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UNLV continues to play musical chairs at quarterback

Updated November 28, 2020 - 4:40 pm

One of UNLV’s mysteries this season has been who would play quarterback on any given possession.

Senior Max Gilliam has started all five games and received the bulk of playing time. If he gets the nod in the final two games, against Boise State and Hawaii, he’ll become the first UNLV quarterback to start every game since Jon Denton in 1996.

But the situation isn’t much clearer than before the season. If anything else, it became murkier after freshman Doug Brumfield received his first playing time in UNLV’s 45-14 loss to Wyoming on Friday at Allegiant Stadium that dropped the team to 0-5.

Brumfield is the fourth quarterback the Rebels have used. Gilliam and sophomores Justin Rogers and Kenyon Oblad were listed on the depth chart for Friday’s game, but Brumfield relieved Gilliam after the offense sputtered early. Both played the rest of the game and led one touchdown drive apiece.

“Doug did some nice things, maturing throughout,” coach Marcus Arroyo said. “We thought he could be something we could continue to build on. We’re observing everybody.”

Brumfield was 4 of 8 for 93 yards passing and ran for a touchdown. Like Gilliam and Rogers, he had some strong moments, but the Rebels have lacked consistency at the position. They are averaging 130 yards rushing, 174 passing and 16.6 points per game, and there are a myriad of reasons for their struggles.

UNLV has a young receiving corps, led by freshman Kyle Williams, who has 25 catches for 282 yards and a touchdown. Only two others have more than 100 yards for the season, and the Rebels have been hurt by the season-long suspension of last year’s leading receiver, Randal Grimes, and missing Steve Jenkins, who has two TD catches, for the past two games.

The Rebels have an experienced offensive line, but it’s learning a new system like the rest of the team and hasn’t come together yet.

That has meant a lack of production at running back. Charles Williams is one of the Mountain West’s best backs, but he’s been limited to 3.7 yards per carry after averaging 5.9 last season. UNLV also has struggled with pass blocking, allowing 5.2 sacks per game.

The fact that nobody has separated from the quarterback pack hasn’t helped.

Oblad falls behind

About the only thing that seems clear is that Oblad, who started the final nine games as a redshirt freshman last season, has fallen behind.

The Liberty High School product is arguably the purest passer of the four, but he can’t make plays with his feet like the others. Arroyo declined to offer insight into Oblad’s status after Friday’s game other than to say, “Kenyon is healthy.”

Gilliam, Oblad and Rogers played in the opener against San Diego State, and it looked as if the job was Gilliam’s after he took every snap against UNR and led the Rebels to their most points of the season in going the distance in a 40-27 loss to Fresno State.

But Gilliam and Rogers played about two quarters apiece against San Jose State before Gilliam and Brumfield received about equal opportunities Friday.

Arroyo said Rogers would have been the first quarterback off the bench against Wyoming but was “a little off” healthwise throughout the week, which gave Brumfield a chance to get the bulk of the reps that didn’t go to Gilliam in practice.

Arroyo was noncommittal Friday about who would start the final two games, but it’s likely Gilliam, Rogers and Brumfield all will have their chances.

“We’ll continue to push forward and evaluate the quarterback position,” Arroyo said.

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2936. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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