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Tony Sanchez says for Rebels to improve, they ‘have to grow up’

Updated March 23, 2018 - 2:01 pm

Two weeks of spring football practices remain, and there is preseason training camp before UNLV opens its season Sept. 1 at Southern California.

Coach Tony Sanchez, however, already has seen enough to have a good idea of what he will take into his fourth season at UNLV.

“I think we have enough talent to win a bunch of games,” he said. “You go back to last year, I had a good feeling about last year’s team. Really, it wasn’t the opponent that got in our way. We got in our own way. We’re finally to a point now … where some of that stuff’s on us. It’s not like we weren’t a talented team. We have to grow up. We have to be more mature. We have to change the culture, and that’s all part of the process.

SHORT DESCRIPTION (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

“We’ve gotten better every single year. There’s no reason not to continue to get better. If we do that, this program goes to a whole other level.”

UNLV concluded its third week of spring practices Thursday at Rebel Park with a 30-minute scrimmage in which all four quarterbacks played well and the defense provided some promising moments. The Rebels now take time off for spring break before returning April 3.

They will return to work trying to put together the pieces to make a run to their first bowl since the 2013 season. UNLV missed bowl eligibility last season by one victory.

Most of the Rebels’ offense is in place, but there is a battle to back up starting quarterback Armani Rogers. Junior college transfer Max Gilliam was the favorite entering spring, and he has performed well enough to all but ensure that role.

“I’m really impressed with Max over the last eight practices,” Sanchez said. “I wouldn’t have one bit of hesitation having him go in and run the offense.”

Gilliam said Rogers has helped him pick up the offense.

“Any questions I have, I feel real comfortable asking Armani,” Gilliam said. “He can always help me with anything I need.”

Most of the position battles are on defense, which is working under new coordinator Tim Skipper, whose fresh set of eyes have helped amp up those fights for playing time.

“We’ve had a lot of new plays, new installs,” linebacker Farrell Hester II said. “There’s still a transition of having to prove myself. No one has a job out here. Everyone’s competing constantly.”

Hester, who went to Bishop Gorman High School, played immediately last season as an incoming freshman. He started six games and finished with 50 tackles, and figures to be a key part of the defensive plans next season.

Elsewhere on defense, five tackles don’t arrive until the summer, so that will be the most undecided position area once spring ends.

Sanchez said the point now at all positions wasn’t to establish the first- and second-team units but to create depth.

“I believe we have that quality (of depth) right now so we can go and stay competitive,” he said.

More Rebels: Follow all of our UNLV coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJRebels on Twitter.

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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