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UNLV spring football recap No. 10: Johnny Stanton regains confidence

Confidence is key to being a successful quarterback. After three weeks of spring practice, UNLV quarterback Johnny Stanton could use a confidence booster.

“This week wasn’t great for me. Monday and Wednesday, my confidence level wasn’t all that high,” the junior college transfer said after Saturday’s practice at Rebel Park. “(Friday) and today, I took big strides on that. Confidence is something I want to be able to pride myself on. I want to be able to go out there and know I’m the best guy out there.”

Stanton, who started his college career at Nebraska, where UNLV offensive coordinator Barney Cotton was the offensive line coach, is still trying to learn the Rebels offense.

“At the very beginning (of spring practice), it was a lot easier because I knew the basics of the offense. As we added more and more plays, it was less and less stuff that I recognized from the Nebraska offense with coach Cotton,” Stanton said. “I’m catching up, obviously not where I want to be yet, but I think I’m getting there.”

Stanton, who was intercepted by Ryan McAleenan on a short pass Saturday during a team drill, has split first-team reps in spring practice with returning starter Kurt Palandech and redshirt freshman Dalton Sneed. Christian Lopez, a redshirt freshman walk-on from Green Valley High School, also has seen action.

“The biggest thing with being a quarterback is being confident and it’s time for (Stanton) to step up and be a little more confident and be a little more assertive in his decision-making,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “He’s getting there. It’s really not that bad. I like where we’re going. We’re going to be just fine. Our quarterback situation has improved. We’ve improved up front. The Rebels are in good shape.”

With three practices left before UNLV’s April 9 spring game, Stanton’s goal is to improve his chemistry and timing with the offense.

“There’s a lot of stuff where I have to be able to predict where the guy’s going and we’re not exactly on the same page yet,” he said. “(The other quarterbacks) have been with all these guys for at least a year and I’m just coming into the spot and trying to have good anticipation. That’s definitely something I want to work on for next week and on our own time.”

Here’s a recap of Saturday’s practice, which featured a 30-minute scrimmage complete with referees and coaches wearing headsets in a dress rehearsal for the spring game.

HIGHLIGHTS

* Sophomore running back Lexington Thomas broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run during the scrimmage, earning a rave review from Sanchez.

“Lexington Thomas is a stud. He’s always capable of going from anywhere,” Sanchez said. “Not only does he break out, but he’s got some fast guys chasing him and you can’t catch that guy.

“He’s a 10.6 (second) 100-meter guy. He’s bigger and stronger now. He’s over 170 pounds. He’s not just dripping wet out of high school now. You see that maturation.”

* Sanchez also praised the play of guard Justin Polu and defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga in the scrimmage.

* Defensive back Torry McTyer picked off a pass by Palandech and almost returned it 40 yards for a score.

* Cornerback Tim Hough hit Stanton in the backfield.

* Lopez fired a sideline strike to redshirt freshman wide receiver Duke Brunke.

* Wideout Darren Woods Jr. made a one-handed catch during a one-on-one drill.

NOTES

* The RebZone UNLV coaches show on KVVU-TV will feature the football team at 11 p.m. each of the next two Sundays.

* A plethora of high school football players, including Desert Pines junior quarterback Marckell Grayson, a Rebels commit, attended practice on UNLV’s “junior day.”

QUOTE

* “The bottom line is you can’t get in game shape unless you play games,” Sanchez said of the scrimmage. “That’s the hardest thing. You can run and touch lines and practice but when you get a little exacerbated, the exhaustion kicks in quicker. So it’s good to get in those situations.”

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