UNLV football:

Rebels slowly starting to look like the team they want to become

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck is still hard at work to turn the program around in his third season in Las Vegas


Sam Morris

UNLV head football coach Bobby Hauck takes part in the Mountain West Conference football media day Tuesday, July 24, 2012.

MWC Football Media Day 2012

UNLV head football coach Bobby Hauck takes part in the Mountain West Conference football media day Tuesday, July 24, 2012. Launch slideshow »

There’s a certain look successful football teams share. Part of it, for certain, is size. The bigger, the badder, if you know what I mean. But there’s more to it than that.

It’s confidence borne from hours of repetition and execution. It radiates off the program and creates an environment that’s as difficult to defeat as the team itself.

UNLV doesn’t have that look, not yet anyways. Coming off back-to-back two-win seasons, coach Bobby Hauck and a couple of players were the home team no one came to see Tuesday during the Mountain West football media day at the Cosmopolitan.

The media looked at UNLV and saw a ninth-place team with no player worthy of a preseason all-conference spot. The other teams likely saw a victory come fall.

In July, though, it doesn’t matter what outsiders see. They’re not the ones on campus while players sweat under the desert sun.

Hauck isn’t promising a bowl game or a victory in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon against UNR. But another two-win season would bring him to tears, Hauck said. And not because it could mean his job, though he is aware that most programs have tossed the five-year plan with new coaches for the three-year model.

It would be crushing because he looks at this team and knows that it’s actually capable of more.

“We’re better than that,” Hauck said. “I’m not sure we were a year ago.”

A year ago, UNLV was picked to finish second to last, and it did (score one for the media). That team started three freshmen on the offensive line, which may as well be a death sentence in football.

One of the Rebels’ problems over the past couple of years has been having to throw young players into the fire like that just to field a team. When everyone’s young, there’s no experience to be found.

UNLV hasn’t exactly turned the corner in that department — only three seniors are expected to be starters this year — but there are signs of improvement. Take that offensive line, for example. All five starters from last year are back.

“We know how to work together, and our knowledge of the game is just going to continue to improve,” said senior offensive lineman Doug Zismann.

Looking at the roster, Hauck said the Rebels are about 1 ½ deep at each position. Injuries, especially a rash of them, could be crippling, but with a little luck in that department, UNLV could make some improvements.

“We look like a Division I college football team,” Hauck said.

While not exactly high praise, that’s more than you could say for a lot of UNLV teams over the past two decades. With just three winning seasons since 1986, the process of positively changing the program is like turning around an oil tanker — it doesn’t just happen. It takes time and execution of a good plan.

As for the plan, Hauck believes his track record at Montana speaks loudly. The Grizzlies were a consistent power, and last offseason at least six of them — guys that Hauck recruited and coached at one time — were either drafted or invited to NFL training camps. So unless he suddenly forgot how to recruit, there’s reason to believe Hauck is capable of executing his plan.

You can see the beginnings of that plan in the Rebels’ size. Not only are guys getting bigger in the program, the most recent recruiting class shows that Hauck is getting guys who start with more size, too.

But size is only part of it. UNLV will be the underdog in almost every game this season because that’s still the way people look at them. That perception won’t change until the results change.

The Rebels don’t feel sorry for themselves. And they don’t blame anybody for doubting them. But there’s a little confidence around the program that wasn’t there in Hauck’s previous two seasons. To the outside world, there’s no reason for it to exist. Inside, though, they are patiently turning the tanker around, ready to take off in a new direction when the time is right.

“How many times have we gone out there over the last two years and the team on the other sidelines has said, ‘Wow, I don’t think we can beat those guys’?” Hauck said. “That probably hasn’t happened.

“Some day.”

No one knows when that will be. The best they can tell you is it’s coming, and you’ll know it when you see it.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or taylor.bern@lasvegassun.com. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. If this is another 2 win season, Hauck is probably done at UNLV. I'm typically on the fence when coaches do bad their first year or so, and see some improvement, but this season there must be some leaps and bounds in the improvement department cause moral victories just aren't gonna cut it anymore. I think starting freshmen last season was fine, to get them prepared for this season, but that's it now, and at least a few more wins need to come.

  2. All of you forget BH had a morale issue on his hands these past two years. Need I say a pouting Philip Payne? The prima donnas are gone, thank god. The ballerinas are gone. UNLV now has a nascent FOOTBALL team.

  3. When it comes to UNLV football could we please earn more then two wins, give us fewer heartbreaking losses, give us more students, fans, and spectators in the stands... that would be nice.

  4. Hopefully The Rebel's will do better this year

  5. Heretic, what you failed to see was that Sanford did not do his job in recruiting. He left the cupboards bare. His last season as Head Coach had only seniors. He played that season for a job but he didnt play that last season for a program. Before you blame Coach Hauck for every ill this program has remember a program builds for the future, not the present. That's why every successful team has a successful program. Hauck is building that program. Sorry you didn't get the instant gratification you want. Go REBELS!

  6. Ultimately, it is the PROGRAM I follow. SUU or any team that has upper classmen that are playing 18 year olds has a good chance of winning. they probably thought the game was a lock prior to kickoff as 18 year olds do. The coach or the fans do not win games, they are won on the field by young athletes. I would say that if we played them two times, the second wouldnt have been the same as the first. If you can't see the good things that are happening on Maryland Pkwy, you are not a fan. So, stop drinking your own "kool-aid" and see what's happening over there. There are great things about to happen and I believe that Coach Hauck will be instrumental in achieving them. Go REBELS!

  7. Coach Hauck was hired to coach the football team. He has the right to invent the program in his own image. If he chooses to focus on freshman and bring the program up with underclassman that is his right. Now 2 years later we should start to see the benefits of that. I don't really count his first year as it was a horrific schedule and with all the freshman and injuries, it was surprising that they actually won 2 games.

    The 2012 schedule is set up really nice, especially with 4 home games to start out with. If we can win at least 2 of those we should finish with 5, maybe 6 wins. That would be considered good progress. I know it won't satisfy those who are unrealistic but it will keep Coach his job.

  8. No doubt Rebel football has been plain horrible of late. Being out of games so quickly so many blowouts and the Reno beatings its hard to imagine things getting much worse. Not asking much 3 conference wins and 4 or 5 overall and competitive games finish the season with some momentum.....Lets go Coach

  9. I can see only one possible win on this years schedule, New Mexico and that is iffy? The search is already on for the next miserable Coach @UNLV! You heard it hear!

  10. I truly believe UNLV will start to win some games under Coach Hauck. He had to get the right players in for his system in order for this to happen. So this year I believe the dividends will start to pay off.