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CFF Targets - This UNLV Rebel has a legit shot at CFF WR1 in 2023... No, really
UNLV hasn't exactly been a goldmine for CFF talent recently, but this WR has my attention headed into next season
Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.
- Michael Corleone, The Godfather 2 (1974)
That line by Al Pacino’s character — Michael Corleone, is a great line from what many believe to be the greatest film in cinematic history. In it, Corleone is responding to his older brother — Fredo, a witless buffoon, who is insisting that Mike play nice as a guest in the fictional character Mo Green’s city — Las Vegas.
Personally, I always liked young Robert DeNiro’s character most, and the segments of his come-up in old New York city are my favourites from the trilogy. In it, young DeNiro travels across the world to a foreign land, arriving as a young boy with not a cent to his name, and later forges an empire with the help of some friends along the way — a timeless rags to riches story.
The player I am spotlighting today has a similar storyline. WR Ricky White, of Marietta, GA, originally signed with Michigan State (MSU) in the 2020 class, before traveling across the country to the foreign land of Las Vegas. He arrived to the Rebels program with little to his name — save for a monster performance against Michigan in 2020 (33.6 FPs).
Like young DeNiro, White will need a little help from his friends if he’s going to go where I think he can go next season. But, as he enters into his second act with UNLV — a program that took a few casualties this offseason (Kyle Williams to WSU, Aidan Robbins to BYU), there is an opportunity for White to climb to the top; and he doesn’t even need to move any narcotics along the way to get there! Just score TDs, baby.
But before getting into White, let’s take a look at the heads of the UNLV crime family…
Coaching & System
Despite UNLV putting together one of its best seasons last year, the administration decided it was time for change. They brought in a new head coach — Barry Odom by way of Arkansas (defensive coach) and also managed to acquire rising star Brennan Marion at the OC position by way of Texas.
Since Odom’s background is defence, we won’t spend time on his track record. The one I want to talk about today is Odom’s consigliere — Marion.
Marion’s first shot at calling plays came at the FCS program Howard University (HU) in 2017. His time with the Bison was a success — in Marion’s second season as OC, Howard ranked fourth nationally in yards per completion (17.27), 15th in total yards (470.8 YPG), 16th in passing offence (278.0 YPG) and 21st in scoring offence (33.6 PPG). The Bison led the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in each of those categories, as well as rushing yards per game (192.8). Howard produced seven first team All-MEAC performers on offence, including the league’s 2018 Offensive Player of the Year (quarterback Caylin Newton) and Rookie of the Year (running back Dedrick Parson). In 2017, Newton was named the MEAC Rookie of the Year after becoming the first freshman in conference history to surpass 3,000 yards of total offense (3,185). Marion’s offence sparked Howard to a 7-4 record in 2017, including a memorable 43-40 win over UNLV at Sam Boyd Stadium in the season opener.
After this successful stint at Howard, Marion’s scheme began to gain notoriety, and today he is best-known as the godfather of the “Go-Go Offence” — not to be confused with the go-go dancers Michael’s older brother Fredo was messing around with in Las Vegas.
Most importantly, in the 2018 season Marion’s WR1 — Jequez Ezzard, went over 1000 yards receiving. Ezzard finished 2018 with 40 catches for 1064 yards and 12 TDs in only 8 games (equivalent to a 22.46 FPG average).
In 2019, Marion was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at FCS program William & Mary (WM), where he dramatically improved the Tribe’s production in every major statistical category. WM nearly doubled its scoring average while its total offensive output increased by almost 100 yards per contest.
Marion coached Hawaii’s Calvin Turner Jr. to a 20.1 FPG average in 2020 as the WRs coach. In that season, Turner was targeted 46 times, of which he caught 33 passes for 546 yards and 6 TDs, while rushing 60 times for 331 yards and 4 TDs in 9 games (9.33 touches per game).
