Monday, Aug. 15, 2011 | 2 a.m.
- Back on offense, Taylor Spencer emerging as a serious contender for playing time (8-12-2011)
- Caleb Herring looks to secure starting QB job he’s long desired (8-10-2011)
- Tuesday Practice Briefs: Timetable for Phillip Payne’s return unknown (8-9-2011)
- UNLV sophomore RB Tim Cornett named to Paul Hornung Award watch list (8-8-2011)
UNLV's first fall practice in full pads was Saturday morning in Las Vegas, and Mother Nature brought a welcomed break from this week's sweltering heat. The three-hour session was played under cooler temperatures, overcast skies and some intermittent drizzling.
It was a nice way to transition into a comfortable climate for second-year coach Bobby Hauck and his team as they arrived up north in Ely on Sunday evening. It's there where they are conducting practice 15 times and having two scrimmages between Sunday and next Thursday.
Off a 2-11 campaign in 2010, the Rebels have more than just a few unanswered questions heading into the meat of their fall camp. Here are three notable areas that will be worth tracking as camp gets into full stride.
1) Is Caleb Herring really the Rebels' top option at quarterback?
In short: Yes. Junior college transfer Sean Reilly was brought in to compete with Herring for the right to start the Sept. 1 opener at Wisconsin and beyond, but early on in camp, Herring appears to have a strong hold on the top spot.
Last fall's battle between incumbent starter Omar Clayton and Mike Clausen went almost all the way up to the season's opening night. Clausen won out, and even though he was replaced by Clayton during the first game and later moved to safety, it was proof that whoever has the better camp in the coaches' eyes would get the job, no matter how the résumés looked.
This year, though, it doesn't feel like it's as close of a competition. Herring looks sharper with his throws and appears more comfortable within the offense he adapted to last season while making appearances in eight games.
When camp opened last week, it felt like the job was Herring's to lose. Now, how long is it until Hauck and his staff make it official?
2) What will be some names to look for on an inexperienced offensive line?
It's going to start with the most visible position on any offensive line: Left tackle.
Barring some sort of unforeseen development, redshirt freshman Cameron Jefferson will start in that spot. Hauck burned several redshirts last season out of necessity due to injuries and other reasons, but he was able to hold back from using Jefferson. He pictured him all along as his future starting left tackle, and the future is now.
Jefferson checked in at just 265 pounds this fall, but with his build, he has room to put on more weight and maintain his sharp athletic presence up front. He will likely have some bumps along the way, but he could turn into a good one.
On the other side of the line, of the likely starters, junior right tackle Yusef Rodgers will bring the most experience to the unit. He's always been technically sound, but at just 250 pounds, how will he hold up?
If you're looking for a bit of a sleeper in the interior, 6-foot-4, 300-pound junior Allen Carroll is an intriguing prospect. He redshirted at Washington in 2008 before spending two years at College of the Sequoias. Now medically cleared, he's trying to work his way up the ladder over the next couple of weeks.
Expect a bit of a clearer picture in terms of an offensive line depth chart by the end of next week.
3) If the defense is going to have more bite, who's going to provide it?
The guy with maybe more outside pressure on him in this department than anyone else is junior college transfer Princeton Jackson, who played for powerhouse Blinn College in Texas the last two seasons.
He checks in at only 230 pounds, but has already shown an affinity for mixing it up and a nose for the ball. He'll be a big-time vocal leader on the defensive side, and he'll throw all 230 of those pounds into every hit he delivers. He'll likely have to dish out a lot of them in run support, too, as the Rebels will have just as many hurdles to clear on the defensive line as they will on the offensive line.
He comes to UNLV with loads of expectations, and will have to show up early for the defense to improve from 2010, when it ranked 109th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision programs.
It's going to be interesting to see how much control he takes as the potential heart and soul of the defense as the season draws nearer.