DB Jamaal Brimmer

2002 Statistics

Coach: John Robinson
20-27, 4 years
2002 Record: 5-7
at Oregon State LOST 17-47
at Toledo LOST 21-38
at Brigham Young WON 24-3
at San Diego State LOST 21-31
at Utah LOST 17-28
at Colorado State WON 36-33

2002 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

Just fifty-two-plus minutes into 2002, the lights went out on last year's entire campaign - literally. With 7:41 left (in the pivotal opener against Wisconsin), UNLV trailed 27-7, the power at Sam Boyd Stadium went out and couldn't be restored. UNLV's ill-fated opener ended up in a strange, shortened loss, a loss that started a disappointing season in Las Vegas. The Rebels, thought to be a program on the rise two years ago, stumbled to a 5-7 mark.

Coach John Robinson swears his program is on the right track. He'll lose QB Jason Thomas, a supposed Heisman contender two years ago who never built on promise he displayed early in his career. But junior Kurt Nantkes takes over, and Rebels fans are ready for the new quarterback era. He'll have proven weaponry, both in a pair of solid wideouts and with nice backfield depth. In the Mountain West, where offenses are high-powered and defenses are often back-pedaling, UNLV will score points. Problem is, the Rebels will give up piles of points, too. Defensively, they're weak up front and average in the secondary. They'll need superb play from their linebackers just to stay in some of those shootouts.

But UNLV will be a conference challenger, and don't be surprised to see this team make a bowl push. They were one win away last season, and Robinson thinks this squad will be better. With traditional toughies Colorado State, BYU and Utah all coming to Vegas this season, the Rebels could be a darkhorse threat. A quick start, or at least .500, is vital. That might be tough against non-conference opponents Toledo, Kansas, Wisconsin and Hawaii. UNLV can beat the first two, but it could hurt to start 2-0, then stumble in two consecutive games, if that's what happens. Any momentum claimed in the undefeated start would then get thrown out the window. That makes the Hawaii game (in Vegas and a Friday night ESPN telecast) crucial. A win or narrow loss could kick-start the conference slate. An ugly loss, perhaps coming after a tough one at Wisconsin, could cause the wheels to come off any bowl talk. This team wears one of our favorite monikers - they will likely win one against a team they shouldn't, and lose one they should win. Last year they beat a CSU team ranked in the Top 20, but fell to inferior teams like SDSU, too.

Projected 2003 record: 4-8
WR Earvin Johnson
QB - 2.5 DL - 3
RB - 3 LB - 3.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 2
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Kurt Nantkes, 71-35-5, 405 yds., 6 TD

Rushing: Larry Croom, 84 att., 605 yds., 4 TD

Receiving: Earvin Johnson, 51 rec., 793 yds., 4 TD

Scoring: Dillon Pieffer, 7-13 FG, 33-34 PAT, 54 pts.

Punting: Gary Cook, 70 punts, 38.3 avg.

Kicking: Dillon Pieffer, 7-13 FG, 33-34 PAT, 54 pts.

Tackles: Adam Seward, 133 tot., 55 solo

Sacks: Jamaal Brimmer, 5.5 sacks

Interceptions: Ruschard Dodd-Masters, 2 for 26 yds.

Kickoff returns: Dominique Dorsey, 12 ret., 21.7 avg.

Punt returns: Larry Croom, 14 ret., 6.6 avg.


OFFENSE: Tony Terrell-OG, Keith Kincaid-OT, DeJhown Mandley-TE, Jason Thomas-QB, Joe Haro-TB, Steven Costa-FB, Troy Mason-PR/KR
DEFENSE: Ahmad Briggs-DE, Tyrone Tucker-SLB, Jamal Wynn-CB, Connie Brown-FS, Chameion Sutton-CB

written by Ryan Hockensmith

Now the offense is turned over to junior Kurt Nantkes, and UNLV fans are more than ready. As former Heisman hopeful Jason Thomas struggled through 2002, fans clamored for Nantkes. When Robinson finally went to his second-stringer, Nantkes completed 16 of 26 passes for 185 yards and three TDs to kick-start a 36-33 win against Mountain West champion Colorado State.

