Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Rebels rebuilding on offensive side

August 16, 2003


When UNLV's football team visits Lawrence Sept. 6, the Rebels might not look too familiar to Kansas University's defenders.

Quarterback Jason Thomas, who led UNLV to a 31-20 victory last September in Las Vegas, is gone, along with five other offensive starters. The Rebels will have a completely new backfield and revamped offensive line.

Coach John Robinson is expected to hand the controls to 23-year-old junior Kurt Nantkes, who spent two years in the Oakland A's minor-league system before deciding he was better at passing than pitching.

Nantkes led UNLV to a 36-33 victory over then No. 13 Colorado State in the season finale in relief of the injured Thomas.

Nantkes completed 35 of 71 passes for 405 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore. Only one of those passes came against KU.

The Jayhawks are a little more familiar with senior tailback Larry Croom, who rushed for 605 yards and four TDs as a backup last season, including 88 yards against Kansas.

He is expected to be a starter in the backfield this fall along with senior fullback Andrew Faga, though junior Dominique Dorsey also could be in the picture.

Robinson's team also is loaded with transfers. Deon Burnett rushed for 974 yards and 12 TDs as a true freshman at Washington State in 1999, and junior-college transfer Alvin Marshall also could make an impact.

Robinson also went the junior-college route to revamp an offensive line that lost two starters.

One player who has been around a while is junior receiver Earvin Johnson, who had 51 catches for 793 yards and four TDs as a sophomore when the Rebels were 5-7.

Robinson will devote his full attention to coaching this season after serving a 17-month stint as athletic director. The 67-year old coach underwent heart surgery in March, and his wife's health also was a factor in his decision to relinquish the AD role.

"I was stretched a little thin and not giving Linda the time I need to," he said of his wife. "She's going to be fine, but it is something I need to put in the forefront of my life."

UNLV schedule

Aug. 30 -- Toledo

Sept. 6 -- at Kansas

Sept. 13 -- at Wisconsin

Sept. 19 -- Hawaii

Oct. 4 -- at Nevada

Oct. 11 -- at Air Force

Oct. 18 -- Utah

Oct. 25 -- BYU

Nov. 1 -- at New Mexico

Nov. 8 -- San Diego State

Nov. 22 -- Colorado State

Nov. 29 -- at Wyoming

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