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UNLV loses starting receiver Kendal Keys to season-ending knee surgery

UNLV suffered its first significant loss of the season Friday when wide receiver Kendal Keys had season-ending surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee.

A returning starter, the 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound junior was expected to team with junior Devonte Boyd to form arguably the top receiving duo in the Mountain West.

Keys started all 12 games last season and finished second on the team to Boyd with 43 receptions, 515 yards and six touchdowns, including three in a game at Colorado State.

The San Diego native, whose older brother Kenny Keys is expected to start at free safety for the Rebels, hurt his knee in practice earlier this week.

“He felt his knee lock up on him a little bit,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said.

Kendal Keys, who had 24 catches for 310 yards and two TDs as a true freshman, will be a medical redshirt this year and retain two years of eligibility.

“He’s a great player. You don’t have a lot of big 6-foot-4, 200-pound wide receivers. You miss him,” Sanchez said. “Other guys are going to have to pick up the slack.”

Sophomore returnee Brandon Presley — who was listed as the backup to Keys and Boyd on a depth chart released Tuesday by the team — will replace Keys as a starter alongside Boyd, a preseason All-Mountain West pick, and highly touted redshirt freshman Darren Woods Jr.

True freshman Mekhi Stevenson, 5-5 redshirt freshman walk-on Allan Cui and true freshman Elijah Trosclair also are expected to contribute to the young but talented receiving corps.

UNLV, which went 3-9 last season, opens its 49th season against Jackson State at 7 p.m. Thursday at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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