Ryan Greene/Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009 | 2:30 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss UNLV's home football opener, which takes place on Saturday at 7 p.m. out at Sam Boyd Stadium against Sacramento State. Plus, some Rebels hoops offseason updates on the likes of Brice Massamba and Derrick Jasper and a little bit more insight into UNLV's ongoing search for a new athletics director.
Each Monday, UNLV football coach Mike Sanford meets with the media to discuss last weekend's action and next weekend's matchup. So each week the Sun will bring you notes and quotes discussing both.
During his first weekly meeting of the season with the media Monday afternoon, UNLV coach Mike Sanford had the look of a calm, relaxed man.
His hands were behind his head as he leaned back at his desk, his feet were covered casually with a pair of loafers sans socks.
He doesn't want his team taking on that same look once Saturday's opener against Sacramento State rolls around.
"I think the thing that's obviously concerning is the fact that — and we definitely let our players know this — they went into Fort Collins and took Colorado State to the end of the game," he said. "We need to start this off with a win."
In their second game of the 2008 season, the Hornets lost 23-20 to the Rams, giving CSU and first-year coach Steve Fairchild all they could handle.
The Rebels cannot afford a slip-up right out of the gate against an FCS opponent in a season where bowl hopes are present, especially when considering that the following Saturday has a nationally ranked Oregon State club coming to town.
The toughest thing right now for UNLV as far as Sacramento State is concerned is that the Hornets are not quite a known quantity.
"They have a lot of junior college kids from California, they have three quarterbacks that all could play," Sanford said of an opponent with 28 junior college transfers on its roster. "As far as their scrimmage, all three played last Saturday. Last year, they were a little higher percentage of a run offense than a pass offense. In their scrimmage, they threw it 41 times and ran it 27 times, which is a little different balance than they had in the past.
"They're a 4-3 defense, and a little bit of an unknown. I think they have four guys coming back on defense."
Delving into the depth chart
UNLV released its first depth chart of the regular season over the weekend, and obviously most of the focus was on who would be starting in the secondary.
When it all shook out, sophomore Deante' Purvis and junior Quinton Pointer are listed atop the heap at cornerback, while sophomore Chris Jones, senior Marquel Martin, junior Travis Dixon and junior Alex De Giacomo are still flexible where the safeties are concerned.
Purvis and Pointer beat out juco transfers Mike Grant and Warren Zeigler, who both looked impressive throughout fall camp.
"I think it's gonna be really good for us in that regard of putting players in a position where they're under pressure to perform, where we can find out a lot more about some guys," Sanford said. "I think Deante' obviously has come on and developed into — last year he was a fast guy trying to play corner who made some plays on special teams. He's become a corner, and the exciting thing about it is he can continue to get a lot better. Then Quinton is healthy. He doesn't look like Inspector Gadget anymore. He looks fast and he's playing well. The good problem we've got is that Mike Grant and Warren Zeigler are really good players, too."
Sanford's reference to Pointer has to do with the injuries he's overcome in the past year, including an elbow dislocation last fall that threw off his entire 2008 season, then shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, which kept him out the entire spring.
"I think what you'd like to do is see just, in general, I don't know about separation, but guys rising to the top," Sanford added. "Definite, clear starters. I think right now, in the depth chart we released, it's regular or normal personnel. I think our two best corners are the guys we listed. The safeties are up in the air and we have to see how that develops."
Several others — such as senior Terrence Lee and sophomore Will Chandler — will see action in the secondary when nickel and dime packages are in play.
And with the kicking duties ...
For the time being, senior Kyle Watson will handle all field goal duties. That is subject to change down the road.
A year ago, Watson handled extra points and field goals under 40 yards, while junior Ben Jaekle took care of kickoffs and lengthier three-point tries.
Jaekle is finally back from June back surgery and will assume kickoff responsibilities right off the bat. He could start kicking field goals in games early on, depending on his progress.
For the time being, though, the staff has enough faith in Watson to take care of all field goals, having shown nice consistency and good range throughout fall camp.
Expect to see several tailbacks
Highly-touted freshman running back Bradley Randle was not one of four names listed on the depth chart at the position, but don't be surprised if No. 28 gets a few reps during Saturday's contest.
"I think he's gonna play," Sanford said when asked about the possibility of Randle redshirting in 2009.
And just because junior Channing Trotter was named the starter doesn't mean the title is set in stone.
Senior Chris Brogdon would be the most likely candidate to see time behind him, followed by sophomore C.J. Cox, depending on the status of his healing hamstring. Redshirt freshman Imari Thompson suffered a concussion last week and may be held back this weekend
Sanford's take on the 20-hour rule
The Michigan football program is under fire this week and creating headlines, as second-year coach Rich Rodriguez is being accused of breaking NCAA rules by having players exceed the 20-hour limit of football activities allowed per week during the season.
Sanford insisted that his program stays within the 20-hour limit each week and keeps records along the way to file with the NCAA, and he said the staff he was on at Utah under Urban Meyer was the same way.
"It's hard to do, no question," Sanford said. "I think it's a good rule, I really do. They are student-athletes, they are going to college, we do expect them to get a degree and do well enough academically to stay eligible.
"I don't think the 20-hour rule during the season is as difficult as the eight-hour rule in the offseason. Because there are times when you just want to be around your team more so you know what's going on in their lives, because you're held accountable for how they act on the field and what they do off the field, so you want to be around them more to know what's going on in their lives and have an influence on them if you can."
There are no major rule changes expected to come into play as the new season begins this week, but that doesn't mean there won't be some.
Sanford said the officials will crack down more this year on players hitting others above the shoulders and leading with the crown of the helmet.
Also, there will be more strict enforcement of post-touchdown celebrations that result in a delay of the game, stemming from last year's controversial call against Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who threw a ball in the air after scoring a late touchdown against BYU, drawing a flag in the process.
Games for Sanford to watch
All college football players and coaches are fans, too, meaning that this weekend is exciting not only because their respective seasons are getting underway.
"I can't wait for all of it," Sanford said. "Boise State-Oregon is interesting to me. I think Utah-Utah State is interesting, too."
Sanford will be able to watch both of those games, as they'll take place Thursday night, but viewing Saturday's BYU-Oklahoma matchup will be a different story.
That one kicks off at 4 p.m. local time, while UNLV will head from South Point — its team hotel prior to home games — to Sam Boyd Stadium at around 3:30 p.m.
Stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels the rest of this week (and the season, for that matter) for all of your UNLV football coverage, including stories, blogs, photos, videos and live in-game coverage.