Unlv rebel vision '21
Photo Credit: Joe Arrigo / Franchise Sports Media

FSM Presents: UNLV Football Rebel Vision ’21 – UNLV Roster Management



Last week spring practice officially started for the UNLV Rebels football program – it was the first one under UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo. The week started with two helmet, or re-acclimation practices, that turned into a shell and shorts practice (that means the guys come out with only shoulder pads and helmets and team issues shorts) on Saturday.


UNLV Rebel Vision '21
Photo Credit: Joe Arrigo / Franchise Sports Media

Energy and intensity were high as players and coaches alike relished the opportunity to lace up their cleats, put on their whistles, and get back on the football just outside the Fertitta Football Complex at Rebel Park

However, the Rebels football team’s most exciting observation is how different they look from last fall into this spring. A standard shift in personnel always occurs when the end of a season comes. Yet, the feeling for this team is different.

When programs change head coaches, often the roster changes along with it, and that roster change determines the course of the program under that head coach for the foreseeable future. And the Rebels team looks like their “roster management” has been impressive.


Roster management is a concept whose meaning is in the name but the execution is not so easily explained: Roster management is the process of moving players and positions around to find the proper player for the correct position and then fitting that player/positions into the function of the scheme and ultimately into the fabric of the team.


UNLV Rebel Vision '21
Photo Credit: Joe Arrigo / Franchise Sports Media

Last year, the cancellation of the spring practices due to the spread of Covid-19 prevented the Rebels coaching staff from having a proper shot at organizing the team and the program before stepping on the field.

While Coach Arroyo never lost contact with his players, the lack of field time meant that almost all the player evaluation had to come from live-action games instead of scripted practices. The result was a 0-6 season that left skeptics and naysayers chattering about the state of the program. The offseason brought more news, with 13 lettering players announcing they were leaving the program—players like receiver Tyleek Collins, cornerback Sir Oliver Evertt and right tackle Justice Oluwaseun. Truly an adverse situation, but coach Arroyo and his staff see the glass as half full and not half empty.

“I think attrition during change is par for any place…” UNLV head football coach Marcus Arroyo told us at Franchise Sports, “Especially when you have such a drastic change when you have demands, expectations, and habits that are so different.”

While players have left, the rebels have done an outstanding job at bringing in players that can immediately impact the team, last year over 17 true freshmen including, Doug BrumfieldNohl Willimas, Zyell Griffin, and Freshman of the year in the Mountain West Conference, Kyle Williams. Add in nine walk-on players– like Devon Waldon–who were able to play or start in a game last year; which is considered a free year since the NCAA announced that every NCAA player last year would get an extra year of eligibility due to the impact COVID-19 had on the season, and it made the Rebels an even younger team than what most realize.

In some regards, using the “COVID year” was a positive thing for the Rebels, who were able to get experience for their young players. That is something that the UNLV football staff has seen as a massive advantage for them going forward. In the last two recruiting years, coach Arroyo and his staff’s aggressive, never back down, “We’re just as good as you” attitude toward recruiting has ushered in the two best and highest-rated recruiting classes in the history of UNLV.

“There is no replacement for experience in any industry,” coach Arroyo said. “Those game reps are going to be invaluable. We got to use that game film as a teaching tool.”

Add in transfer players like 6-foot-5, 210-pound receiver Jordan Jakes, a highly sought after transfer in from Indiana, lanky and athletic defensive back Mychal Victor coming from the Ventura College (at the JuCo level)Arizona transfer outside linebacker Kyle Wilborn, promising young JuCo tackle Brandon logan, and USC transfer defensive end Connor Murphy, as well as Cameron Friel, a freshman quarterback that graduated high school early to come and try to compete for the starting QB job. The Rebels roster has more promising players coming in than they did going out.


Something coach Arroyo said in his first signing day press conference was his focus on recruiting every year would be to “Get better at every position” and the coach has probed to find ways to bring in exceptional talent with a willingness to work, get better and do the right things to be successful.


UNLV Rebel Vision '21
Photo Credit: Joe Arrigo / Franchise Sports Media

Roster management isn’t just guys coming in and going out. Coaches also have to reorganize and re-evaluate the returning talent from the previous year. In college football, at any moment, a player’s position can be changed based on the team’s needs. Players like Jacoby Windmon, who was undoubtedly the most important player for UNLV defensively, had been moved inside to linebacker from his defensive end position. The move is meant to bolster the inside linebacker position and give Jacoby a chance to use his athletic frame and open space abilities. With Conner Murphy’s addition from USC, there is a guy who can replace him on edge. Moves like this seem trivial until fans see the fruit of it play out on the field. 

Arroyo’s team will also be bringing back 51 players, 10 of which are super seniors who are impact players or have an important role to play on the team. Defensive linemen Kolo Uasike, star running back Charles Williams, nickel corner Aaron Lewis, versatile Tight end Giovanni Fauolo Sr., inside linebackers Vic Viramontes and Farrell Hester II are some of that super senior class that is returning to finish their career at UNLV the right way. Combined with players like Steve Jenkins, Adam Plant Jr., Justin Rogers, Malakai Salu, Tre Cain, and Clayton Bradley, UNLV has completely changed its on-field look to match the program’s intensity and sense of urgency toward the coming fall season. 


Overall, times are different for UNLV spring ball. The staff now doesn’t need to evaluate their personnel during games against Fresno State, San Jose State or Nevada. Or through a computer screen. Now, they have the evaluation luxury on their own practice field.

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JaRon Turner – Franchise Sports Media

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