Editor’s note: The following is a Q&A between Mia Wachtel, football beat reporter at The Daily Californian, and Alex Wright, sports editor and former editor in chief of the UNLV Scarlet & Gray Free Press. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Mia Wachtel: It’s widely known that coach Marcus Arroyo was formerly an assistant coach at Cal, do you think that offers an advantage for UNLV?
Alex Wright: I’m not really sure. He was a coach a while ago, and they’ve also had some assistants come from Cal. At his Monday media availability he talked about it and some of his players talked about it, especially with Keith Heyward, who is their defensive coordinator now (and formerly an assistant coach for the Bears). (Arroyo) gave a lot of praise to Justin Wilcox and his staff, and explained (from Wilcox’s perspective): “Hey, (Arroyo’s) got some familiarity here (at Cal), so do the assistant coaches.” So, he feels like Cal is going to plan for that. The only thing that’s really been talked about is personnel and what the players are like. I also do think that extra week — they’re coming off a biweek — is going to prepare them a little bit, especially after seeing Cal play last week. There might be a little bit of an advantage but not as much as some people might think.
MW: The Rebels just recently acquired a new star wide receiver in Ricky White through the transfer portal, and he definitely showed up against Idaho. How do you think White will affect the rest of the season?
AW: When he was at Michigan State, you saw him have a big game like he did against Idaho. You know he definitely can do that again, and the Rebels are going to be counting on him to do that. They’ve talked a lot about how they want big explosive plays in the passing game, those big chunk yards to get them going downfield. I certainly feel like he’ll be in store to potentially have another big game, especially with some of the other threats that the Rebels have: Kyle Williams, who is a former Mountain West Freshman of the Year, some other junior college transfers like Jeff Weimer and Senika McKie, some other guys that have had a pretty decent game against Idaho State. Ricky White could be in store for another big game against Cal.
MW: Arroyo said the team demonstrated some “much needed explosiveness” during the game against Idaho State, and that it was indicative of its potential for this season. Do you agree that the team will be able to produce throughout the season like it did during its opening game?
AW: I certainly feel that there’s potential, and a lot of that really hinges on the quarterback play. Doug Brumfield had a really good first game, and in what we’ve seen from him, he has that dynamic playmaking ability to throw the ball downfield but also be an effective runner. The question becomes, can Brumfield do it for four quarters? Last year, he only played three games because of injury … and obviously against Idaho State last week, he only played the first half, so we’ll see if Brumfield can do it for four quarters. Arroyo praised Brumfield and his ability to recognize defense against Idaho State and change plays, so that’s really what this is going to hinge on, and how effective Brumfield can be for four quarters. We haven’t seen that yet, so this Cal game is really going to be the test for that.
MW: Who, in your opinion, is the player that the Bears should watch out for? Or players, if you foresee multiple threats.
AW: The receiving core is going to be very interesting. All those guys the coaches talked about, and in fall camp about the depth at that receiver room, so sometimes it might be a little bit of a pick-your-poison situation. You might be covering White and Williams, and then Weimer or the tight ends open or the running back gets out in the backfield, so those guys on offense Cal will have to keep its eye out on.
MW: What do you predict the final score to be?
AW: I haven’t given it too much thought, but I definitely do think Cal has a little bit of an edge over UNLV. I’ll probably lean Cal, 34-23. Last year, UNLV hung with Arizona State for the first half, tailed off toward the end, defense let them down and then Brumfield had his injury. I feel like the defense has improved (since then), but I foresee the Rebel offense not being as effective as they were against Idaho State.