UNLV tackles its defensive line concern


ELY — Defensive tackle was a major area of concern, with UNLV having to replace the three players who combined to start every game last football season.

The Rebels addressed the need by bringing over senior Brandon Willis (6 feet 2 inches, 300 pounds) from UCLA, signing three junior college players for the line as a whole and moving junior Sonny Sanitoa (6-3, 260) from end to the interior.

“Sonny’s been a big surprise,” defensive line coach Michael Gray said. “I like him inside. He gives us some athleticism.”

Sanitoa, who made 10½ tackles for loss that included seven sacks the past two seasons, lines up next to Willis.

“I’m still trying to adjust to the position, but as far as the transition, I think I’m liking it very well,” Sanitoa said. “I feel like my coach needs me on the inside. I think he sees that I can play a certain technique, so I think it’s a good move.”

Three backups are competing to be in the rotation — juniors Billy Tanuvasa (6-2, 300) and Tuli Fakauho (6-1, 300) and senior Asten Koki (6-3, 275).

“I’m hoping that I’ve got five guys,” Gray said.

He might have a sixth. Redshirt freshman Antonio Zepeda (6-6, 265) was moved from end to tackle.

“I’m going to take a really long look at him in the next week or so and see if he can help us,” Gray said. “He probably gives us a little more athleticism in there. I think he’s going to be OK because I think that’s where he’s going to be next year.”


Junior running back David Greene has not practiced since Tuesday because of what coach Bobby Hauck said was a pulled muscle, but he still is a big part of the rotation. Regardless of whether Greene starts the season opener Aug. 29 at Arizona, he will share the position with at least two other backs. “They’re all going to play,” Hauck said. “So whoever takes the first snap, that’s sort of irrelevant.” … UNLV spent an hour on special teams Sunday. “We usually try to take a day or two to get one last shot of technique and some specialized situations,” Hauck said. “We did some of that today, and we’ll do some next Friday. Camp’s really the only chance you get to do that.” … UNLV went to scout-team work in preparation for Arizona rather than the offensive and defensive starters and backups lining up and facing each other. But with double-practice sessions remaining today and Wednesday, Hauck said the top players on both sides of the ball will go against each other.


Defensive tackles: This position was one of the major questions coming into training camp. The play up front, though, has eased some of those worries.


Sonny Sanitoa, Jr., 6-3, 260

Brandon Willis, Sr., 6-2, 300


Billy Tanuvasa, Jr., 6-2, 300

Asten Koki, Sr., 6-3, 275

Tuli Fakauho, Jr., 6-1, 300


Player, Pos., Status

Brett Boyko, OL, Out

David Greene, RB, Out

Phillip Haynes, OL, Out

Jack Killian, WR, Out

Jamal Overton, RB, Out

Ron Scoggins, G, Out

Marcus Sullivan, WR, Out


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