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Graney: UNLV’s Go-Go offense should be Oh-No for opponents

Updated April 5, 2024 - 7:15 am

It broke into the national rankings last season. The Go-Go offense of UNLV football was as explosive as all heck.

Which should make this part even scarier for opponents: Things could be even better in 2024. Even more potent.

The Go-Go might be Oh-No for those trying to defend it.

Brennan Marion is the architect of the attack, and you can’t overstate the offensive coordinator’s performance in directing it. He brought it to UNLV last year, and results were undeniable.

The Rebels continued spring practice Saturday in a light rain and scrimmaged for most of the morning. Drills culminate with a Spring Showcase next Saturday at Allegiant Stadium.

Then you can bet coaches will really begin preparing for the fall.

Quarterback question

It means drawing closer to identifying which quarterback might receive first shot at running the offense, a decision that likely won’t be made until Holy Cross transfer Matthew Sluka and his career numbers of 5,916 passing yards, 3,583 rushing yards and 97 combined touchdowns arrive on campus.

It is the most critical of calls. The good part: With as much skill as exists elsewhere, you don’t need a signal-caller to be all-world in his performance. Just steady as he goes.

“We always adapt to who our quarterback is and what our offensive line can do,” Marion said. “We’re morphing into a little bit of a different look than last year, but we’ll have some of the same elements to it. We’ve added some pieces that should help us be better.”

Hajj-Malik Williams is a senior transfer quarterback from Campbell competing this spring. Big things are expected from Texas transfer wide receiver Casey Cain. You have a talented running back transfer from Central Arkansas named Kylin James. There are several other new faces capable of making an impact.

They will join such returnees as All-American wide receiver Ricky White and wide receiver Jacob De Jesus and running back Jai’Den “Jet” Thomas and tight end Kaleo Ballungay.

Bottom line: There is play-breaking ability everywhere for a team that finished with its most wins (nine) since 1984 and reached the Mountain West championship game and qualified for a bowl game for the first time in a decade.

“Things are getting easier after a whole year in (the offense),” De Jesus said. “Your eyes open more. Your ears get wider. Everything comes slower now, which is good. Coach Marion is always cooking up new plays, always in the lab. With some of the additions we’ve made, we’re going to be far more explosive than last year.”

National rankings

Which is when they did things like this:

■ Finished sixth in the nation in third-down conversions at 49.3 percent.

■ Posted more third-down conversions than any team in the nation with 101.

■ Finished 22nd nationally in scoring at 34.4 points per game.

■ Saw 17 players catch at least one pass.

■ Tied for eighth nationally in red-zone offense at 93.1 percent.

“I think we can be an offense that continues to garner national attention,” Marion said. “We just have to continue to put the guys in a great situation. We never put a cap on kids. It’s about playing a winning brand of football and not about stats or anything like that.”

He doesn’t see a weakness to the offense, not with those returning who made so many big plays last season and those arriving who will be given every opportunity to do so. There is no ceiling, he insists, limiting where the Go-Go can, well, go in terms of production.

He just makes things as simple as possible in what can be a complex scheme.

“My goal ultimately is to be one point better than every opponent we play,” Marion said. “That’s what I want to see. However we get it done — offense, defense, special teams — just find a way to be better than whoever we play.”

Who the quarterback is will be critical.

But if the Rebels receive competent play from the position … Oh-No, is right.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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