Tony Sanchez wasn’t happy with his team’s energy level during Thursday’s practice. The general lethargy led to sloppy execution, and Sanchez didn’t hold back in his remarks to the media after the session, challenging the Rebels to be tougher during the dog days of training camp.
“The last two series we did at the end of practice were terrible by the offense,” Sanchez said. “You’ve got guys that are tired and they’ve got to move around fast. But winning is tough. That’s one of the things our guys have to understand. There’s a reason there hasn’t been any winning done here in 30 years, consistently. You’ve got to be tougher than the damn situation.”
It was a harsh and honest appraisal, and from now on, any criticism of the offense reflects directly on Armani Rogers, first and foremost. Though he’s just a redshirt freshman, Rogers is UNLV’s starting quarterback, and that position comes with inherent leadership responsibilities.
When the Rebels’ energy and focus wane during practice, Rogers will have to step in and rally the troops. When the offense struggles during a game, Rogers will have to inspire teammates to continue playing hard. It’s a heavy burden to place on such a young player, but it comes with being the quarterback.
Sanchez said the team is counting on Rogers (and senior wide receiver Devonte Boyd) to provide necessary leadership.
“That’s one of the biggest things,” Sanchez said. “When you have those adverse situations, your leaders are the ones to step up, they’re the ones to keep everyone in line. Offensively, when you’ve got a freshman quarterback and you’ve got Boyd…we’ve got a young group, they’ve got to step up and be leaders.”
Rogers, for all his obvious athletic talents, said he’s still growing into his leadership role.
“I feel like I have to do a little bit more in becoming a leader,” Rogers said. “As far as [being a] freshman quarterback, everybody looks up to the quarterback. So I don’t feel like just because I’m a freshman that they don’t look at me as a leader. I have to go out there, keep my head high, keep the energy up, all that type of stuff, and get everybody to stay focused.”
Though he may not be completely comfortable as a leader just yet, Rogers is settling in nicely on the field. Teammates have marveled at his ability during training camp, and Rogers said he has almost completely learned the playbook, especially compared to this time last year.
The added experience has allowed Rogers to play more freely and produce big plays with the type of flair that future superstar quarterbacks possess.
“[It’s] a lot more fun, especially when you know everything,” Rogers said. “Like when you know the coverages, know the plays, it’s a lot more fun than just going out there guessing and it’s a whole lot of chaos.”
If Rogers performs like a star when the season begins, it will make it easier for him to lead by example.
He said his teammates have looked up to him at every level of youth football, and that he expects the same thing to happen at UNLV.
“Coming from high school, I was a leader,” Rogers said. “Right now I just have to be more comfortable and become the leader they’re looking for.”