Springtime is when UNLV running back Adonis Smith shines.
He was the Rebels’ standout player in last year’s spring football game, and he was the man to watch Friday.
What it means going forward is the key, and Smith didn’t build on the 71-yard, one-touchdown effort last year. He instead was buried on the depth chart, receiving only 28 carries and gaining 70 yards.
But after rushing 83 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries in Friday’s spring game, Smith insisted this fall wouldn’t be a repeat of the last one. UNLV opens its season Aug. 29 at Arizona.
“I know my mindset is different,” Smith said. “I’m not going to give (the coaches) a chance not to put me in. I’m going to show them that I should be on the field.”
Smith made that case in leading the Gray team to a 20-13 victory over the Scarlet before about 2,000 fans at Peter Johann Memorial Field. His touchdown runs were from 55 and 9 yards.
That production was behind the second-team offensive line against the starting defense.
The offensive line has “been doing that all spring, so I wasn’t worried going against the (No.) 1 defense with the (No.) 2 offensive line, and they showed up,” Smith said. “I’m glad. I’d rather have it that way, the twos against the (No.) 1 defense.”
The competition at running back is intense, with five players competing for probably three spots in the rotation. That position became more crowded with the recent move of junior David Greene from safety.
“It was kind of a slap in my face, to be honest with you,” Smith said. “But David Greene’s a great player, and he can contribute to this offense a lot.”
Coach Bobby Hauck said no message was intended when Greene was switched because the decision was made for practical matters of needing more competition at running back than at safety.
Hauck also didn’t want to place too much emphasis on any performance in Friday’s game, be it Smith’s or the ones by junior quarterbacks Blake Decker and Nick Sherry.
That’s because the spring game is less a game — or even a scrimmage, for that matter — and more of a chance to put on a show for fans.
“This is probably the most low-key practice we have of the year, but it was good,” Hauck said. “We got some plays in. The guys had fun playing. I thought they had a lot of juice today, which was great. It was fun to see people out here. I think we have a good team.”
As for the quarterback battle, each threw a touchdown pass, and Decker was intercepted once. Decker completed 3 of 6 passes for 18 yards, and Sherry was 5 of 7 for 69 yards.
“I like the way those guys have played, so it’s obviously a two-man race,” Hauck said. “The young guys have a long way to catch up to Blake and Nick. We’ll have a great battle in fall camp, and we’ll figure it out sometime before the first game.”
Sherry and Decker helped the Scarlet rally from a 14-0 deficit and close to within 14-13 before a late Smith score.
Fighting for the starting quarterback job is nothing new for Sherry, but last season he was the front-runner. Now he’s trying to get the spot back after losing it to Caleb Herring early in the season.
“I think I had a great spring,” Sherry said. “Me and Blake were competing hard. I think both had some great days, and we both had some bad days.”
Sherry’s advantage is experience in the system, but Decker’s athletic ability could make him a better fit for the spread offense. Decker signed early out of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College to compete in spring practices.
“Every practice, I feel more and more comfortable,” Decker said.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter @markanderson65.