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UNLV freshman not frightened of competition

Two of the newest UNLV teammates — freshman defensive backs Courtney Bridget and Charles Childers — aren’t happy if they aren’t competing, constantly trying to beat each other in video games.

Childers, with Muhammad Ali, wins at boxing. Bridget, with Penn State, wins at football. Sometimes both will play UNLV and make sure the Rebels win, even if it means restarting the game.

Don’t get them started about who’s better between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. There’s one ground rule: facts, not opinions.

"And Kobe always wins," said Childers, a Bishop Gorman High School product. "According to me, definitely. According to the world."

The debate’s all in good fun, of course, and Bridget didn’t come across the country from Baltimore just to win those types of discussions. He came to play cornerback, and he hopes to earn playing time based on strong practice play. Facts, not opinions.

It’s subjective, really, on who coaches decide to start and how they divide playing time, but they are trying to make the position battles as objective as possible.

"We have kind of revamped our whole secondary," defensive coordinator Dennis Therrell said. "We’ve got to put them in a big ol’ bag and start shaking it, and which ones fall out are the ones we’re going to play."

Bridget (6 feet 3 inches, 180 pounds) fills a specific need by giving the Rebels a tall cornerback. Therrell said having someone that size is crucial against the plethora of tall receivers in college football.

UNLV doesn’t have to look beyond its own 6-3 Phillip Payne to see the importance of a tall receiver in the red zone.

"We want a physical corner who can go out and defend that," Therrell said. "It’s hard for those 5-8 guys to jump up there against those 6-4, 6-5 guys."

Bridget arrives at UNLV with a strong reputation. He was ranked the nation’s No. 99 cornerback by Scout.com after intercepting 10 passes and breaking up seven others last season at Dunbar High School in Baltimore.

Perhaps just as important, given UNLV coach Mike Sanford’s emphasis on recruiting players from successful programs, Bridget was on three successive state championship teams.

"It helps because in the fourth quarter I know how to win games," Bridget said. "If we’re losing, it helps me to keep from panicking."

Bridget easily could have gone elsewhere, especially after his Dunbar teammate, linebacker Horace Miller, backed out of his UNLV commitment and switched to Louisville.

The Cardinals went after Bridget, too, and Washington also offered a scholarship. But Bridget and his dad, Courtney Sr., did not break their promises.

"I think the fact both he and his dad, together, gave us their word, that means a lot," Sanford said. "They stuck to their commitment, and he’s a high-character player that’s a very good football player and has a very bright future."

Still, it’s not as if Baltimore is a two-hour drive from Las Vegas. Bridget, however, downplayed the adjustment of moving to a different part of the country, saying he had to grow up eventually.

But there are times he can still be a kid and try to beat Childers in video games and win a Kobe-LeBron argument.

"It gets heated, but it will never get to the point where it’s a fist fight," Bridget said. "My momma loves LeBron, so whatever she says, that’s the way I’ll go."

That can be the case for Bridget to make with Childers. The more important defense will come on the practice fields with the coaches watching.

A fact, not an opinion.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Read the latest practice reports at lvrj.com/blogs/unlv_sports.

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