The core offensive players in that win - Nantkes, running back Larry Croom and wide receiver Earvin Johnson - all return for Robinson. It all starts with Nantkes, though. The junior signal-caller possesses a little bit of everything. He's a tremendous athlete with a big frame (6'4", 220 pounds), a bigger arm (he's a former Oakland A's pitching prospect) and can get out of the pocket and run if pressured. He has two years on the bench, so he knows the offense. And at 23 years old, having spent a few years on the road playing baseball, he's a cool head in the huddle. That experience should be vital.

He'll hand off quite a bit to senior Croom, who has fans dazzled with his potential in back-up roles. Now is the time to show that off in a full-time role. Croom ran for 7.2 per carry and has all the tools to be an All-Conference, 1,000-yard ground gainer. Croom's back-ups, Dominique Dorsey and Deon Burnett, both have plenty of experience and should be solid when Croom needs a breather.

WR Earvin Johnson also emerged late - in the CSU finale, he reeled in 12 passes and two TDs as Nantkes' primary target. He stands 6'3" and gets open downfield (15.5 yards per catch). On the other side, veteran Michael Johnson returns as another reliable receiving option. This Johnson has three letters. Both Johnsons will be even better.

With secondaries seeing double (Johnsons), it's doubtful Nantkes will look to tight end Ryan Clifford much. Good thing, cause Clifford's most effective in the running game. Clifford did not have a 2002 reception, but will assuredly be utilized as a 6'2", 250-pound path-paver for Croom.

The Rebels' OL took the heat for marginally poor protection of Thomas (27 sacks allowed). But the unit bullied Colorado State for 575 total yards even without starter Tony Terrell. UNLV brings back players with starting experience at all five line positions, including Dominic Furio in the middle. Furio has three letters and will hold everything together in the trenches. The rest form a bulky line (average weight of 304 pounds). Tyler Crandal, a transfer from Saddleback Community College, will challenge for time at tackle. Depth and experience equal high expectations from this entire offense.


TB Larry Croom


Returning Starters in bold
QB Kurt Nantkes-Jr (6-4, 220) Scott Turner-So (6-3, 200)
FB Andrew Faga-Sr (6-0, 240) Dyante Perkins-Jr (6-1, 220)
TB Larry Croom-Sr (5-10, 205) Dominique Dorsey-Jr (5-6, 165)
WR Michael Johnson-Sr (5-11, 190) Terry Furlow-So (6-0, 190)
WR Earvin Johnson-Jr (6-3, 200) David Relf-Sr (6-1, 190)
TE Ryan Clifford-Sr (6-2, 250) Greg Estandia-Jr (6-8, 240)
OT Matt Williams-Sr (6-6, 300) Brandon Gray-Fr (6-4, 305)
OG Marcus Johnson-Jr (6-1, 300) Harvey Robinson-So (6-0, 285)
C Dominic Furio-Sr (6-3, 295) Aaron Mueller-Fr (6-2, 280)
OG Joe Critchfield-Jr (6-4, 315) Marco Guerra-Fr (6-5, 330)
OT Zach Gorham-So (6-5, 310) Tyler Crandal-Jr (6-7, 285)
K Dillon Pieffer-Sr (5-11, 180) Bryan Cortney-Fr (6-4, 190)



written by Ryan Hockensmith

This is where UNLV really could surprise. Even with all that offensive firepower, the Rebels' defense dominated in the spring. UNLV has speed and will be forcing turnovers.

The real strong suit, perhaps of the entire squad, is at linebacker. The Rebels bring back standouts Adam Seward and Ryan Claridge. Seward, a 6'2", 250-pound plugger in the middle, led the Mountain West with 133 tackles, third best in school history. He'll see even less big bodies coming at him if Claridge can come back after a hernia kept him out all of last season. Claridge is explosive, finishing second in the country in 2001 with six forced fumbles, and a tremendous athlete. When healthy, he doubles in the spring as a UNLV tennis player. He'll start on one side of Seward, and either Reggie Butler or John Andrews should man the weak side. Both are fast, experienced transfers who immediately will contribute. And with proven commodities Zach Bell and Terrence Young playing back-up roles, UNLV should be able to stack the line of scrimmage against running teams on non-passing downs.

