Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018 | 2 a.m.
After putting his team through more than 100 plays in Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage at Sam Boyd Stadium, UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez pulled quarterback Armani Rogers to the side before the Rebels broke for the locker room.
Rogers had struggled with his throwing mechanics during his 40-plus snaps with the first team, but Sanchez wanted his sophomore starter to know that a bout with accuracy issues in August is no big deal.
“Just get my stuff together and believe in myself,” Rogers said when asked about Sanchez’s message. “Just keep going out there and do what I’ve been doing all camp.”
Going into his second year as UNLV’s No. 1 quarterback, expectations are high for Rogers. He was named the Mountain West Freshman of the Year in 2017 largely on the strength of his rushing totals (780 yards, eight touchdowns), but after completing just 52.4 percent of his throws as a frosh, the internal hope is that Rogers will become a more efficient passer this season.
Rogers didn’t look like a polished passer on Saturday, but Sanchez is putting more stock in Rogers’ impressive training camp performance than in one scrimmage.
“I pulled him aside and said, ‘Hey man, are the reads wrong? No.’ He’s making good reads,” Sanchez said. “But mechanics, all of a sudden you get out here and he’s short-stepping things, not following through, balls are going into the ground. He hadn’t done that in four, five, six practices, so I’m not worried about it. I’ve just got to get him to be relaxed in these environments and these situations.”
Sanchez pointed to the nature of scrimmages as one factor working against Rogers. It was a full-contact session for every player except the quarterbacks, so the referees blew their whistles very early on any play that saw the QB leave the pocket. Instead of picking up his usual 10-yard chunks on the ground, the early whistles limited Rogers to gains of the short, 3-yard variety.
“The hardest thing for him is, he’s that dual-threat guy, so you’re in the scrimmage and you can’t run the ball,” Sanchez said. “He never gets back into that groove.”
Rogers said he plans to put in extra work to get his throwing mechanics back on point.
“More practice,” Rogers said “Keep tuning the things I’m lacking in. After practice, before practice, just fine-tune it.”
With three weeks still remaining before opening day (Sept. 1 at USC), Sanchez isn’t even close to being concerned about Rogers.
“We’ve got time,” Sanchez said. “We’ll fix it. I trust him. I’ve seen what he can do here, I’m not one bit worried about Armani. He’s going to be just fine.”
Light load for Lex
Senior running back Lexington Thomas participated in team drills before the scrimmage, but once the full-contact hitting began the senior running back took it easy. Thomas carried the ball just a handful of times before heading to the bench.
Sanchez said that after running for more than 1,300 yards last year, keeping the 5-foot-9 Thomas healthy is more important than getting him reps in a scrimmage.
“I kind of chewed on the coaches a little bit when I saw him get his sixth carry, because we talked about four,” Sanchez said with a laugh. “I think he was getting a little excited, so I said ‘Get him out.’”
With Thomas resting, sophomore Charles Williams handled the majority of the workload as the first-team running back. Williams missed nearly all of last season due to an ankle injury, but he has been participating in training camp and looked good in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“I feel like he looked great, like always,” Rogers said of Williams. “I expect big things from Charles, Lex, all the running backs … Whenever their numbers get called, I feel like they’re going to do big things out there.”