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UNLV spring football recap No. 9: Offensive coordinator rips players

Thirty minutes after UNLV football practice ended Wednesday morning, offensive coordinator Barney Cotton was the only person remaining at Rebel Park. Cotton was peacefully walking laps around the field where earlier he’d ripped into the offense during a red-zone scrimmage dominated by the defense.

Cotton became upset when Kurt Palandech threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Troy Hawthorne and, on the very next play, Robert Jackson tackled Lexington Thomas for a loss in the backfield after a screen pass.

“When you get in the red zone and green zone, you’ve really got four things. You’ve got to have ball security, no penalties and no negative plays. We’ve already got points,” Cotton said. “We turned the ball over down there and we left some plays on the field, but we rebounded from there. It was a rough start but not a bad finish to practice.”

Cotton defines the green zone as the area between the 10-yard line and 3-yard line.

“We divided it up into two areas because some teams change their defenses when you get to the 12 or the 10, and that’s where we’ll say the green zone starts,” he said. “Our red zone, depending on the team, might be the 25 and it might be the 20. The goal line, to us, is three (yards) and in.”

Cotton, who played under coach Tom Osborne at Nebraska and served as the Cornhuskers interim head coach before joining Tony Sanchez’s staff at UNLV last season, is pleased with the progress of the offense overall.

“We’re 10 times further along than we were last spring, but nowhere near as far along as we’d like to be,” he said. “But that’s also a good thing. We’re breaking in a new quarterback with Johnny Stanton so … a lot of our spring is really kind of geared toward developing our quarterback.

“Down there in the red zone and green zone, it was 100-percent pass and that’s all geared toward getting our quarterback comfortable in those situations. We’re getting better but we’ve got a ways to go.”

Cotton was Nebraska’s offensive line coach during Stanton’s first two college seasons at the school and is a fan of the junior college transfer.

“I like Johnny. He’s a smart guy. He’s a competitive guy. We’re really excited to have him,” he said. “It’s a good healthy competition going on between him and Kurt right now because neither one of them has really laid hold to that spot right now.

“If we were going to play right now, they’d both probably play fairly equally.”

Here’s a quick recap of Wednesday’s practice, the ninth of 14 leading up to the April 9 spring game.

HIGHLIGHTS

* Stanton fired a bullet through traffic over the middle to tight end Tim Holt for a 10-yard touchdown pass during the red-zone scrimmage.

* Redshirt freshman walk-on quarterback Christian Lopez found redshirt freshman receiver Darren Woods Jr. wide open downfield for an 80-yard score.

QUOTE

* “It’s one of those deals, when the defense does good, it’s give and take,” Rebels coach Tony Sanchez said of the scrimmage. “We actually did a really good job offensively on the inside run. The defense kind of dominated the scrimmage and the situational deal but it is what it is. The quarterbacks are still figuring themselves out. Our running game, like last year, is much better because we’re much more physical up front, and we’ve just got to do a better job and continue to develop the passing game.

“But it depends on how you look at it. If the (defensive) guys are doing good, remember they’re on your team, too.”

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