Offense: A- | Defense: B | Special Teams: B | Meeting/Exceeding Expectations: A
The Rebels have battled the injury bug in recent weeks, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think UNLV has exceeded expectations on nearly every front in the first half of the season.
Quarterback Doug Brumfield emerged as an offensive player of the year candidate before getting banged up, while Louisville transfer Aidan Robbins has been exactly the kind of rugged runner the Rebels needed to replace Charles Williams. Kyle Williams has received some much-needed help from Ricky White, Senika McKie, and Nick Williams in the passing game, too, so while they’ve cooled off after a white-hot start, UNLV has so far posted its best numbers by points per drive (2.15, 76th in FBS), available yards percentage earned (42.6, 87th), and drive yards per offensive play (5.39, 89th) since 2017.
The Rebels defense has also surprised despite losing Jacoby Windmon to the transfer portal and Brennon Scott to a spring injury, thanks in part to the continued development of a number of Marcus Arroyo’s recent recruits and strong performances from key veterans like linebacker Austin Ajiake and Nohl Williams. The pass rush has been strong even without an all-conference type performer, posting a 8.2% sack rate which ranks 18th in the country, and lead the Mountain West with 11 interceptions.
UNLV has also benefitted from a special teams unit that has been good all the way around. New punter Marshall Nichols has improved on Evan Silva’s yards per punt average from a year ago by just over two full yards, while kicker Daniel Gutierrez has been perfect on field goals and extra points and Nohl Williams has chipped in as a solid returner.
Head of the Class: Doug Brumfield, QB
He didn’t get much chance to establish himself before injuries derailed his 2021, but after flirting with the transfer portal in the offseason and winning the QB1 job out of fall camp, Brumfield gave the Rebels offense what it long sought out of the gate. The sophomore from Inglewood has completed 68.4% of his passes for 1,231 yards and eight touchdowns while posting a healthy 1.3% interception rate, adding five rushing touchdowns for good measure, so it’s little wonder that he is far and away the highest-graded quarterback in the Mountain West, according to Pro Football Focus, at 90.2.
One Player Deserving of More Attention: Jordyn Morgan, S
The Rebels have received a few more breakout performances on both sides of the ball in the season’s first half, but Morgan has remained under the radar. For the moment, the sophomore Iowa State transfer is tied for the team lead with six passes defended, including two interceptions, to go along with 27 total tackles. Interestingly, his 71.4 overall Pro Football Focus grade is the same as his more well-known peer in the UNLV secondary, cornerback Nohl Williams.