Monday, Aug. 31, 2015 | 11:55 a.m.
When Tony Sanchez took the UNLV job last December, one of the first things he and the almost entirely new staff had to do was put together a recruiting class they felt could set a foundation. That group will be put to the test, because the initial depth chart backs up Sanchez’s assertions that many freshmen will get a chance to play right away.
While none are currently listed as starters, nine true freshmen are listed on the two-deep roster released today in preparation for Saturday’s 2015 opener at Northern Illinois. Compare that to the 2014 season opener, when there were only four freshmen listed and all of them had spent a redshirt year in the program.
The group includes nickelback Darius Mouton, a quartet of offensive skill position players and offensive lineman Justin Polu, a 330-pound Silverado High grad. All of them, plus several more, are going to get the opportunity to prove themselves early as Sanchez begins his first season leading a Division I program.
Overall, there weren’t too many surprises in the depth chart. Sophomore quarterback Kurt Palandech, an offseason transfer in from Laney College, will back up senior Blake Decker, and all three starting linebackers from last season still hold the top spots.
The Rebels open the season at 4:34 p.m. Las Vegas time on Saturday at Northern Illinois, with the game airing on CBS Sports Network. Here’s a look at the full depth chart with projected starters in bold:
LT — Kyle Saxelid, So; Nathan Jacobson, Fr
LG — Eric Noone, Sr; Ron Scoggins, Sr
C — Will Kreitler, Jr; Alex Neale, Fr
RG — Chris Lopez, So; Justin Polu, Fr
RT — J’Ondray Sanders, So; Patrick Carroll, Jr
TE — Jake Phillips, Sr; Andrew Price, Jr; Antonio Zepeda, So
WR — Devonte Boyd, So; Darren Woods Jr., Fr
WR — Anthony Williams, Sr; Aaron Criswell, Sr
WR — Kendal Keys, So; Brandon Presley, Fr
QB — Blake Decker, Sr; Kurt Palandech, So
RB — Keith Whitely, Jr; Lexington Thomas, Fr; Xzaviar Campbell, Fr
(FB) — George Naufahu, Sr; David Greene, Jr
DE — Sonny Sanitoa, Sr; Tui Maloata, Jr
DT — Senituli Fakauho, Sr OR Dominic Baldwin, So OR Mike Hughes Jr., So; Jason Fao, So; Salanoa-Alo Wily, Fr
DE — Mark Finau, So; Iggy Porchia, Jr
SLB — Matt Lea, So; Najee Johnson, Sr
MLB — Ryan McAleenan, Jr; Trent Langham, Jr
WLB — Tau Lotulelei, Jr; Kimble Jensen, Sr
CB — Tory McTyer, Jr; Darius Mouton, Fr
SS — Peni Vea, Sr; Troy Hawthorne, Jr
FS — Blake Richmond, Sr OR Kenny Keys, Sr
CB — Fred Wilson, Sr; Jay’Onn Myles, Jr
(NICK) — Darius Mouton, Fr; Dominique Fenstermacher, Fr
KO — Nicolai Bornand, Jr
PK — Nicolai Bornand, Jr; Jonathan Leiva, Sr
P — Logan Yunker, Sr
LS — Dakota Shackleton, Sr
HOLD — Troy Hawthorne, So; Logan Yunker, Sr
KOR — Aaron Criswell, Sr AND Lexington Thomas, Fr; Keith Whitely, Jr; Brandon Presley, Fr
PR — Keith Whitely, Jr; Aaron Criswell, Sr; Brandon Presley, Fr