On his first official day as a UNLV football player, freshman Tim Cornett was told to stand around.
For the most part, that’s what he did, watching his competition at tailback — junior C.J. Cox, redshirt freshman Bradley Randle and senior Channing Trotter – take handoff after handoff.
Cornett wasn’t being punished; he wasn’t in a timeout. This was his day to observe and learn so he’ll be ready when he soon joins the others taking all those handoffs.
“We’re trying to catch him up on the fly right now because he doesn’t know exactly what to do,” Rebels running backs coach Dominic Daste said. “But he’ll get more (repetitions) as we go through camp.
“I was surprised that for not sitting down with him and installing every little thing, he picked up on things quickly.”
Cornett is expected to have an impact in how the position plays out during training camp, especially with fellow freshman Dionza Bradford grayshirting and enrolling in January.
It’s a crowded field of runners, though, and UNLV coach Bobby Hauck is adamant that no one will be simply handed playing time.
Cox grabbed the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in the spring, Randle’s big-play ability has put him in the middle of the competition, and Trotter led the team with 541 yards rushing last season.
Sophomore Imari Thompson also hopes to have a say in the competition.
“Channing and C.J. are really teaching me a lot,” Cornett said. “I know that I have to sit back and watch before I get out there.”
Cornett was a game-breaker at Houston’s North Shore High School, rushing for 1,569 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and averaging 10.3 yards per carry. Rivals.com rated him a three-star prospect, and Cornett also was offered scholarships by New Mexico and Texas-El Paso.
“He has an ability to change direction on a dime at his top-end speed,” Daste said. “My job is to make sure he plays that way and he knows what he’s doing. There are a lot of guys who are fast, but that doesn’t mean they play fast.”
Cornett, a two-year letterman as a sprinter on his track team, also was signed because he fits the mold of the bigger back Hauck prefers. He is 6 feet, 195 pounds, and appears as if he has the frame to add more weight.
Cornett said he would like to gain another 10 to 15 pounds as long as it doesn’t compromise his speed. Hauck agreed, saying, “Anybody on the team bigger and faster is good. You just don’t want bigger and slower.”
This month of camp, especially after the Rebels head to Ely on Wednesday, will determine whether Cornett will be ready to play in the Sept. 4 season opener against Wisconsin at Sam Boyd Stadium or if he needs more time to acclimate.
Especially with Hauck wanting to play three running backs to keep them fresh through a 13-game schedule, the opportunity is there for Cornett to play right away.
It sure would beat standing around and watching the other guys.
“This is a competition through the season,” Daste said. “We’re going to play our best guys. It’s going to be a week-by-week situation.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914.