Top 10 returning players at UNLV include Phillip Hall, Cameron Oliver, and Austin Ajiake

The top 10 players returning to UNLV are headlined by a stalwart defensive unit led by S Phillip Hall in the secondary.

The UNLV Rebels received some help via the transfer portal this offseason, but their top 10 returning players all had a big impact on their success last season. The defense should once again be a strong unit but don’t rule out this offensive line and their versatility up front.

For each Mountain West team’s top returning players: Air Force | Boise State | Colorado State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Nevada | New Mexico | San Diego State | San Jose State | UNLV | Utah State | Wyoming

Top 10 returning players at UNLV

As the countdown to the regular season continues, as does our top 10 returning players series. We’re counting down all the top 10 players returning to action on every team — we’ll deal with transfers later — from Air Force to Wyoming, from Miami to Hawaii, and all in between. Here are the top returning players to UNLV.

10) Ricky Johnson, CB

Despite playing a minor role, Ricky Johnson led the Rebels with three interceptions a season ago. He has positional versatility and can play cornerback from the slot or use his size to stay in the box as a strong safety. Johnson is a big hitter but doesn’t sacrifice speed with all his strength.

9) Daviyon McDaniel, OT

A versatile offensive lineman, Daviyon McDaniel played four different positions a season ago. Starting games are left tackle, left guard, right guard, and right tackle, his versatility is key to this unit moving forward. But his best work was done at left tackle. McDaniel is strong at the point of contact and should help aid the loss of Julio Garcia at left guard.

8) Kyle Williams, WR

Returning as the team’s leader in receptions and receiving yards, Kyle Williams is back out wide for Harrison Bailey or Cameron Friel. He showcased the ability to take games over when it was needed, recording multiple 100-yard games a year ago. He has a blend of speed and elusiveness, both on his routes and when the ball is in his hands. Williams provides a great option outside for whoever the quarterback is this season.

7) Nohl Williams, CB

Sticky in coverage since his days of starting as a true freshman, Nohl Williams is back to guard the boundary yet again. Williams rarely allows anything big in his coverage and is no stranger to making multiple plays on the ball in the air. He has a great closing burst to the football and understands when to lay off receivers underneath to help out over the top. Opposite Cameron Oliver, UNLV has a talented and young cornerback group.

6) Leif Fautanu, C

A true road grader, Leif Fautanu gets going when it’s time to pave the way on the ground. He’s a technician with his hands and footwork in the running game. Fautanu is no slouch in pass protection up the middle, but he certainly sees his best work done on the ground. He calls the shots on the offensive line and is rarely one to produce an errant snap, if at all.

5) Amani Trigg-Wright, G

One of the conference’s top interior offensive linemen, Amani Trigg-Wright returns to man the right guard spot once again. He’s technically sound as a run blocker, seeing his best work done when he pulls and gets his head in front of him. Trigg-Wright is terrific in pass protection, providing a great anchor and excellent balance through contact against all types of pass rushers.

4) Kyle Beaudry, LB

When Kyle Beaudry was in the lineup last season, he made a massive impact. Unfortunately for UNLV fans, that was only for the final four games of the season. The local product was ridiculously impactful when he was healthy, finishing seventh on the team with 38 tackles despite playing full-time snaps in just four games. Beaudry plays a tenacious brand of football, running the alley in run defense well, blitzing even better, and dropping in coverage with great skill. He’s strong and fast, mean and intelligent. Beaudry is the complete package when healthy.

3) Austin Ajiake, LB

Setting the tone on the inside, Austin Ajiake was a force before missing the final four games of the season. Ajiake is a sure tackler and the vocal leader of the defense. His play against the run is top-notch as his instincts are only outdone by his speed to react. Ajiake excels in every facet, including coverage, where he dominates against a bevy of pass catchers underneath.

2) Cameron Oliver, CB

After a terrific freshman season, Cameron Oliver is back to wreak havoc on Mountain West quarterbacks. Oliver recorded two interceptions but was far more disruptive with his tight coverage skills. He has great length and plenty of speed to pair with swift footwork. His basketball background allows him the luxury of understanding how to high-point the football and disrupt contested catches like he’s coming down with a rebound in traffic. Oliver is a name to remember for a potentially special season as the featured cornerback for the Rebels.

1) Phillip Hall, S

There is no denying how talented Phillip Hall is when he’s on the field. After suffering an injury in 2019 and not playing in 2020, Hall had a terrific campaign in 2021 for the 10 games he was available. Hall finished with three interceptions and was fourth on the team with 46 tackles. He affects the game in more ways than that, however, as he plays downhill and brings a ferocity to the Rebels’ defense. With a clean bill of health, Hall could be one of the conference’s best defensive backs.

Honorable mention players returning to UNLV in 2022

  • Naki Fahina, DT
  • Zyell Griffin, WR
  • Cameron Friel, QB
  • Eliel Ehimare, DT
  • Tiger Shanks, OT
  • Brennon Scott, EDGE

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @CamMellor.

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