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Plante faces battle to earn playing time

UNLV defensive end Luke Plante was in excellent position to win a starting job last year but injured his right kneecap in training camp, ending his season before it began.

Now Plante is back, but the situation at his position is quite different.

“He’s got a long ways to go, and there are a lot of people ahead of him,” coach Mike Sanford said Tuesday. “Not only the recruiting but the development of our end positions is light years ahead of where it was when he came up.

“Now he’s scrambling to even be a (backup).”

Senior Thor Pili and sophomore Isaako Aaitui are listed atop the depth chart at both end spots, with junior Vaha Mafi and sophomore Preston Brooks as the backups.

Plante, a 6-foot-3-inch, 245-pound junior, knows he faces a significant challenge.

“Last year, I was having a chance to start, and now I have both positions filled in front of me,” Plante said. “So I’m going to have some work to do in order to get some time playing, but I’m coming along pretty good so far.”

Plante was a junior college All-American at Chaffey in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

“(The injury) is the most frustrating thing I’ve ever been through, probably,” he said.

• HELP IN THE TRENCHES — Defensive tackle Martin Tevaseu (6-3, 320) walked on Tuesday and could earn a scholarship.

Tevaseu transferred from Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College and is a former Arizona State signee.

• ROSTER CLEARING UP — With sophomore Omar Clayton having been named the starter at quarterback on Monday, the Rebels’ depth chart — for now, anyway — is fairly well set on offense and defense.

But many decisions remain on special teams. At kicker, sophomore Ben Jaekle and junior Kyle Watson are battling to see who will handle field goals and extra points.

“That decision may take awhile,” Sanford said. “I’d say well into camp.”

Jaekle, a Bonanza High School graduate, already has secured the kickoff job.

• CAREER IN JEOPARDY — Backup sophomore defensive lineman Justin McCrory, a Las Vegas High School product, is done for the season after undergoing neck surgery Monday. His playing career is in question.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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