Those linebackers should make up for a suspect defensive line, which got pulverized for 394 yards per 2002 game. Tackle Dietrich Canterberry, at 6'4", 300 pounds, holds his own, along with senior Joe Oniwor, a nine-game starter in 2002. Both are solid, but far from spectacular. UNLV desperately needs OLs to focus on the inside duo to keep blockers off its outstanding group of linebackers. If opposing linemen consistently get five-yard running starts at Seward and Claridge, UNLV will find itself in many a high scoring game.

Ends Chris Eagen and Leon Moore are experienced, trustworthy players, but neither has shown dominant ability yet. Senior Eagen had nine TFLs and four sacks, and ought to be similarly disruptive. Moore played well as a freshman, and UNLV has high hopes for the 6'5", 255-pound behemoth. Moore had 11 TFLs in just a back-up role. He will rack up better numbers with the increased playing time.

In the secondary, questions abound with the loss of veterans from an already iffy unit. One area that's not a question mark --- more like an exclamation point --- is strong safety, where Mountain West defensive player of the year Jamaal Brimmer returns for his junior season. Do-everything Brimmer emerged as the conference's most dynamic play-maker with a terrific stat line that'll make you breath hard just reading it --- 100 tackles, 17 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, six passes broken up, three forced fumbles and a touchdown off a fumble return. Scary thought is that Brimmer, who'll be 21 when the season starts, will be better this year. And UNLV will need his eraser abilities both against the run and in the passing game.

On the other side, sophomore Joe Miklos had a grand total of one tackle in 2002. He has a good frame at 6'1", 205 pounds, but he's a major concern for a secondary victimized for 235 yards a game. If the defensive line and linebackers find a way to bottle up running games, look for quarterbacks to locate Brimmer, then throw down the middle toward Miklos.

At cornerback, both Jason Rogers and David Olsen are basically rookies. Rogers redshirted as a freshman wide receiver and sophomore Olsen made six tackles in sporadic 2002 duty. Ruschard Dodd-Masters and Daniel Jones will play plenty this year. In fact, either or both could see starting time by the end of the year.


LB Adam Seward


Returning Starters in bold
DE Chris Eagen-Sr (6-4, 265) Pete Dunbar-Sr (6-4, 250)
DT Dietrich Canterberry-Sr (6-4, 300) Brian Nicholson-Jr (6-5, 275)
DT Joe Oniwor-Sr (6-1, 300) Steve Lawless-Jr (6-0, 275)
DE Leon Moore-So (6-5, 255) Ryan Heise-Fr (6-3, 250)
SLB Ryan Claridge-Jr (6-3, 250) Zach Bell-Jr (6-0, 220)
MLB Adam Seward-Jr (6-2, 250) Terrence Young-Jr (5-9, 235)
WLB Reggie Butler-Jr (6-0, 215) John Andrews-Jr (6-0, 210)
CB David Olsen-So (5-11, 180) Ruschard Dodd-Masters-Jr (5-11, 175)
CB Jason Rogers-Fr (5-11, 190) Daniel Jones-Sr (5-10, 180)
SS Jamaal Brimmer-Jr (6-1, 205) Mike Clancey-Sr (5-10, 170)
FS Joe Miklos-So (6-1, 205) Sean Mackey-Sr (6-1, 195)
P Gary Cook-Jr (5-11, 195) Bryan Cortney-Fr (6-4, 190)




Veteran starters Dillon Pieffer and Gary Cook both return to their kicking and punting positions, respectively. Pieffer went 7-of-13 on FGAs, and missed only one extra point attempt. Cook plopped down 26 punts inside opponents' 20-yard-lines, but his 38.3-yard average ranked only 84th in the country. He'll need to consistently bail out UNLV's offense, or else the Rebels defense will (again) often be working with a short field. Croom probably will resume his role as punt and kick returner, although Robinson will have to be careful the senior doesn't wear down with all the touches. Even with him, though, UNLV ranked 104th in kickoff returns and 96th in punt returns. That has to improve. Look for a lesser-used player with speed to emerge and take this duty. PR and KR players need to be reckless and risky, something UNLV cannot afford to allow Croom to be.