Rebels QB Decker might play against Michigan

UNLV’s coaches received good news regarding the injury to senior quarterback Blake Decker, but it also presented them with a dilemma.

Do they throw Decker into the lineup at massive Michigan Stadium, or do they give him another week to become healthier as the football schedule eases considerably?

It’s a decision the coaches have all week to think about, and they plan to take it to game day. The Rebels visit Michigan at 9 a.m. PDT Saturday.

Decker does not have a hamstring injury as originally feared, but something closer to the groin. The medical term is obturator internus.

“It’s a better injury than a hamstring because he’ll come back much faster,” coach Tony Sanchez said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “He actually started practicing today. He did all the exchange drills and he threw the ball, so he will be suited up out there.”

Sophomore Kurt Palandech is No. 1 for now on the depth chart, and he’s followed by freshman Dalton Sneed.

Palandech completed 4 of 15 passes for 4 yards in Saturday’s 37-3 loss to UCLA. He also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and lost a fumble.

“I know he’s getting beaten up a little outside of here right now, but Week 1 what does he do? He drives us right down and scores a touchdown and makes a couple of nice plays,” Sanchez said, referring to the Sept. 5 game at Northern Illinois. “He got put in a tough situation the other night. He felt the pressure and tried to do a little too much, but there are a lot of things we could’ve improved on, and it starts with me. So it’s not all on Kurt.

“He’ll be fine. We’ve got to calm him down and get him going. I have faith in Kurt. That’s why we recruited him, and we believe in him.”

Palandech is a good athlete, and Sanchez said the offense would be adjusted somewhat for his running ability, but don’t expect the Rebels to go to the old Oklahoma wishbone Saturday.

“Our offense is still our offense,” Sanchez said. “We’re still teaching it, and these guys are still learning it, so we’re not going to tweak it too much.”

Sanchez’s preference is to redshirt Sneed, but he will play if needed.

“He’s got a lot of good skills,” Sanchez said. “We have trust in him. You don’t want to put too much on a true freshman, but we have a lot of true freshmen we’ve already put a lot on already.”

And then there’s questions regarding what to do with Decker.

If he heals quickly enough, Decker will play against the Wolverines. But if he’s not quite all the way back, the coaches could decide to give him limited action or sit him altogether.

There is a strong argument to give Decker a seat on the bench. The Michigan game ends a brutal three-game opening stretch, and following this weekend, the Rebels get to see how they match up against more comparable competition.

“The fortunate part is we’ll get him a lot sooner than we expected,” Sanchez said. “When I saw him go down, I thought it would be something a lot worse than this.”

* NOTE — Junior defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga is about a week from returning from a left foot injury. He didn’t play last season because of academics, but Valoaga made 9½ tackles for loss in his first two seasons combined. “That will be a big addition getting him back on the defensive line,” Sanchez said.

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

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