Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019 | 2 a.m.
UNLV quarterback Kenyon Oblad got the call to enter his first college game last season at the end of a lopsided defeat. He had long imagined how that moment would look and feel, and here it was.
He took a few warmup tosses on the sideline and was suddenly under center. The rest is a blur, as Oblad was admittedly rattled in completing just 1 of 5 passes for 7 yards with a few ugly, uncharacteristic throws. Even worse, the Rebels lost to Fresno State by 45 points.
“It was good to get thrown in there,” Oblad said. “You have to go in and do your best. It was pretty fast, you know, my first college time. But it was a good learning experience to feel what it is like.”
The 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman has longed been tabbed as the quarterback-in-waiting behind Armani Rogers. That time could come sooner than later this season after junior Max Gilliam, the backup last season, was injured.
The Rebels in past seasons may not have been equipped to handle an injury at a key position. But they have depth at quarterback, especially with Oblad, who is Nevada’s all-time leading high school passer in a celebrated career at Las Vegas-area prep power Liberty.
And while Oblad certainly didn’t perform like a polished passer in mop-up duty against Fresno State, he’s shown in the initial practices of fall camp to be much improved. After one session, he was named the practice player of the day, flashing his offseason improvements in receiving more reps as second-team quarterback.
He even joked about being tired because of the added work.
“It changes my outlook a lot,” he said. “I have to be ready at any time because I am one play away from going in. It has made me prepare myself better and work harder.”
Oblad and Rogers have slightly different styles. Rogers is a dual-threat quarterback who has rushed for 1,355 yards in two seasons. Oblad is a traditional pocket passer and not as mobile, but feels he has the awareness to be creative in the run game, if needed.
It has been nearly 15 years since UNLV has had one quarterback start every game in a season, and given Rogers’ aggressive running style, Oblad’s time could be sooner than later. When it comes, he wants to make sure the offense doesn’t miss a beat.
“We both want to throw the ball around and make plays with our legs when we can, probably a little more with Armani,” Oblad said with a chuckle. “He is one of the greatest runners I have seen.”
Oblad was one of the more notable gets on the recruiting trail for coach Tony Sanchez. The three-star prospect was a four-year starter in high school, and was highly regarded in the Southern Nevada football community. He was the first player in program history to graduate high school early and enroll for spring practices.
Two others from Liberty, linebacker Kyle Beaudry and defensive back Austin Fiaseu, followed a similar path of enrolling early at UNLV. More important, there are 21 locals on the Rebels’ 105-man roster.
Most were lured to the program by the obvious — the new on-campus training facility, a chance to play in the $1.9 billion stadium shared with the Raiders, and as one of Sanchez’s rallying messages goes, the chance to fight for the city they were raised in.
Oblad embraces that mentality and knows his success could lead to others opting to stay home. He’ll likely see extended action in the opener against Southern Utah, a team the Rebels are expected to easily handle and the perfect opponent for Oblad to have his first college success.
He, after all, has imagined this moment for years. And this time, a bigger, stronger and more prepared Oblad seems primed to do more than complete one pass.