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UNLV spring football recap No. 10: Defense steps up

UNLV had one of the worst defenses in the country last season, but has shown signs of life during spring practice.

The defense dominated UNLV’s offense in scrimmage situations at Rebel Park.

“The defense, overall, we’re bigger and we’re more athletic,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “You’re really seeing the fruits of the offseason. Our guys look stronger, they look faster, they’re bigger. That stuff’s all starting to pay off.”

Here’s a quick recap of Friday’s 8:10 a.m. practice, the 10th of 14 sessions leading up to the April 9 spring game.

HIGHLIGHTS

* Linebacker Ryan McAleenan helped set the tone for the defense by picking off a pass by Kurt Palandech.

* Defensive back Evan Austrie hit tight end Tim Holt to break up a pass by Christian Lopez, a redshirt freshman walk-on quarterback from Green Valley High School.

* Linebacker Matt Lea wrapped up running back Xzaviar Campbell in the backfield for a loss.

* Defensive lineman Jason Fao recovered a fumble by redshirt freshman quarterback Dalton Sneed.

QUOTES

* “We took the pants off today and got back in shorts to kind of lighten it up just a tad,” Sanchez said. “We’re still flying around but we really wanted to stay up because we’re going to scrimmage a little (Saturday) and get after it a little bit. We’ve got the Rebel drill and a bunch of different things.

* “This was one of those rare times we kind of had a slow start in the morning. We’ve got to do a better job of revving our engines up. We kind of hit a little bit of a wall this morning. By mid-practice, we got rolling but we’re not a team that can afford to start slow.

* “We worked on a couple of different things offensively today. We’ve still got to do a better job of passing and catching. We’ve just got to be more efficient with that stuff.”

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