UNLV Football: Can Marcus Arroyo turn things around in 2020?

Kenyon Oblad, UNLV football (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Kenyon Oblad, UNLV football (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /
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UNLV football
Nate Neal, UNLV football (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

Defense must undergo complete rebuild

The 2019 season was a disaster for the UNLV defense. When all was said and done, the Rebels finished 10th nationally in total defense, 104th in passing, and 108th in scoring. They were no better than eighth in the Mountain West in any major statistical category.

The pass rush was especially abysmal last year. The Rebels managed just 13 sacks all year. With a sack rate of 3.05 percent, they were second-worst in the country in that category.

To make things even tougher heading into 2020, there’s a significant lack of experience. Just four starters return for a unit in desperate need of any bit of help it can get.

As the attention turns to this season, there are a few anchors the Rebels will rely upon. Senior tackles Nate Neal, Kolo Uasike, and Tavis Malakius will be aided by TCU transfer Adam Plant Jr. This is the position group that appears the most set for a breakout season under new defensive coordinator Peter Hansen.

At linebacker, it’s the opposite. They lose a combined 210 tackles and 30.5 for loss with the departures of Rayshad Jackson, Javin White, and Gabe McCoy. Farrell Hester II had 70 tackles in 2019, and he’ll be the veteran in an otherwise inexperienced linebacking core.

The two outside backers in this 3-4 defense will be expected to ramp up the sack numbers. Jamal Holloway and junior college transfer Kue Olotoa are likely to get the first crack at those spots.

It’s a similar story in the back end. Safety Greg Francis returns, and he’ll lead a green group that includes Jeremiah Houston at the other safety spot, and Alex Perry, Aaron Lewis and Tykenzie Daniels at the cornerback spots.