But Marion’s storied history doesn’t end there. In 2021, he brought his Go-Go Offence to the University of Pittsburgh, where he had his most successful WR to-date. Pitt Panther sophomore Jordan Addison was targeted a staggering 145 times, of which he caught 100 of those for 1593 yards and 17 TDs, while also rushing 7 times for 56 yards and another score (26.6 FPG). Addison, as many of you know, went on to win the coveted Biletnikoff award for the nation’s best WR that year.
He kept climbing the ladder in 2022 as he accepted the job as pass-game coordinator at Texas. His latest understudy — Xavier ‘X-man’ Worthy was targeted 111 times, catching 60 of those for 760 yards and 9 TDs plus 2 rush attempts for 14 yards in 13 games (15 FPG). While the Longhorn’s had up-and-down QB play, Marion proved he could still get his top wideout the ball early and often. Unfortunately, the X-man didn’t go over 1000 yards, but the Longhorns had two other players receive over 600 yards also. UT had a lot of cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, so spreading the ball around was inevitable. That’s not the case at Marion’s latest stop.
Despite having one of its best seasons last year, UNLV still finished 5-7. They started off hot, but sort of fizzled out towards the end, which is probably why the admin made some changes. As such, I will suggest that the Rebels will probably trail in many of their games this season too, which is always good for pass-game volume, and should lead to stat padding for our man.
WR Ricky White - 6’1, 190
Ricky White is entering his fourth year of college football. He began his career at Michigan State in 2020, signing with Mel Tucker’s Spartans out of Marietta, GA. During his freshman campaign, White tore through Michigan’s defence to the tune of 8 receptions, 196 yards and a TD in October 2020. He did not play in the 2021 season.
In 2022, he transferred from MSU to the UNLV rebels. His first season in the desert was a success — White caught 51 passes (83 targets) for 619 yards and 4 TDs in 12 games (11.3 FPG). His production overall was up and down throughout the season. However, something to note is that he was targeted less than 6 times in only three of the twelve games he played. He also started the season particularly strong, scoring 38.2 and 20.6 FPs twice in the first three games, but would fail to score over 20 points again all season.
But that was with fellow WR Kyle Williams also soaking up targets, and Aidan Robbins bludgeoning defences on the ground. Both of those playmakers are now gone, leaving only White as the team’s marquee offensive engine. The starting QB — Doug Brumfield returns, which is a good and bad thing in our case. Good in the sense that we know he likes to target White, but bad in the sense that he was very up and down in terms of performance.
Encouragingly, the early signs are strong this spring, White caught 5 passes for 100 yards and a score in the spring game. Albeit, a lot of that production came from now former UNLV QB Harrison Bailey, who entered the portal shortly after the spring game. I’d feel better about this profile if Bailey were still in the fold. It should be noted that he could technically still return to the Rebels.
Also, as it happens, the Rebels will play Michigan this upcoming season; giving White a chance to finish what he started vs. the Wolverines when he was a mere youngin’ — just like DeNiro going back to Italy to off the Don when he became older and stronger in Godfather 2.
The QB position is a question mark — returning QB1 Doug Brumfield returns with only two other scholarship QBs behind him. Brumfield was not exactly ‘killing it’ last season from a passing standpoint. This is the biggest risk factor for White as far as I’m concerned. The word out of spring is that Jayden Maiava has been the most improved, and could push for the starting role. If QB play ends up being good, I think we will see White eclipse 20+ FPG.
Marion returns to the role of OC after several years as WRs coach and pass game coordinator at the P5 level, so we’ll just have to wait and see how effective he can be as the primary play caller at UNLV.
Another UNLV rebel had a very strong spring game — JuCo transfer Jacob De Jesus caught 10 passes for 136 yards and a score. We don’t know much about De Jesus at this point, or what his role could be in the offence.
UNLV is traditionally a poor performing program, so they might struggle to score TDs. This could also work in our favour, though, as the Rebels may increase their pass-game usage when they’re trailing, and could stat pad in garbage time.
White was streaky last season, he’ll have to be more consistent this season to finish anywhere close to WR1. The opportunities should be there, though.
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