The Rebels have finally returned to normalcy with a regular offseason including the first winter training and in-person team building activities with the new coaching staff.
Marcus Arroyo is heading into his second year as head coach but has joked among his staff that it feels like his first year. It’s the first year Arroyo and the rest of the staff get to build upon the team through their preseason training and camp without being thrown into a shortened season.
The 2020 season was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic leaving the team with only six total games where they were unable to keep up with the sudden practices under the new coaching staff to earn an 0-6 record.
This year Arroyo has high hopes for all of the young men on the team as they continue to improve and show their determination throughout the spring training, especially the incoming freshmen.
“I’ve got a good temperament towards understanding it’ll be a big growth for them. There’s going to be pieces of mental health, pieces of doubt and learning that you have to be able to work through,” Arroyo said.
“You’ve got to be able to consider the fact that some of these guys have not played in two years and that’s just the way it is. I think that’s a good part of it.”
Despite missing out on their senior season in high school, all of the incoming class of 2021 recruits have shown off their determination and passion to play ball. To everyone on the team, it’s clear to see the love these young players have for the game as they continue to prove their worth during the training and camps.
“The freshmen that just came in there’s a lot of energy. They’re funny. They’re like kids, they brighten up your day,” senior running back Charles Williams said.
“They’re hard workers. I can see why coach Arroyo chose them. They’re a great representation of our team.”
“They came in and bought into the culture and they’re doing really great things already,” Williams continued. “Some of them are working on the weekend, and I know my freshmen year I was tucked inside not going outside on Saturday and Sunday. I was relaxing. Just seeing that shows they want to play.”
Arroyo and the rest of the staff have not been able to travel to watch these recruits play on the field due to the pandemic, and instead have had to make their decisions based on film and statistics. So far all of these young men have shown up and impressed the staff.
Along with a normal offseason, the players have all gotten to know each other through in-person team bonding throughout the spring and summer training sessions.
“It feels good. It gives us a chance to figure guys out. I feel like last year with all these other distractions it didn’t give us a chance to get to know each other,” Jacoby Windmon said, “but going through the spring, the summer, it’s giving the guys a chance to get to know each other.”
“It’s building the chemistry and the bond so we can trust each other on and off the field.”
With better chemistry between all of the players, Arroyo hopes to see improvement from everyone in each game. The main focus for the year is to improve and do better in all aspects of the team.
The Rebels are looking at proving the 2021 Mountain West football preseason predictions wrong, where UNLV was predicted to finish last in the West division.
Regardless of all the ups and downs the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring, the Rebels look forward to a semi-normal season and the ability to play to their full potential in front of a fan-filled Allegiant Stadium.
To kick off the season, UNLV faces Eastern Washington with the hopes of plenty of fans to cheer on the start to a great season. Allegiant Stadium hosts the game on Thurs, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m.