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UNLV depth makes for strongest roster in Tony Sanchez tenure

UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez met the media Wednesday for the final time in his Lied Athletic Complex office, and right outside his window was a clear view of the Fertitta Football Complex.

Construction is nearly complete on the 73,000-square foot facility, and Sanchez is closer to moving into the corner office with the balcony overlooking the two Rebel Park practice fields and out to the Strip’s skyline that hovers nearby.

A look at his roster reveals a Rebels team still under construction, but one with the potential to be the strongest in Sanchez’s five seasons. There is depth throughout with reinforcements on the way before the Rebels open their season Aug. 31 against Southern Utah at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Some takeaways from Sanchez’s media session:

1. The offensive line should be among the Mountain West’s best.

UNLV should go at least two-deep at every position. Sanchez feels comfortable enough with the front that senior guard Jaron Caldwell probably will redshirt to help recover from toe surgery.

Sophomore right tackle Justice Oluwaseun is the most versatile lineman with the ability to play tackle and guard. Sanchez called him “the most talented” lineman he’s coached at UNLV “and it’s probably not even close.” Sanchez also said Oluwaseun and senior right guard Justin Polu are potential NFL players.

The Rebels return 16 of 17 linemen.

“It’s not like in the past when we had seven guys,” Sanchez said. “All 10 of those guys will play, and they’ll be in the plan in Game 1.”

2. Additions in August will affect roster.

Most of the shakeup could come in the secondary, where junior Jeremiah Houston and freshman Jamel Hamm should make an impact at cornerback and junior Gamon Howard should emerge at safety. Returning juniors Greg Francis at safety and Alex Perry at cornerback could redshirt, so a strong presence by the newcomers would only increase the chances of those players sitting out.

Wide receiver Jordan McCray, a graduate transfer from South Alabama, already has been added to the depth chart behind senior Darren Woods Jr. Sanchez, who has two scholarships to offer, said another receiver probably will be added to help make up for the loss of senior Brandon Presley to an ACL injury.

3. Senior Gabe McCoy gives the defense flexibility.

The Rebels used McCoy as an outside linebacker and stand-up defensive end last season, and now he is listed as an end. Expect McCoy, who last season made 13½ tackles for loss that included four sacks, to give the Rebels more of a 3-4 look.

“We will walk that guy up, and we also can still get into a 4-3 and put an extra defensive end in the game,” Sanchez said. “Gabe gives you that presence of a pass rusher. He’s athletic enough to drop into space. He can run with the running back, no problem, and he gives you a tough guy coming off the edge.”

More Rebels: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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