Thursday, March 18, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
The tailback had an 18-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against Wyoming in the fourth game of the season and added two other runs of more than 10 yards in the initial half. Then, he was unheard of for virtually the rest of the game.
It’s not that Trotter didn’t run hard. It’s that coaches abandoned calling running plays.
UNLV turned the ball over four times in falling 30-27 to start a four-game losing streak. A win against Wyoming, however, would have put the Rebels at 3-1 overall and full of confidence heading into the meat of their schedule.
UNLV eventually recorded its ninth straight losing season and coach Mike Sanford was fired with one year left on his contract.
Enter new coach Bobby Hauck.
Hauck’s version of the spread offense will have more emphasis on the running game, meaning the rising senior Trotter will receive his chance. While no spots in the lineup have been won in this the first week of spring practice, the 5-foot-8, 200-pound Trotter is the Rebels’ leading returning rusher with 541 yards and nine touchdowns.
He expects UNLV to run the ball 25 to 30 times a game next fall. And he is working hard to make sure it’s his number that is called.
“Obviously this offense is geared more to what I like to do, and that’s run the football,” Trotter said. “The more carries I receive, the better groove I can get in.”
Trotter only had 114 carries last year, which was also a team best. The year before, Frank Summers was under-utilized in only rushing 183 times for 740 yards.
That could change under Hauck.
Hauck said he is striving for offensive balance and will let the situation of the game dictate how the plays are called. If UNLV is behind, for instance, there will obviously be more passing plays.
Regardless, he said, there is a basic expectation for all players on offense. Running backs must protect the quarterback on passing plays, and wide receivers are expected to be blocking down field on running plays, Hauck said.
“(That is) if they want to touch the ball,” the coach said.
Hauck, still refusing to single out any particular player, praised his crew of running backs for their performance at Wednesday’s practice. Backs like Trotter, junior-to-be C.J. Cox and red-shirt freshman Bradley Randle each received carries during a drill at the end of the two-hour practice. Several running plays went between the tackles.
“I came here to play running back,” said Trotter, who had a season-best 102 yards and three touchdowns against Sacramento State last year. “Getting carries is what any running back wants.”
Cox, who gained just 175 yards on 50 carries last year, said the new coaching staff has given him a fresh start.
“Hauck brings a certain energy to the field,” Cox said.
Next practice in pads
UNLV will practice in pads for the first time Thursday. The first two practices have been in helmets only, per NCAA regulations.
“We will get a better feel for them (Thursday) and Saturday when we put pads on and play a little,” Hauck said.
Hauck has opened all positions to competition and says there have been times when a starter from the previous season loses his job, and never regains it.
“Some days the offense will win. Some days the defense will win,” Hauck said. “We have to go out and compete.”
Former No.1 draft pick visits Rebs
Steve Emtman, the first pick in the 1992 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, was at Rebel Park Wednesday for practice. Emtman, a defensive lineman, played for the University of Washington, where Hauck coached from 1999 to 2002.
Emtman said the Rebels are headed in the right direction under Hauck.
“UNLV has a good group of coaches. They are fantastic,” Emtman said. “They are going to be aggressive and get those guys to play hard.”