At Tuesday’s press conference, head coach Tony Sanchez announced that junior quarterback Johnny Stanton will be sidelined 3-4 weeks by a knee injury and that redshirt freshman Dalton Sneed will get his first career start on Saturday against Fresno State.
Stanton’s status as the starting QB was in jeopardy after three consecutive poor performances, and Sanchez admitted that the coaching staff had a “brief” discussion about replacing him during last week’s loss to Idaho. Now the knee injury will force the staff to see what they have in Sneed, and the freshman’s play on Saturday and over the next few weeks will probably determine whether Stanton gets his job back when he’s back to full health.
Sneed was No. 3 on the depth chart throughout the offseason, and he was elevated to No. 2 while primary backup Kurt Palandech worked through a shoulder injury early in the season. Though Palandech was back to being No. 2 last week against Idaho, Sanchez said Sneed’s performance in recent practices merited leapfrogging him over Palandech when the starting job opened up.
Sneed was a three-star recruit out of Horizon High School (Scottsdale, Ariz.), passing for 3,565 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior in 2014. He also rushed for 984 yards and 14 TDs that year, so he should be able to handle most of the dual-threat responsibilities that Sanchez asks of his quarterbacks.
All things considered, this isn’t the worst time for the Rebels to break in a new QB. Fresno State should be hospitable, as the Bulldogs rank 113th out of 128 Division I teams in points allowed (36.5 per game), and opponents have averaged 260.5 rushing yards per game against the Fresno defense on 5.1 yards per attempt. If the UNLV offensive line and running backs continue to churn out yards like they have all season (6.0 yards per carry), Sneed should have to do very little in order to lead the Rebels to victory.
Sanchez said Palandech will also play on Saturday, which would represent his first game action of the season.