UNLV football:

Rebels end spring practice happy with what they accomplished

Running back Adonis Smith was a bright spot in the team’s Spring Showcase on Friday, the final event before the team breaks for summer

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry signs an autograph for Mateo Stender after their spring football game Friday, April 12, 2013.

UNLV 2013 Spring Football Game

UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry hands off to Adonis Smith during their spring football game Friday, April 12, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Deprived of any game action as he sat out a year following his transfer from Northwestern, junior running back Adonis Smith felt nervous heading into Friday’s Spring Showcase. The scrimmage drew 2,100 fans, which is more than Smith has played in front of at any point in the last year. That absence made Friday seem even more important to him.

“It felt like a game to me,” Smith said.

He played like it, too, amassing 71 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries in a 13-0 Scarlet victory over Gray at Rebel Park. However, he also ruined a nice gain with a lost fumble. That was what UNLV coach Bobby Hauck seemed to remember most afterward, though the fourth-year Rebel leader wasn’t all gloom and doom about the end of spring practice.

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UNLV running back Adonis Smith loses the ball after being hit by Fred Wilson during their spring football game Friday, April 12, 2013.

“A lot of smiles on both players and coaches faces,” Hauck said. “I think everybody feels we had a great session and we have great optimism for next season.”

The scrimmage itself was about 60 plays that went well with the offense and defense taking turns making some good plays. Plus, the Rebels didn’t sustain any major injuries over the 15 practices, something any coach would be happy about.

Smith’s solid performance highlights the overarching theme of UNLV’s spring practice this year, because he only got so much work as a result of Tim Cornett’s injury. Four key offensive players — Cornett, receiver Devante Davis and offensive linemen Brett Boyko and Robert Waterman — missed all of spring while recovering from offseason surgeries.

While it’s always better to have guys healthy than standing on the sidelines, that particular group has a decent amount of experience already. And the best part about the situation, Hauck said, is that the fill-in guys have some experience, too.

Hauck raved about the work Brian Roth did on the offensive line throughout spring. Like Smith, Roth got more work because of the absentees. What’s different about that from past seasons is Roth, also like Smith, is a junior.

Previously when the Rebels would have to go to the bench to replace a guy they’re doing so with a freshman, sometimes even replacing one first-year player with another. It’s a sign of progress, Hauck said, that the fill-ins are upperclassmen.

Other highlights from the scrimmage included linebacker Trent Langham registering five tackles, including three for loss, and quarterback Nick Sherry’s 7-of-10 completions, although he also threw an interception.

Just two days after setting up a brutal offense vs. defense end-of-practice drill that created conflict between the two sides, Hauck’s message to his players after the scrimmage ended was to start channeling that anger on Minnesota, the Rebels’ opening opponent on Aug. 29. The coaches tried to make spring as physically demanding as possible in order to set up an easier summer and fall.

“We’ll have physical practices because that’s what we do, but in terms of the live work it’ll be more geared towards who we’re going to play than each other,” Hauck said.

The players are just fine with that. The victories in practice and scrimmages don’t count for anything. In order to prove themselves they’ve got to go out and beat somebody else.

“I don’t like being on a losing team, nobody does,” Smith said. “I think everybody in that locker room just wants to win. That’s the focus that we have going into the season.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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