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Odom using spring football practice to reassess Rebels’ roster

In his first spring practice as the UNLV football coach, Barry Odom said he didn’t want to make any assumptions about a player based on how they had performed in the past.

Instead, he’s using every element of practice to give players a chance to prove themselves.

“Every period is graded by our coaches and then you set the depth chart as a ranking system,” Odom said. “We’ve got to get as many guys as we can in position to play winning football. We need to do that.”

With the Rebels past the halfway point of spring workouts, Odom said he’s seen improvements every practice and the difference is “night and day” from the first practice.

“Every single position group has gotten better,” Odom said.

While there are no questions about the quarterback position — with Doug Brumfield the clear starter — the Rebels have several holes to fill on offense.

Three key members of the offense have transferred to Power 5 schools; last year’s leading rusher Aidan Robbins (Brigham Young), starting center Leif Fautanu (Arizona State) and wide receiver Kyle Williams (Washington State).

Buffalo transfer Jack Hasz has taken most of the snaps at center, but Odom is using the current depth on the roster to rotate players at running back and the open wide receiver position.

Odom said he and his staff are focusing on every unit — including special teams — to not only find his eventual starters but make each group better top to bottom.

Odom mentioned Jacob De Jesus, a Modesto (Calif.) Junior College transfer, and Jeff Weimer, a returner who missed seven games last season with a shoulder injury, as notable standouts at wide receiver.

Defensively, the Rebels have several holes to fill too. Among notable departures, defensive lineman Adam Plant Jr. declared for the NFL draft and linebacker Austin Ajiake also entered the draft after exhausting his college eligibility.

Redshirt sophomore Nick Dimitris is one of several players getting a significant number of reps with the starting defense. A three-star defensive lineman out of high school, Dimitris was the top-ranked recruit in UNLV’s class of 2021 class, according to 247Sports.

Dimitris didn’t play last season after redshirting in 2021. New defensive line coach Ricky Logo said they love Dimitris’ size and they’re using spring practice to bring him along with the experience he lacks.

“He’s starting to understand the importance of — if you want to be physical, you need to be able to use your hands,” Logo said. “Getting those pad levels right and trying to be violent with his hands are two things he’s working on.”

The Rebels conclude the spring football period with a spring game at Allegiant Stadium on April 8. Odom said as the team gains an understanding of the schematics of a new offense and defense, it’ll help fill out the depth across every position.

“We’ve got to cross-train guys. We have to find the best fit and who are the best 11,” Odom said. “And then who’s the next best to get to 22, and that’s across the board.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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