UNLV Football: 2022 Breakout Candidates

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UNLV Football: 2022 Breakout Candidates

A lack of wins belies a solid track record of development in Marcus Arroyo’s first two years, so who could be next up to lead the Rebels?

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Could these players be ready for the spotlight?

The UNLV Rebels didn’t win as many games as they surely hoped to in 2021, but there’s little argument that the program is trending in the right direction under head coach Marcus Arroyo. Heading into year three, there are expectations that this team can make a collective leap forward.

That means both newcomers and young talents could play a big role throughout 2022, so who are the most likely candidates to emerge as major players?

Cameron Oliver, DB

Nohl Williams has quietly established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the Mountain West and Oliver might be the next Rebel to enter that conversation. He started all but one game in 2021 and held his own while operating mostly out of the slot as a true freshman, intercepting two passes while also picking up 33 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. While there’s a bit more competition for a starting role this time around, Oliver might just be the next big example of UNLV’s recent development successes.

Preston Nichols, OL

If Nichols can come close to matching his level of play in 2021, the Rebels may have landed one of the transfer portal’s biggest steals. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-2 and 280-pound lineman posted a 86.7 overall grade at Charleston Southern last year, the fifth-best figure among all FCS tackles.

Interestingly, it looks like the plan for now is to pair him with Daviyon McDaniel, another Buccaneers alum, on the left side of the offensive line. Replacing a road grader like Julio Garcia won’t be easy, but Nichols’s ability to play both tackle and guard could make him a very valuable asset.

Jeffrey Weimer and Senika McKie, WR

Kyle Williams could use some reinforcements to thrive, so the Rebels dipped into the juco and Division II ranks and found some intriguing candidates to replace Steve Jenkins’s production. Weimer went from Salinas to the City College of San Francisco and played a major role in the Rams’ run to a state title last year, leading the team with 77 catches, 1,268 yards and 17 touchdowns while flashing the ability to stretch the field.

McKie, on the other hand, arrives in Las Vegas from Erskine College in his native South Carolina, where he emerged as a second-team All-American pass catcher in the program’s first season of play since 1951. Between the Flying Fleet’s spring and fall campaigns in 2021, McKie averaged 12 yards per catch with ten touchdowns on 150 total receptions. If UNLV can make the right decision at quarterback, both have the potential to post monster seasons.

Tyson Player, S

With both Bryce Jackson and Phillip Hill leaving the program via the transfer portal, Player figures to be one of the next men up at safety. The good news? In his three starts last year, he showed plenty of promise and racked up double-digit tackles against both Iowa State and Air Force, so he’ll get plenty more chances to establish himself as one of the rangiest and hardest-hitting athletes in the Mountain West at that position.

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