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‘Hungry’ UNLV ready for spring showcase, free to fans at Allegiant

Updated April 6, 2023 - 7:22 pm

UNLV coach Barry Odom has big goals for the Rebels. Before any of them can be achieved, though, he needs to create a home-field atmosphere at Allegiant Stadium.

Odom knows past Rebel football teams have struggled to capture the city’s attention. He acknowledges that creating interest in a program that hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2013 won’t be an easy task.

But that job begins with embracing and taking advantage of every opportunity the Rebels have to interact with their fans.

“For us,” Odom said, “to get where we want to go, we’ve got to become Vegas’ team.”

Odom and the Rebels get a chance to show how much progress they’ve made in their spring showcase at 1 p.m. Saturday at Allegiant Stadium. The scrimmage is free and open to the public and will be followed by an autograph session on the field.

“It’ll be exciting,” Odom said. “They’re going to play hard. They’ll play smart. They’ll play together. Competitively, (the fans) will see a team that’s hungry to represent them.”

Odom promised there will be live scrimmaging at the showcase with real blocking, running and hitting. However, the team’s health following the conclusion of Friday’s practice will determine exactly how much of the showcase will include scrimmaging.

Odom said he’s worried about depth at certain positions, and entering fall camp with a fully healthy roster is one of his highest priorities.

Odom said he wants to see his team play a “clean” scrimmage. He wants to see the team look well-coached, play hard and be disciplined.

“I hope they battle. I hope the competitive spirit of the team shows out,” he said. “I’m looking forward to watching them.”

The showcase completes Odom’s first spring in charge of the program. He said each position group has greatly improved from the first practice March 1. Odom also praised his players for being open to learning and applying the principles the coaching staff is trying to teach on the field.

It’s been a tumultuous spring for the program. Odom, the 46-year-old former Missouri coach, arrived at UNLV in December after spending the past three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Arkansas.

He replaced Marcus Arroyo, who failed to reach bowl eligibility during his three-year tenure at UNLV and compiled a 7-23 record.

Arroyo’s departure was quickly followed by the loss of several starters who entered the transfer portal. Running back Aidan Robbins, wide receiver Kyle Williams, cornerback Nohl Williams and center Leif Fautanu all departed, though Odom was able to keep starting quarterback Doug Brumfield.

Then, outside linebacker Ryan Keeler was found dead in an apartment in Las Vegas on Feb. 20, leaving the Rebels to mourn a 20-year-old teammate days before spring practice began. UNLV players dedicated the upcoming season to Keeler’s memory during a vigil at the Fertitta Football Complex on Feb. 27.

No cause of death has been released.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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