Charles Williams took the opening handoff Saturday and dashed around the left side for a 16-yard gain, showing his burst and running ability.
It was a reminder of what Williams accomplished three years ago before an injury sidetracked him and Lexington Thomas took over and became one of the most dynamic running backs in UNLV history.
Now, with Thomas gone, the position belongs to Williams.
“It makes me hungry because I know I have to go out and help my boys out,” Williams said. “They trust me enough to carry the load. If I’m going in as the starter, I’ve got to be professional at all times.”
UNLV, 4-8 last season, had its spring game Saturday before about 3,500 fans at Peter Johann Memorial Field. The Rebels don’t return to the practice field until August for training camp and open the season Aug. 31 against Southern Utah.
Running back is one of UNLV’s key questions after Thomas rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, placing him second on the school’s career chart with 3,551 yards. Tim Cornett, who played from 2010 to 2013, is the leader with 3,733 yards.
But Williams, who played briefly in the spring game and rushed twice for 17 yards, has shown what he can do. He rushed for 763 yards in 2016, setting the Rebels’ freshman record, which was broken a year later by quarterback Armani Rogers (780).
Williams went into the 2017 season as the starter, but suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the opener against Howard. The NCAA awarded him a medical redshirt.
“Chuck, he’s gone through a lot,” coach Tony Sanchez said. “He’s really matured. He’s a great guy off the field and in the classroom, and you’re seeing that energy and that leadership every single day in practice.”
The 5-foot-9-inch, 185-pound Williams, who will be a junior, has a similar style to Thomas, someone able to get around the corner and create big plays.
Sophomore Chad Magyar (6-2, 215) is more of a physical back, but also could be part of the passing game. He led all backs in the spring game with 26 yards on four carries, and he caught three passes for 43 yards.
“I do my best to be physical,” Magyar said. “I try to come out of the backfield and catch passes. I try to be an overall back.”
Sophomore backs Tariq Hollandsworth (5-11, 220) and Biaggio Ali Walsh (5-10, 185) also are competing for playing time. Hollandsworth rushed for 21 yards and a touchdown on six carries, and Ali Walsh ran for 21 yards on five attempts.
Ali Walsh, a Bishop Gorman High School graduate who played at California before transferring to UNLV, might have to sit out next season because of NCAA transfer rules. Sanchez is hopeful the Rebels can get a waiver so he can play immediately.
“Everybody else in the country is,” Sanchez said. “I don’t see why he wouldn’t. It would be nice to have him in the mix right away.”
UNLV spring game stats
Max Gilliam — 8-12, 89 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception
Kenyon Oblad — 4-10, 65 yards
Armani Rogers — 3-4, 45 yards, 1 TD
Chad Magyar — 4-26
Tyree Jackson — 4-23, 1 TD
Tyleek Collins — 1-21
Biaggio Ali Walsh — 5-21
Tariq Hollandsworth — 6-21, 1 TD
Jeremy Clark — 3-45
Chad Magyar — 3-43
Patrick Ballard — 2-32, 1 TD
Tyler Yoder — 2-16
Elijah Trosclair — 2-9
Kyle Moses — 5
Phillip Hill — 4
Vic Viramontes — 4