Las Vegas Sun

January 19, 2022

Currently: 55° — Complete forecast

UNLV sports: COVID seniors, frontcourt injuries and more reader questions

1113_sun_UNLVHawaii2

Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels wide receiver Kyle Williams (1) carries the ball after a reception during the second half of a NCAA football game against the Hawaii Warriors at Allegiant Stadium Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. Hawaii Warriors defensive back Cortez Davis (18) is at right.

All good things must come to an end, a lesson UNLV sports learned the hard way over the past few days. After the football and basketball teams combined to go 5-0 over the previous two weeks, they dropped all three of their games over the weekend, a reminder that both programs are in the midst of rebuilding processes.

With football preparing for its season finale at Air Force on Friday, and the basketball squad eyeing another marquee showdown on Saturday (with No. 2 UCLA), this is a good time to reassess the programs and open the floor to reader questions.

Let’s get on to the Q’s:

@BleedRebelRed

Please clarify the "extra season" of eligibility. Do only players who were seniors in 2020 get it? Are guys who were true freshmen in 2020 now sophomores if they played all six games in 2020 while those who played four or less are still freshmen this season ("redshirt freshmen")?

@MikeGrimala

You’re talking about the extra season the NCAA granted to all athletes last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s a good question. Here’s how it works: Every player who was on a college roster in 2020 has the option to exercise an additional season of eligibility. If you were a senior in 2020 and wanted to use it, you could return in 2021 as a COVID senior. For freshmen, sophomores and juniors, they progress through their collegiate careers on a normal track, and they can exercise the extra year at the end if they want.

For example, UNLV wide receiver Kyle Williams was a true freshman in 2020 and was named Mountain West Freshman of the Year. He is now a sophomore in 2021. He’ll be a junior in 2022 and a senior in 2023. After the 2023 season, if Williams wants to play another year, he can then hit the button and gain another season of eligibility, making him a senior again in 2024.

As for the redshirt rules, those never changed. So Williams, who played in every game last year, is now a sophomore, while linebacker Brennon Scott, who only played in one game, took a redshirt year. Both came to UNLV as recruits in the Class of 2020, but Williams is now a sophomore and Scott is a redshirt freshman; both still have a COVID year to use.

I hope that makes sense.

@W1LL_the_Thri11

What’s the status of Victor Iwuakor and James Hampshire? Also, is Jordan McCabe a fifth-year senior? Super Senior? Basically is this his last year of eligibility even with COVID changes?

@MikeGrimala

The basketball team could sure use some reinforcements in the frontcourt, as senior center Royce Hamm is really the only available player with any size. Iwuakor was expected to play a big role this season, possibly even as the starting power forward, but an arm injury has kept him out of all five games so far. Same for James Hampshire, the 7-foot-1 center, who is also out with an arm injury.

Based on what I’ve seen at recent practices — props to Kevin Kruger for allowing the media to view practice, by the way — it doesn’t appear as though either is close to returning soon. Neither has been participating in any capacity, which usually signals progress toward a return. So Hamm may be on his own for a while.

As for McCabe, he is a fourth-year senior point guard. And as discussed above, he has an additional COVID available year if he chooses to exercise it, so he could play this season and next season. The only UNLV seniors with no remaining eligibility after this year are Hamm, Hampshire and Mike Nuga.

@nevadaracer00v

Several football questions: A) Do you believe the first game starting QB is on the roster today and, if so, who is it? B) Is the RB that is going to fill Chuckwagon’s sizable shoes on the roster today and, if so, who is it? C) Biggest position need for the team in 2022?

@MikeGrimala

A one-man lightning round! I’ll take this briefly and in order.

A) I do not believe the 2022 starting quarterback is on the roster. Cameron Friel has made big strides as a true freshman and Doug Brumfield flashed in very limited action, but neither has done enough to lock down the job heading into the offseason. That’s going to be a huge situation to monitor in the offseason.

B) I do not believe next year’s No. 1 running back is on the roster. Charles Williams’ replacement will probably come via the portal, a true freshman or, as a last resort, by committee.

C) Quarterback is the obvious need and the offensive line desperately needs a talent infusion. Those are the main positions of need. I also think a good cornerback would move the needle significantly; give this defense a cover corner better than anyone on the current roster and I think you’d see a very effective unit in 2022.

@kswannredskins

Is it smart to keep Marcus Arroyo?

@MikeGrimala

At the risk of sounding like the world’s biggest homer, I do think the football team has shown enough progress this season that you can be optimistic heading into 2022. I’m not giving Arroyo and his coaching staff a ringing endorsement, not by any means — there were at least three losses this season that I believe can be pinned directly on the coach — but the defense has come on strong over the second half and the offense is producing some schemed explosive plays. They’re a competitive crew. If things come together next year — no guarantee — I could see the 2022 team playing a 13th game.

@Reb_Hombre

Will UNLV football land any “big time” transfers? Or are they building through high school recruiting?

@MikeGrimala

On Monday, Marcus Arroyo called recruiting his highest priority as UNLV head coach and said he and his staff will be grinding extra hard from now until the start of the early signing period on Dec. 15. That’s exactly what the fan base should want to hear.

As to your question, while Arroyo has augmented his classes with some impact transfers (such as defensive end Adam Plant and linebacker Kylan Wilborn), I believe his recruiting strategy is based on bringing in talented high school prospects. And he’s gotten some traction there, with players like Kyle Williams, Brennon Scott, Cameron Oliver, Nohl Williams, Ricky Johnson and others looking like legit players.

The program did just land a pair of commitments from 3-star juco players this week, but look for high school recruiting to be the focus on signing day.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy