Updated July 23, 2019 - 7:25 pm
For UNLV to reach the postseason for the first time in six years, junior starting quarterback Armani Rogers must stay healthy.
That’s not exactly breaking news.
The news, instead, is that the experience behind Rogers suddenly is much less now that junior backup Max Gilliam is out until mid-to-late September with a foot injury suffered in offseason conditioning. Liberty High School graduate Kenyon Oblad, a redshirt freshman, moves into the No. 2 position.
“(Gilliam) and Oblad had a pretty good competition for the No. 2 this spring,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said Tuesday at Mountain West football media days at Green Valley Ranch Resort. “It may be a blessing in disguise because now you’re going to invest all that time into (Oblad) getting the reps.”
The injury to Gilliam wasn’t the only personnel news. Offensive lineman Zack Singer, who went to Bishop Gorman, was denied a request by the NCAA for a medical redshirt waiver and will not play again for the Rebels.
Rogers heads into training camp, which begins Aug. 2, intent on improving as a player and helping with the development of the younger quarterbacks. Along with Oblad, sophomore Marckell Grayson, a Desert Pines product, will get additional repetitions.
“I think I definitely play a huge part in it because at the end of the day we’re all in one room, and we all have to learn the material,” Rogers said. “If one person is feeling left behind and doesn’t feel like he knows the offense, I feel like I can help him or they can come to me instead of coming to the coaches.”
Being that kind of leader is expected of a veteran quarterback.
Rogers knows he needs to be on the field, though, to exert his greatest level of influence. A toe injury cost him seven starts last season, and UNLV went 1-6 in those games. The Rebels were 3-2 with Rogers as the starter.
In two seasons, he has missed 10 starts. Two years ago, a concussion took away three starts.
When Rogers is on the field, he’s a dynamic athlete capable of opening up the offense, a 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound player with the potential to rush for 1,000 yards. His arm strength is undeniable, though he needs to improve his 49.3 percent career accuracy.
“What makes him special is that ability to be that dual-threat athlete,” Sanchez said.
There’s a fine line he must navigate. UNLV coaches don’t want to take away his ability to make big plays, but they don’t want him taking unnecessary hits.
“Every situation is going to be different,” Rogers said. “If it’s third-and-short and I know we have to get the first down so we don’t have to punt the ball, I know I’m going to have to get a little more physical than I would on a second down-and-5. I can get out of bounds on the 1-yard line or whatever the case.”
Rogers’ injury last season, however, didn’t come on a big hit. He injured a toe on a tackle from behind Sept. 22 at Arkansas State that initially did not appear serious.
“That’s how most injuries happen,” Rogers said, “off a freak accident.”
All-Mountain West preseason team
QB — Jordan Love, Jr., Utah State
WR — John Hightower, Sr., Boise State
WR — Cedric Byrd II, Sr., Hawaii
RB — Juwan Washington, Sr., San Diego State
RB — Toa Taua, So., UNR
OL — Ezra Cleveland, Jr., Boise State
OL — John Molchon, Sr., Boise State
OL — Jake Nelson, Sr., UNR
OL — Keith Ismael, Jr., San Diego State
OL — Justin Polu, Sr., UNLV
TE — Jared Rice, Sr., Fresno State
DL — Jordan Jackson, Jr., Air Force
DL — David Moa, Sr., Boise State
DL — Curtis Weaver, Jr., Boise State
DL — Tipa Galeai, Sr., Utah State
LB — Mykal Walker, Sr., Fresno State
LB — Kyahva Tezino, Sr., San Diego State
LB — David Woodward, Jr., Utah State
DB — Jeremy Fejedelem, Sr., Air Force
DB — Juju Hughes, Sr., Fresno State
DB — Tariq Thompson, Jr., San Diego State
DB — DJ Williams, So., Utah State
P — Ryan Stonehouse, Jr., Colorado State
PK — Cooper Rothe, Sr., Wyoming
KR/PR — Savon Scarver, Jr., Utah State
Offensive Player of the Year: Jordan Love, Jr., QB, Utah State
Defensive Player of the Year: Curtis Weaver, Jr., DL, Boise State
Special Teams Player of the Year: Cooper Rothe, Sr., PK, Wyoming