Rebels looking for talent to bloom

Junior tailback Frank Summers began his college career at California before leaving to become a junior college All-American.

He is now one of UNLV’s key recruits.

With junior David Peeples out all spring because of a shoulder injury, Summers knew he would have ample opportunity to prove his worth.

Only that’s not the way spring football drills started.

“I was struggling a lot, more because I was confused,” Summers said. “I came in and met with (running backs) coach (Reggie) Davis a few times a week during his lunch and some free time that he had. He really explained the offense to me very well, so I couldn’t give him enough credit for really helping me one on one with the playbook.”

The results showed as the spring wore on.

Summers’ performance has provided hope that the Rebels just might have an effective running game next season.

But Summers wasn’t the only one who benefited by receiving extra repetitions because of injuries to teammates. Serious injuries opened the way for others to show their abilities during UNLV’s spring game, 6 p.m. today at Sam Boyd Stadium.

The absence of junior quarterback Rocky Hinds (knee) allowed redshirt freshman Travis Dixon and junior Dack Ishii to step forward. Receivers junior Lorenzo Bursey Jr. and sophomore Gerold Rodriguez were helped with junior Casey Flair being sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Even senior wide receiver Aaron Straiten was able to take advantage of extra snaps with junior Justin Marvel missing time with a bad shoulder.

In addition to Summers, sophomore Chris Brogdon and junior Robert Paulele have been taking snaps at tailback while Peeples has looked on.

“The way you get better at football is by playing,” coach Mike Sanford said. “People always wonder about spring practice. That’s the biggest thing that’s an advantage about spring practice — guys playing football.”

Each story is a little different. Summers has put himself in strong position to be the starting tailback, while Dixon and Ishii have separated themselves to challenge for the No. 2 spot at quarterback.

At receiver, Straiten has used spring to build on a strong end to last season. Typical of many junior college transfers, he started slow. But Straiten caught seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown over the final two games to show why he was UNLV’s headline recruit last year.

“I wanted it to transfer over to spring and keep pushing it into summer and into fall,” Straiten said. “I got used to Division I ball. I bought into the system. I came into spring ball with a year under my belt already. I feel like I’m one of the leaders on this offense now, and I plan on leading that into the fall.”

Sanford said he noticed Straiten’s determination.

“He’s challenged himself and upped his game, and he’s come to practice every day and practiced well,” Sanford said.

Overall, Sanford said he was pleased heading into today’s spring finale.

“I feel like we’ve gotten a lot accomplished,” he said. “We got a lot in. We practiced a lot of situations. We covered a lot more things than we normally would in spring practice.”

NOTES — Hinds ran Wednesday for the first time since undergoing surgery in January to repair a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament. He remains on pace to return to offseason conditioning this summer. … Former Miami coach Larry Coker spoke to the team Wednesday. … Sophomore Lafayette Fletcher has moved from tailback to cornerback. … A barbecue follows the spring game. Admission is $15, or $12 for those 12 and under and 50 and older.

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