Rebels open spring football drills

UNLV will have a better idea in August about its running game when Bradley Randle arrives. And the Rebels will know more about their pass rush when B.J. Bell starts suiting up.

But it’s not like spring will be a waste of time as coaches try to improve on last year’s 5-7 record, a three-victory improvement from each of the preceding four seasons.

There are plenty of questions that need answers when the football team takes the field at Rebel Park at 4 p.m. today for the opening of spring drills. Practices are open to the public.

UNLV’s most pressing issue is shoring up its secondary, and coaches will get a good look at mid-year junior college transfers Kenny Brown, Alex De Giacomo and Warren Zeigler. The Rebels need them to step in and upgrade one of the teams’ weakest areas, especially after two-year starting safety Daryl Forte’s dismissal.

Another junior college transfer, Mike Grant, joins the team in late summer for training camp along with a handful of freshmen. Also, junior cornerback Quinton Pointer is out this spring because surgery in his right shoulder.

Coach Mike Sanford said the depth chart at defensive back this spring should “be semi-clarified, especially at safety. I think we’ll have a good idea of the two-deep at safety. Maybe not the actual starters.”

Plenty of players will get a chance to make a big impression at tailback as the Rebels look to replace two-year starter Frank Summers.

Randle, a three-star signee out of Murrieta, Calif., could get that chance when he gets to Las Vegas. Sophomore C.J. Cox, redshirt freshman Imari Thompson, junior Channing Trotter and senior Chris Brogdon will try to take advantage of the head start of spring to make their cases.

“You’ve got a good group of guys that we can evaluate,” Sanford said.

Bell, a three-star defensive end from Santa Ana (Calif.) College, could become the pass rusher the Rebels need, but they won’t know until he gets to campus.

So coaches will look closer at senior Heivaha Mafi, redshirt freshman Beau Brence, junior Preston Brooks and sophomore Matt Kravetz. The Rebels ranked next to last in the Mountain West Conference last season in sacks with 11.

“It will be a good thing to get (repetitions) for those guys,” Sanford said.

As for the rest of the team, Sanford hopes to develop more depth on both lines and find a punter and long snapper. The Rebels lost their long snapper when Kamu Kapanui decided not to return because he soon will graduate.

Sanford doesn’t have many questions at quarterback, though junior Omar Clayton will be limited as he continues to recover from a sprained right knee. That could allow sophomore Mike Clausen, who started the final three games last season, to get extra work.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. For more on UNLV football, go to lvrj.com/blogs/unlv_sports.

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