Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009 | 3 p.m.
The morning began for the UNLV football team with breakfast in the Thomas & Mack Center.
But it wasn't just an ordinary meal.
During that team session, a television was turned to ESPN, just in time for the entire Rebels squad -- both newcomers and veterans -- to see analyst Mel Kiper Jr. select UNLV as a potential sleeper to make national noise this season.
Safe to say the anticipation only grew.
And the excitement carried over a few hours later as the UNLV newcomers took the field in jerseys, shorts and helmets for the first official practice of the fall camp.
"College ball, first day of college ball, D-I ball, I'm just happy to be out here with my buddies, doing big things in '09," freshman running back Bradley Randle said with a beaming grin. "We're gelling. We're all family, all brothers. We crack jokes, laugh at each other. We just want to be successful, and with that, we have to be close and just care."
Most eyes on Thursday morning were on Randle, who is the most highly-touted member of UNLV's 2009 recruiting class. Most of those eyes, of course, belonged to Randle's family members, who were out in full force to watch his first action at Rebel Park, no matter how basic it was.
"What we do in the morning with the newcomers is kind of an indoctrination into how we practice and helping them to get as much on par with what the older guys know as possible," UNLV coach Mike Sanford said.
Sullivan, Bell absent
Two notable absences on Thursday morning were Cheyenne High product Marcus Sullivan and highly-touted juco defensive end B.J. Bell.
Bell -- the younger brother of former Rebels standout and current Cleveland Brown Beau Bell -- had classes in the early morning hours as summer school draws to a close. He practiced Thursday night with the veterans.
As for Sullivan, he's not even on campus yet.
"His situation is, in order to graduate from high school and to be admitted to UNLV, they have to pass the state of Nevada high school proficiencey exams," Sanford said. "We're awaiting his math proficiency exams. He's a qualifier in every other way. But we're waiting on the math proficiency."
Also gone ...
One scholarship player did not report to camp this week -- tight end Alex Young.
The 6-foot-4 Hughson, Calif., product, who redshirted last season, is no longer a member of the program. He had 31 catches for 440 yards and 6 touchdowns as a senior at Central Catholic High in 2007.
Newcomers ready to bid for playing time in secondary
With the heavy focus the Rebels put on adding to the secondary with this incoming recruiting class, the numbers they acquired could be seen on Thursday morning.
Several fresh faces worked on pass defense drills, and several have ideas of earning playing time right away.
Mike Grant sounds like he could be a name to remember.
The 5-foot-11 transfer from Sierra (Calif.) College was recruited heavily by UNLV out of high school in Fresno, but grades forced him to go the juco route to right the ship.
"It's been a long time coming -- I put in a lot of hard work for this, and it's just a blessing to be here," Grant said. "I'm never settled until I'm No. 1 on the depth chart. They say it's open (competition). Some people may have in their minds set positions, but it doesn't matter. Until I'm No. 1 on the depth chart when that first game comes, that's all that matters."
Sanford could see Grant's fire even during basic drills.
"Not that the other guys weren't good, but Mike Grant was kind of the guy in my mind that stood out today," Sanford said after the 90-minute workout. "Yes, there is a lot of competition, a lot of anxiousness. I wouldn't say anxiety, but I would say more anxiousness about the opportunity."
Added 6-foot-3 freshman corner Courtney Bridget, who is up to 185 pounds after concluding his high school career at an even lankier 172: "It's a friendly competition, there's no hatred. Coach says there's no favoritism -- the best player's going to play, whether it's a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior."
Let the races begin.
Welcome to the desert, kid
While UNLV recruits heavily in southern Nevada and California, not all newcomers are so used to the summer heat that goes hand-in-hand with Las Vegas.
Temperatures on Thursday morning topped out at a cool 92, which is nothing when compared to what the afternoon hours hold in store.
"I'm from Baltimore," Bridget said. "It's pretty different, but it's football -- No pain, no gain. There's humidity in Baltimore, but this is just bakin'. It's like a magnifying glass is right over you."
On camp's second day, the Scarlet team -- comprised of mostly veterans -- will practice at Rebel Park from 8:45 to 10:40 a.m. The Gray team will go from 6:00 to 7:55 p.m.