As recently as last football season, UNLV coach Tony Sanchez wouldn’t have put much thought into playing an incoming freshman quarterback.
That mindset has changed.
Thanks to a new redshirt rule, Sanchez can play freshman Kenyon Oblad, a former Liberty star, up to four games this season without Oblad losing a year of eligibility.
“I go back and look at our quarterbacks of the past, and Armani (Rogers) would have played in four games his freshman year,” Sanchez said. “You look at guys like Kenyon and you talk about redshirting him, man, it really relaxes that process.”
Quarterbacks and offensive linemen would seem to be the biggest beneficiaries of the new rule, because players in both positions take longer than others to develop.
That said, “What you don’t know is where the injuries are going to come,” Sanchez said. “All of the sudden, you could have a crazy year where you lose three corners. The great thing is it gives you flexibility to where if you have injuries early, you play guys to get through till those guys get back. If you don’t have a lot of injuries, those last four games, ‘OK, let’s go ahead and get some game experience and get these guys used to traveling.’
“It makes a huge difference, and it gives you fresh legs on special teams at the end of the year.”
A side effect of the rule is the players who otherwise would’ve had to wait a year to get in a game now have something tangible to practice for every week other than simply preparing teammates.
“You tell a kid he’s redshirting, and he goes to the scout team and he doesn’t travel and he’s home on Saturdays and he knows there’s no chance of getting in, it can change your psyche a little bit,” Sanchez said. “With this (new rule), you better be ready to go because you may be redshirting today, but tomorrow you have to go. And then those last four games, the guys that haven’t gotten in yet, they’re going to be sharp as a sword because they know that most likely they’re going to get in at some point.”
Sophomore starting defensive tackle Kolo Uasike did not practice so he could rehydrate after feeling the effects from Saturday’s session. Freshman Chris Manoa practiced in his place on the first team.
Redshirt freshman interior offensive lineman Justice Oluwaseun went through a series of running drills as he nears returning from a torn ACL suffered in spring drills.
“We would hope, in the best-case scenario, to have him back in the next 15 to 30 days,” Sanchez said.
Sophomore reserve running back Tariq Hollandsworth (torn labrum) is out for the season and will redshirt.
Versatile on the line
Junior Jaron Caldwell, who is listed as a co-starter at left guard, practiced at first-team offensive left tackle. Sanchez said Caldwell plays both positions.