UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez pointed to the strides in lowering opponents’ scoring and yardage averages, but acknowledged the improvements weren’t enough and fired defensive coordinator Kent Baer and safeties coach Andy LaRussa.
“I really admire those guys,” Sanchez said Saturday. “From the time they got here, we got better. We had the opportunity to improve in certain areas, but that doesn’t take away the effort and the appreciation of their time here.”
Sanchez has three spots on his staff to fill because of an NCAA rule that kicks in Jan. 9 allowing a 10th assistant. There also is a new early signing period for high school as well as junior college players that begins Dec. 20, and Sanchez is busy recruiting before he can turn full attention to completing the staff.
“I’m working through the process,” he said. “I want to do my due diligence and find the right people to help us move forward. I’d rather that be sooner than later, but I’m not going to do it sooner to the detriment of making a quick decision.”
Baer and LaRussa were among Sanchez’s first hires when he took the job in December 2014. The Rebels gave up 38.5 points and 513.5 yards per game the season before they arrived from Colorado, and this past season the numbers were down to 31.8 and 458.7.
But the defense often failed to make plays at the most critical times, with the offense often having to outscore that side of the ball to win. UNLV averaged 28.8 points in going 5-7.
Baer, who also oversaw the linebackers, served as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame and five Pac-12 Conference schools. LaRussa, who also handled special teams, began his college career as a graduate assistant at UNLV from 2005 to 2008.