As the Bruins prepare to take on the Rebels this Saturday, let’s take a look at their coaching staff, which is actually one of the most successful in UNLV football history.
Tony Sanchez is in his second year as the head coach of the UNLV football program. He was hired in December of 2014 and was previously head coach for the powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School, whom he led to an impressive 85-5 record and six consecutive state 4A championships to go with a top-25 national ranking each year. While his three wins in 2015 may not look impressive on paper, Coach Sanchez was only the second coach at UNLV to reach three wins in his first season, and it was only the fourth time in the last 12 years the program saw more than two wins. In nine of their 12 games, the Rebels trailed by a touchdown or less in the fourth quarter.
Coach Sanchez has an impressive list of accomplishments as a high school coach. He led Bishop Gorman to a 15-0 season and a national championship in 2014. During his tenure, 41 of his players received college football scholarships, 31 of those to FBS schools. I expect to see more coming from Coach Sanchez, and even some improvement from last year. When he was hired, he definitely made a statement with the hiring of two extremely experienced coordinators, Nebraska offensive coordinator Barney Cotton and Colorado defensive coordinator Kent Baer.
Barney Cotton has over 20 years experience in the college football world. He was the interim coach at Nebraska in 2014, coaching them through the Holiday Bowl after serving eight seasons as the associate head coach. That was actually his second stint at Nebraska, as he was the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at Nebraska in 2003. He was hired again in 2007 and lasted through to the end of the Bo Pelini’s tenure. Cotton helped the Huskers finish in the top 20 nationally in rushing in each of his last five years, averaging over 215 yards per game in 2013. In 2014, the Rebels averaged 129.2 yards rushing per game and 3.6 yards per rush. Clearly, we are not talking the same level of talent as Nebraska. Last year the Rebels averaged 194 rushing yards and 211 passing a game, but this year, that should change. He is no stranger to revamping offenses, and while UNLV is breaking in new quarterback Johnny Stanton, Cotton feels they are still a lot further along than previous years. We should see the numbers increase and more points on the board.
Kent Baer hails from fellow Pac 12 team, University of Colorado, where he was the defensive coordinator from 2013-2014. Baer took a huge pay cut to move to Las Vegas, and came into a less than idea situation last year. UNLV has a history of horrible defense, allowing 218 yards rushing per game in 2015. They have eight returning starters to work with, but Coach Baer definitely needs to beef up the front seven. He had success at Colorado and in his first season with the Buffaloes, his defense improved significantly in 12 major statistical categories. Most notably, the Buffs jumped from 92nd to 58th in the NCAA in third down defense, 116th to 60th in turnovers forced, and 119th to 61st in red zone defense. I think we can see why Tony Sanchez went after him. According to an article by Keith Scheessele, Baer saw an opportunity to be a "part of something special", and is looking for an opportunity to continue revamping the Rebel defense.
Overall, this may not be the same team the Bruins easily handled in Vegas last year. While the Rebels may put up more of a fight, I also expect us to get a win at our home opener.