Tony Sanchez was back at UNLV on Friday morning, fresh off a recruiting trip and a day after the announcement that he would have at least one more year as the Rebels’ football coach.
He hopes to be in a new office by then in the Fertitta Football Complex, a two-story, 73,000-square foot facility that can be seen from Sanchez’s second-story office at Lied Athletic Complex.
Sanchez said in a year-end meeting with the media that he thought the $6 million gap to fully fund the $31 million facility would come through.
“Without divulging sources, there’s some outside talk of some donors that are very interested in helping to bridge that gap, universitywise plus outside people,” he said. “I’m very confident we’re going to get there real shortly.”
Friday was the first day for official visits, and the recruits put on hard hats and toured the complex, which is scheduled to open in the spring.
UNLV, which completed a 4-8 season last Saturday with a 34-29 victory over intrastate rival UNR, is working toward the early signing period, which begins Dec. 19. Sanchez said he expects the early signees to number in the mid to high teens and 24 or 25 overall, which will get the Rebels to the full allotment of 85 scholarships for the first time in several years.
Seven or eight players will be junior college or graduate transfers as UNLV looks for immediate help, especially on defense. The Rebels allowed an average of 37.2 points, their highest since giving up 38.5 in 2014.
But they showed promise in the final three games, two of them victories, allowing 29.3 points. They played well for 10 of those 12 quarters, allowing a total of 46 points. In the other two periods, UNLV gave up 42 points, as Hawaii and UNR hit the Rebels for big plays.
“Once we committed ourselves and our safeties of doing a really good job of fitting into the run game, we played really good run defense those last three weeks,” Sanchez said of the 113.7-yard rushing average allowed over that span. “The thing that hurt us all year long was the deep ball. We did not play well at the corner spot. We did not play well at the safety spot. We have good guys there who made good plays, but overall, that was a weakness of the defense.”
Sanchez said wide receiver Drew Tejchman will move to safety. He played that position Nov. 17 at Hawaii and intercepted a pass and broke up another one.
Coaches must decide how to handle the quarterback position between starter Armani Rogers and backup Max Gilliam. The Rebels went 3-2 in Rogers’ five starts, and he accounted for five touchdowns against UNR.
“It’s exciting to see a guy who’s your two who is capable of leading you to wins,” Sanchez said. “He played that whole game against San Diego State and led us to a big-time win, so he has a lot of confidence.
“Armani is the guy, there’s no doubt about it. With those two guys and a young guy like Kenyon (Oblad), who’s got a lot of skill, it’s great to see a competitive atmosphere at that position.”
2018 record: 4-8
Starters returning next season: 9 offense, 5 defense, 1 special teams
Starters lost: 2 offense, 6 defense, 1 special teams
Lettermen returning: 59
Lettermen lost: 18
Nonconference schedule: Aug. 31, Southern Utah; Sept. 7, Arkansas State; Sept. 14, at Northwestern; Oct. 14, at Vanderbilt
Mountain West home games: Boise State, Hawaii, San Diego State, San Jose State
Mountain West road games: Colorado State, Fresno State, UNR, Wyoming
Note: The Mountain West schedule will be announced at a later date.