Caleb Herring went through this process last year, beating out Sean Reilly to become UNLV's starting quarterback.
Now he's forced to go through it again -- against a more crowded field -- and though Herring is realistic about the situation, that doesn't mean he is completely fine with it.
"The fact that it's open competition lets me know I'm not where I need to be as far as the status as the leader on the team," Herring said following the opening of spring practice Monday. "In that aspect, yeah it's a little personal, but you never take things too personally on a team."
Herring showed promise in two of UNLV's first three games last season, but then threw three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in a shocking 41-16 loss to Southern Utah.
The performance seemed to shake Herring, who completed only one pass for 8 yards in his next start, at UNR. He had to watch as the Rebels started two other quarterbacks during the course of the season, but none, including Herring, proved to be the answer.
UNLV averaged 109.6 yards passing, third-worst in the nation, ahead of only option-first teams Navy and Army.
Herring, a 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound junior, acknowledged "Southern Utah took a toll on me last season."
"It was rough," he said. "There were times I did get back and got over it, and injuries and stuff set me back again."
Coach Bobby Hauck would love if Herring returns to showing more of the potential he exhibited early in the season, when he passed for 146 yards and two touchdowns at Wisconsin and 178 yards and two scores against Hawaii.
Hauck, though, knows he can't take a chance, especially with a team coming off consecutive two-win seasons.
So Reilly, a 6-4, 210-pound senior, is back in the mix, but Herring figures to be pushed more seriously by redshirt freshman Nick Sherry (6-5, 240) and junior James Boyd (6-5, 255).
Sherry originally committed to Colorado, but was forced to scramble when the Buffaloes changed coaches in 2010. UNLV quickly jumped in, and Sherry chose the Rebels.
He ran the scout team last season.
"Last year, I was able to see what we did right and what we did wrong," Sherry said. "I was able to kind of pick up on that, so I'm hoping to help turn this thing around with all the other quarterbacks."
Boyd began his college career at Southern California before transferring to West Los Angeles College. He tried quarterback, tight end and defensive end at USC in 2010.
Boyd most wants to play quarterback, so Hauck is giving him the chance.
"The offense was the same offense I ran in high school, so it felt comfortable," Boyd said. "I can learn the playbook (easier)."
No quick decision on the starting job is expected, and certainly not this spring. How far into training camp in August the battle lasts also is anyone's guess.
The quarterbacks shuffled in and out of the lineup Monday.
"We'll give the two new guys a few more (plays) early on here just because we need to see them," Hauck said. "As many plays as we can get, we're going to spread them around. We'll make decisions as prudent."
■ NOTES -- Offensive guard Sean Tesoro is off the team for breaking team rules. He started the first five games last season. ... Linebacker C.J. Cox and defensive end Ian Bobak left the team because of medical reasons. ... Wide receivers Mark Barefield and Irshad Stolden left to transfer. ... Wide receiver Charles Childers graduated and is concentrating on law school. Safety Corbin Brown and offensive guard Jason Heath also left to focus on academics. ... Sophomore Taylor Barnhill was moved from quarterback to linebacker.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.