Las Vegas Sun

January 17, 2022

Currently: 55° — Complete forecast


Notebook: Former UCLA signee Maka happy to open fall camp at UNLV

After recommendation from Rick Neuheisel, Long Beach native likes his chances in Las Vegas

UNLV Fall Practice Begins

Justin M. Bowen

UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton runs drills during the first practice of fall camp on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2010, at Rebel Park on the UNLV Campus.

The college football coaching world is a small one, and thanks to it, UNLV opened its annual fall camp with a nice new addition.

Taniela Maka, who goes by "Tani," arrived on campus just this week and could turn out to be a nice late get for first-year coach Bobby Hauck as a nice youthful injection into a veteran linebacking corps.

A Long Beach, Calif., product, Maka originally signed with UCLA two years ago as a high school senior but couldn't qualify academically, leaving him in the dust for a year.

Colorado then showed some interest. West Coast power Southern Cal did, too, and even extended a scholarship offer.

"I didn't want to be in a situation with USC like I was in with UCLA," Maka said. "I don't know the staff over there, and (UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel) told me Bobby is a great coach."

Hauck, of course, was an assistant on Neuheisel's staffs at both Colorado and Washington. Neuheisel immediately began recruiting Maka and formed a bond with him when he arrived at UCLA two years ago, and Maka was able to trust him that going to UNLV was a sound move.

"He said coach Hauck was a great coach, loves football and takes care of his players," Maka said. "He could keep me in check."

Out of high school, Maka also had offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Hawaii, UNR, New Mexico and Washington. There was a reason for the heavy interest in the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder.

There's plenty of highlight film of Maka on YouTube showcasing his lateral speed, ability to make plays dropping back in coverage and knack for delivering big hits. Those high school clips were all Hauck and his staff had to go on when making their assessment.

As is the case for everyone in camp, Hauck said, Maka will have a chance to earn playing opportunity in camp.

Though full pads have yet to be busted out, Hauck likes what he's seen of Maka everywhere else.

"He runs well, he plays hard," Hauck said. "As I've gotten to know him a little more these last three or four days, he's got a great personality, a good guy. He should fit in well with our team."

Uneventful first day

The Rebels' first practice of the fall lasted roughly three hours and closely resembled the basic sessions conducted in the spring.

Without holding meetings before the 8 a.m. start, much of what is typically covered off the field was done on it.

"It wasn't maybe as mentally sharp as had we'd had time to meet," Hauck said. "It was all right."

"We'll get on (planning for Sept. 4 opponent) Wisconsin at some point about 10 days into this. This first 10 days will be more like spring ball."

Clayton fine with competition

In the past two seasons, when senior Omar Clayton was healthy, there was little doubt that he was UNLV's starting quarterback.

Now, with a new coaching staff and a new offense in place, he's back competing for that privilege.

"Honestly, it isn't a big difference," Clayton said following Saturday morning's practice. "Every day, you have to come out and practice to get better, and it's the same thing when you're competing. It's just the fact that your name isn't at the top of a piece of paper.

"We just got introduced to this offense last summer, so it's not like I can fall back on my experience. Every day, it's guaranteed that any one of us will do something wrong, just because we don't know the offense in and out. But the one thing we can do is make mistakes then not make them again."

The other top candidate for starting honors in Hauck's more balanced offensive approach is junior Mike Clausen, while redshirt freshman Caleb Herring is also expected to see snaps with the first-team offense periodically.

More new faces

Two more players made their first appearances at Rebel Park on Saturday.

Mike Horsey, a Baltimore, Md., native, is a walk-on receiver who came out sporting No. 17 and did some light drill work.

Also showing up, but not in uniform, was 6-foot-7, 290-pound offensive lineman Brett Boyko, who hails from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, up north of the border.

Boyko was originally going to grayshirt this season, but with freshman running back Dionza Bradford now grayshirting instead, Boyko arrived on campus just before the start of fall camp.

Play of the day

The day's top highlight was turned in on its final play.

Freshman kicker Nolan Kohorst — a Green Valley High grad — was attempting a 43-yard field goal to cap 2-minute offense drills, but fellow freshman and Vegas native Sidney Hodge, who grayshirted last year after graduating from Palo Verde, got a perfect jump on the snap off of the left corner, shooting in and laying out to block the attempt.

Next up

The Rebels will practice again on Sunday, starting at 8 a.m., at Rebel Park.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy