Caleb Herring still wears the yellow noncontact jersey given to quarterbacks, and he remains No. 2 at that position on UNLV’s depth chart.
But as Friday’s 35-27 loss to Washington State showed, Herring could be a big part of the offense at wide receiver. He caught five passes for 68 yards in his debut at that position.
So Herring has the double responsibility every week of preparing for football’s most demanding position and receiver.
“I feel like the mental aspect of focusing on quarterback and all the reads and progressions of a quarterback kind of takes care of the mental aspect of a receiver as well,” Herring said.
“Physically, the main thing is getting used to running routes, getting in and out of breaks. Definitely the conditioning of being a receiver is a little different than being a quarterback.”
Herring told coaches he practiced at receiver during the voluntary summer workouts, and they put him in the Aug. 22 scrimmage in Ely.
Herring then caught a 55-yard pass.
He continued to receive work at receiver after the team returned to Las Vegas, showing an ability to run proper routes and make nearly all the catches.
But the first two games passed, and Herring didn’t get on the field at that spot. Then came the game against Washington State.
“I was expecting the best from myself,” Herring said. “I wouldn’t have been comfortable going out there if I didn’t expect good things. I wouldn’t want to put the team in a situation where I wouldn’t feel like I could put my best effort out there.”
Now with the Rebels (0-3) preparing to play Air Force (1-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium, Herring figures to be a big part of the plans at receiver.
He might be the second-best player at that position, behind only Marcus Sullivan.
“He’s a competitor,” coach Bobby Hauck said of Herring. “He just wants to get on the field.”
■ MORE RECEIVER TALK - Sullivan caught six passes for 136 yards and touchdowns of 37 and 75 yards against Washington State, underscoring his big-play ability.
But Sullivan, a Cheyenne High School graduate, had trouble with dropped passes. He also was fortunate officials (including the one in the replay booth) failed to notice he let go of the ball before crossing the goal line on one touchdown.
“When you’re coaching this many young guys, there’s a laundry list every Monday, and certainly those two things are on it,” Hauck said.
Hauck, though, said lack of concentration wasn’t Sullivan’s issue.
“I think the lad’s excited about being healthy and playing well,” Hauck said.
■ STEPPING UP - Washington State’s Connor Halliday had his way in the first half against the Rebels, passing for 243 yards and four touchdowns, including scores of 52 and 81 yards.
He threw for 135 yards in the second half, and didn’t have any touchdown tosses.
Hauck said coaches didn’t make any special adjustments; UNLV’s defensive backs upped their level of play.
“We gave up some post routes” in the first half, Hauck said. “The first one (52-yarder) was kind of a heave-and-hope. The one on third-and-16 (81-yarder) was appalling. When you’re in deep coverage and you’ve got the post, you’ve got to be on top (of it).
“In the first half of the game, we had some young guys get taken advantage of and weren’t positioned to play the ball. They did a better job of that in the second half. Hindsight’s easy, but if we had just played that deep ball better in the first half, we might be feeling better about ourselves.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.