Salu, another physical specimen, can be a freaky athlete who does special things. Unfortunately for him, a couple of players are ahead of him on the depth chart. Highly touted freshman Brennon Scott is also in the mix to get some early playing time in 2020. Austin Ajiake and Dondi Fuller are also going to see time playing inside. Colin Griffen, another freshman, will be battling for playing time as well.



The Rebels’ secondary will be completely revamped and could have three new starters in 2020. But they have a player in senior cornerback Aaron Lewis.



UNLV Football Preview
Photo Credit: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Besides the pass rush, the Rebels secondary has been the most beat up, and the main reason is they haven’t had the bodies in recent years. Whether it was because of injury, players failing to make admissions, or once they got to UNLV, they decided they wanted to focus on school, the Rebels have been playing with half a deck of cards.

But the 2020 secondary doesn’t have that problem.

Led by senior Aaron Lewis, new cornerback coach Tre Watson has a terrific young group of corners to work with. Lewis really came on in the final third of the 2019 season and became the Rebels’ best cornerback. He is best suited to play inside, but his technique, explosiveness, physicality, and competitive spirit allow him to play outside like he did last season.

But outside of Lewis, the Rebels will be playing all freshmen and a sophomore. Redshirt freshman Sir Oliver Everett and freshman Ricky Johnson will be competing to start on one side with fellow freshman Nohl Williams starting on the other. Williams is an explosive, playmaking cornerback who has a chance to be a special player. Johnson is another playmaker who is long and athletic that plays the ball well and has a knack for making big plays.

Jamel Hamm will get a lot of time as well. The 6’4 cornerback has to get comfortable using his size to press receivers, but he’s got a chance to be a lockdown corner once he does. Jeremiah Houston is finally at UNLV, and he is expected to make an immediate impact. Houston was committed to the 2019 class, but due to a snafu at his JuCo, he had to sit out a year. He too is a tall, athletic, playmaking cornerback that is a ball hawk. Dominic Brown, another JuCo transfer, is another player that will see a lot of time on the field and has the skill set to be a good player for the Rebels. Simon Robinson rounds out the cornerback group.

The Rebels’ safety group will also see two new starters. Tre Caine, the transfer from Colgate, has won one starting spot. He has had a great camp and is yet another long, athletic playmaker. Bryce Jackson has won the other starting spot. Jackson really took off when he moved to safety in 2019, as he was able to show his athleticism and tackling ability. Tyson Player will also see significant playing time and will push both players for a starting opportunity. Devynn Holly is also pushing for playing time and has shown flashes in camp.

Drew Tejechman, Alex Perry, and Greg Francis opted out of the season due to COVID-19, although Tejechman may be returning.



The Rebels special teams need to improve in 2020 after an abysmal 2019.


The Rebels have to do a better job on special teams, where they haven’t been special. The coverage units were terrible, and there were no explosive plays in the return game in 2019. The Rebels need a consistent, reliable kicker that can make extra points and the field goals that either tie or end games.

Nathan De Jager and Tanner Brown will handle field goals and kickoffs, with Evan Silva serving as the punter. Collins will be the Rebels’ kick and punt returner. Collins has a chance to end the decade long drought of UNLV not having a return for a touchdown. Reese will back him up on kick returns and Gasser on punt returns.



Rebel Nation – we’re going to win. We’ll recruit at a really high level. The goal is to compete for championships. We’ll block out the naysayers together as fans and city and administration and build a winner – a winner that will last.

Marcus Arroyo




Saturday, Oct 24, @ San Diego State University

Saturday, Oct 31, vs. UNR (Battle for the Fremont Cannon)

Saturday, Nov. 7, vs. Fresno State 

Saturday, Nov. 14, @ San Jose State 

Saturday, Nov. 21, @ Colorado State 

Friday, Nov. 27, vs. Wyoming

Friday, Dec. 4, vs. Boise State 

Saturday, Dec. 12, @ Hawaii (The Ninth Island Showdown)


Buy UNLV Tickets

UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview        UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview        UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview        UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview        UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview        UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview        UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview        UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview        UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview        UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview        UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview          UNLV Football 2020 Season Preview   

Follow Joe Arrigo

Rebels vs Colorado State     Rebels vs Colorado State     Rebels vs Colorado State     Rebels vs Colorado State

Follow The Franchise




Subscribe to our Official YouTube Channel