Lexington Thomas and Charles Williams have proven their abilities, so both players have largely been spectators throughout spring.
They stood and watched again Saturday as UNLV staged its spring football game, concluding its 15-practice session before about 3,200 fans at Peter Johann Memorial Field.
That gave running backs such as senior Xzaviar Campbell an opportunity to state his case one final time before August when training camp opens. He didn’t waste the chance, rushing for 115 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
“That’s how I worked the whole spring,” Campbell said. “We’re competing as running backs against each other, so I felt good today.”
How much work Campbell will receive next season, which begins Sept. 1 at Southern California, is tough to tell. He has a history of performing well when given the ball, rushing for 336 yards and a touchdown and averaging 4.7 yards per attempt last season. In limited time his first two seasons, Campbell averaged 4.8 yards in 2016 and 5.3 in 2015.
Barring injury, however, he won’t beat out Thomas and Williams for the top two spots. Thomas rushed for 1,336 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior last season, averaging 6.3 yards and making first-team All-Mountain West. Williams, a sophomore, missed almost all of last season with an ankle injury, but in 2016 he ran for 763 yards and three TDs, averaging 5.4 yards a carry.
The key for Campbell isn’t the top two backs, but the ones he is competing with for the third spot. Among them is sophomore Tariq Hollandsworth, who in the spring game rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
“Who’s going to be that third guy who’s going to get some carries?” coach Tony Sanchez said. “It’s hard to get the ball to more than that, and it’s hard to get a lot of carries for more than two guys.
“The biggest thing is who’s going to be able to contribute on special teams in that backfield. I think the guy that does that best is going to get the best opportunity.”
Campbell, a bruiser at 5 feet 11 inches and 225 pounds, said he wants to contribute any way he can in his final season at UNLV.
“Short-yardage, every-down back, it doesn’t matter,” Campbell said. “Just to help the team win is what means the most.”
Spring game notables:
— Sophomore quarterback Armani Rogers completed 3 of 7 passes for 20 yards. He had what would have been a 38-yard touchdown pass dropped by junior Brandon Presley.
“I feel like we started off a little slow offensively and then we picked it up as the second half went along,” Rogers said.
— The receivers dropped at least four passes, though two starters — senior Kendal Keys (ankle) and junior Darren Woods Jr. (shoulder) — didn’t play.
— Other than giving up a touchdown drive to the second-team offense, the starting defense played well for the most part.
“This defense can get a lot better,” said junior cornerback Jericho Flowers, who had two tackles and a pass breakup. “We have a lot of potential, we have great coaches, and if we put our mind to it, we can be great and win the Mountain West.”
UNLV spring game stats
Tariq Hollandsworth 5 run
Xzaviar Campbell 1 run
Soli Afalava 15 fumble return
Andre Collins Jr. 19 pass from Kenyon Oblad
Jeremy Clark 3 pass from Marckell Grayson
Player C-A-I Yds TD
Armani Rogers 3-7-0 20 0
Max Gilliam 5-9-1 24 0
Kenyon Oblad 7-10-0 91 1
Marckell Grayson 3-3-0 48 1
Player Att Yds TD
Xzaviar Campbell 6 115 1
Tariq Hollandsworth 9 60 1
Rashad Walker 9 37 0
Tyree Jackson 7 22 0
Kenyon Oblad 3 22 0
Player Rec Yds TD
Brandon Gahagan 5 49 0
Jeremy Clark 3 13 1
Brandon Presley 3 7 0
Andre Collins Jr. 2 59 1
Mekhi Stevenson 2 29 0
Greg Francis 6
Demitrious Gibbs 6
Soli Afalava 5
Cooper Mirich 5
JD Alexander 4
Darren Palmer 4
Soli Afalava — interception, fumble recovery
Evan Austrie — pass breakup
Jericho Flowers — pass breakup
Farrell Hester II — sack, tackle for loss
Gabe McCoy — tackle for loss
Myles Plummer — pass breakup
Player FG made FG att Long
Evan Pantels 5 6 33
Hayes Hickem 1 2 35