UNLV coach Tony Sanchez was willing to put his wide receiver corps, led by preseason first team all-Mountain West pick Devonte Boyd and 6-foot-4 junior Kendal Keys, up against any team in the league heading into the season.
“I believe we had the best receiving corps in the conference coming into the year,” Sanchez said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “It’s not to say that we don’t anymore, it’s just a lot of unknowns right now.”
Not to mention a whole lot of injuries.
Redshirt freshman Darren Woods Jr., an emerging star who is second on the team in receptions behind Boyd with 13, injured his left knee in last Saturday night’s 45-20 homecoming win over Fresno State and will need to undergo season-ending surgery. He joins Keys (knee) and sophomore Brandon Presley (foot) on the sidelines.
“Woods is out for the season,” Sanchez said. “He definitely has a knee injury. He’ll have surgery later this week.”
That means the Rebels (2-3, 1-0 MW) will be without three of their top four receivers heading into Saturday night’s game at preseason West Division favorite San Diego State (3-1, 0-0).
“We kind of feel like a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest now at that position,” Sanchez joked. “It is what it is. We’re going to have to have some guys step up. We’ll be going into this game with three scholarship receivers.”
Sanchez said the Rebels will likely use tight ends Andrew Price and Tim Holt, who is also questionable after taking a shot to his leg against the Bulldogs, in the slot in some formations to help compensate for the loss of Woods. True freshmen Mekhi Stevenson and Elijah Trosclair, who caught a 61-yard touchdown pass against Fresno State, as well as tiny 5-foot-5 (if that) redshirt freshman Allan Cui III, a fan favorite during fall camp, also will see increased roles.
“Boyd’s the last man standing,” Sanchez said. “Mekhi Stevenson went from being a guy who was probably going to be your fifth guy who is going to play a little bit of a role to all of a sudden he’s now your starting punt returner (and) he’s your No. 2 wide receiver. Elijah Trosclair, without injuries, you’d like to redshirt. Now he comes into a game and he catches a touchdown on his first catch. So there (are) a lot of guys that need to grow up really, really fast (and) need to mature really fast.”
San Diego State is a 14-point favorite against the Rebels who haven’t won at Qualcomm Stadium since 2000.
DARREN WOODS JR. PHOTO COURTESY OF UNLV ATHLETICS