UNLV quarterback competition takes focus as fall camp begins

Photo Courtesy of UNLV Athletics.

UNLV football begins fall camp this week, and this will be the first full camp the Rebels get with Head Coach Marcus Arroyo after COVID-19 delayed and shortened last year’s fall camp. As the Rebels look to take a big step forward in Arroyo’s second year, there are still plenty of questions that surround the UNLV football team. The biggest one is who will be the starting quarterback on opening night? 

In last year’s season opener, UNLV played three different quarterbacks in the first half of its game against San Diego State. It was the beginning of a challenging season as Arroyo, and his staff had to make up for the lost time in the offseason by evaluating the quarterbacks in-game instead of on the practice field. 

Arroyo went with senior Max Gilliam in the first game and stuck with him throughout most of the season as the main quarterback for UNLV. Gilliam’s experience and ability to quickly adjust to the system helped him get most of the reps at quarterback last season. But Gilliam has since graduated, leaving the quarterback room very young and inexperienced.  

Now, the Rebels are entering fall camp with a full offseason of winter training and spring football under their belts. This will be helpful to the quarterbacks who have had many practices and opportunities to learn the system and build relationships with the offense that they were not able to do last year with COVID-19 restrictions and a shortened fall camp. 

Doug Brumfield, Justin Rogers, Cameron Friel, and the most recent addition to the UNLV roster, Tate Martell, are all heading into fall camp with an opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback position. Brumfield and Rogers had the advantage of getting playing time last season and going through the spring with the team. They had the chance to work with key members of the offense like star running back Charles Williams and freshman standout receiver Kyle Williams. 

As fall camp starts, the UNLV quarterback competition will begin to intensify, and there is still no clear-cut starting option for the Rebels right now. The next four weeks of fall camp will be the most important for Arroyo and the rest of the Rebels, as they look for their starter to lead the team and guide the offense in a crucial season of growth for the entire UNLV football program. 

Here is a breakdown of the quarterbacks the Rebels have in their room that could vie for the starting quarterback job.

Doug Brumfield 

One of the bright spots for UNLV football last year was the emergence of Brumfield. Originally a Tony Sanchez recruit, Brumfield remained at UNLV through the coaching change and impressed the new staff. In the shortened fall camp and season, Brumfield caught the attention of the coaches as he developed nicely, earning him reps in practice and playing time late in the season, as he appeared in two games for UNLV. 

In limited appearances last year, Brumfield showed flashes of his potential with some nice throws and the ability to gain yards with his feet. But there were also moments where he reminded us that he was still a freshman. Throughout the spring, Arroyo and Brumfield’s teammates praised the freshman for stepping up as a leader on offense. And it appeared after the spring that Brumfield had the upper hand in the quarterback competition. Those leadership skills and development during the spring could play in Brumfield’s favor as a legitimate option as the starter. 

Justin Rogers 

Entering 2020, it looked like the TCU transfer was the prime candidate and best choice for UNLV at quarterback last year. But Rogers suffered an injury late in fall camp that threw him off schedule and forced him to the sidelines in the second half of the season. Rogers took that time he missed to see the game from a different perspective. He said he got to see how and understand how the coaches liked to coach, which could help improve his game this season.  

This isn’t the first time Rogers has dealt with injuries, as he only appeared in one game with TCU during his two seasons there. Rogers was touted as a true dual-threat quarterback who can push the ball down the field and break off a big run, which is the ideal quarterback for Arroyo’s system. But with the injuries, Rogers has yet to show his full potential. If he stays healthy, Rogers, with the full spring and offseason, could finally reach his full potential and be a dynamic playmaker for the Rebels. 

Tate Martell 

Martell will be the true wildcard in the quarterback competition. He will walk on at UNLV as an “athlete,” which means we could see him as a quarterback, wide receiver, or somewhere else on the field. It’s tough to see that Martell comes in, with only a month of practice with the Rebels, and takes the starting quarterback job. Arroyo spent the entire spring talking about how valuable those reps in the spring were for his young team, and it would be hard to imagine Arroyo going back on his words and making Martell the top quarterback on the depth chart entering the season. 

Does that mean Martell cannot win the starting job or start for UNLV at some point this season? Absolutely not, especially if Martell shows he’s the best quarterback in the room. Even though this is Martell’s third college team, he has only thrown 29 passes in his college career. He will have to prove a lot to the coaching staff during the next four weeks if he wants to take the starting quarterback job, but if the former four-star recruit can contribute to the Rebels in any form or fashion this season, he will be on the field.  

Cameron Friel 

The true freshman from Hawaii will have some work to do if he wants to take the starting job. Friel was able to come in the spring as an early enrollee to practice with the rest of the team. There were only three quarterbacks on the spring football roster, so Friel was able to get meaningful reps and time with the offense.

As the quarterback room became more crowded with Martell joining UNLV, the road for Friel to become the starter becomes more challenging. But he is still a true freshman, so Friel has plenty of time to take what he learned this spring and possibly compete for the starting quarterback job in the future. Just like with Martell, you cannot say Friel has no chance at the starting quarterback job, anything could happen during the next four weeks.

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