UNLV ends spring with questions, answers


UNLV concludes spring football practice tonight in a soccer stadium, and the Rebels have plenty to kick around before training camp begins in August.

The Rebels, though, also found some answers this spring, knowing much more about their team entering today’s 5:30 p.m. spring game at Peter Johann Memorial Field than when the spring sessions began.

So here are UNLV’s three biggest accomplishments and three biggest remaining questions.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

■ More stability at quarterback: When UNLV signed midyear junior-college transfer Blake Decker, the Rebels hoped he would at least push Nick Sherry for the starting spot. Decker has done more than that, using his feet and arm to make a strong case to win the job.

“I’d say it’s real close,” coach Bobby Hauck said.

■ Added depth at wide receiver: Newcomers Devonte Boyd, a Basic High School graduate, and Trent Riley have made this one of the most competitive spots. They showed the ability to make plays and add to a group that includes Devante Davis, Marcus Sullivan and Anthony Williams.

“I think our young wide receivers are really good,” Hauck said. “So as we move into the fall, we’ve got a veteran group there and we’ve got a really young group, and the young guys are going to fight for plays.”

■ Improvement at linebacker: Only Tau Lotulelei returns among the starters and the depth chart isn’t anywhere close to set, but Hauck said he was pleased by the number of linebackers who showed the ability to be productive players.

“We aren’t two-deep to where we feel comfortable going into the season,” he said. “Certainly, we need to get there. But we’re way closer than we were the first of March.”

QUESTIONS

■ Who is the starting quarterback? OK, so Decker is making a run at Sherry, but that doesn’t mean he will start. The competition could go deep into camp to decide who takes the first snap Aug. 29 at Arizona.

“Quarterback’s the biggest (question),” Hauck said.

■ How will the defensive tackles shake out? Hauck went into the spring knowing this was a question that wouldn’t be answered until August when three junior-college transfers join the team.

“It’s not where it needs to be,” he said of those interior line positions. “Certainly, it’s not competitive at the Mountain West level, so we need to improve there.”

■ Who will be the kicker? The Rebels took a step forward in answering that when they recently signed JC transfer Jonathan Leiva, but Nicolai Bornand — who doubles as a linebacker — stepped up with a strong spring. ESPN ranked Bornand the nation’s No. 16 prospect at kicker in 2013.

“We recruited him to do both,” Hauck said. “He can do it. We’ll have to have another guy because you can’t have a kicker playing linebacker and special teams for us and get banged up and not being able to kick. But to have an emergency guy or a long field goal guy or a kickoff guy like him is a real bonus. He’s done a nice job at linebacker, too.”

The presence of Leiva and Bornand makes it unlikely Hauck will bring in a walk-on kicker.

■ NOTES — UNLV’s home game against Northern Illinois was moved up a day to Friday, Sept. 12, and will be televised by CBS Sports Network at 7 p.m. ... The Rebels added another late signee, receiving a letter-of-intent from wide receiver/defensive back J.T. Nettleton (6 feet 3 inches, 195 pounds) of Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. ... Tonight’s free spring game includes bounce houses, face painting and carnival games. Concession stands also will be open, and players will be available for autographs following the roughly 50-play scrimmage.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter @markanderson65.

 

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