Tuesday, April 10, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- UNLV football’s spring depth chart doesn’t provide any clues at the quarterback spot
- Running game a positive out of the Rebels’ first spring football scrimmage
- Dionza Bradford’s departure leaves a hole in UNLV’s backfield
- Having Marcus Sullivan back in the return game makes UNLV instantly better
- With eligibility issues almost fixed, Dre Crawford could help upgrade the UNLV defense
- UNLV redshirt freshman QB Nick Sherry ready to compete for starting spot
- Mark your calendars: UNLV’s 2012 football schedule officially set with four home games to open season
- Funding plan for new UNLV stadium still relies on tax infusion
- UNLV coach Bobby Hauck preaches the importance of reading to students during Nevada Reading Week
- All UNLV Football Coverage
The junior cornerback was singing “Changes,” a 1992 song by 2Pac that comments on society’s social and racial flaws and the necessity to correct them. The Rebels' goals aren’t nearly that large, but Hodge and the defensive backfield will need some changes of their own this year after finishing as the last-ranked pass defense in the conference the past two seasons.
Like the rest of the team, the group is young and inexperienced. Hodge is the elder statesman of the projected starters, which also includes sophomore cornerback Kenneth Penny, sophomore strong safety Tajh Hasson and freshman free safety Peni Vea.
The three former players all made some contributions last year, none bigger than Hodge. He finished sixth on the team in total tackles and led the squad with eight pass breakups.
“A lot of them have played some, so that should lend itself to hopefully some good things,” said UNLV coach Bobby Hauck, who added that he’s tired of talking about the team’s inexperience.
It’s a fair point, especially considering there’s not much he can do about it right now. In spring it’s impossible to know exactly how some of the younger guys will respond in real games, so there aren’t really answers.
There are, however, some clues, and Vea, the biggest safety at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, has provided those.
“He looks the part and he’s done a lot of good things,” Hauck said. “… There’s some things that are confusing to him at times, but I’ve got high hopes for him.”
Vea said the biggest thing for him in practice has been the ability to slow the game down. When the ball is snapped his instinct is to let his athleticism take over and make the play, but that often puts him out of position.
Defensive backs coach J.D. Williams helped him learn to take a step back and let the play come to him.
“Before, my head would just shift, I was too quick to do things,” Vea said. “Now it’s slow down, read it, wait till it opens and make a play from there.”
Vea said the way he’s able to do that is to wait for each one of his keys to the play and take a cue from that. For example, that means seeing first where the tight end is blocking and then reacting to that instead of just sprinting off the snap into his own world.
Hodge said he’s seen the progression in Vea’s game.
“He’s in the right spot at the right time,” Hodge said.
After a week off for spring break, Monday was UNLV’s first practice in April. The Rebels went without pads, but they will put them on for the remaining five practices of the spring schedule.
In the remaining time, Hodge said, the group’s goal is to continue to become smarter football players. Weights and reading the playbook are just as important as what they do on the practice field.
“We’re all in the film room as much as we can,” Hodge said.
And when they do step on the practice field, the hope is that that work results in more tipped passes, more coverage sacks and good tackling from the last line of defense.
“We’re going to get a lot of chances to tackle and do those things these next two weeks and we need to take advantage of it,” Hauck said.
That 2Pac song samples the 1986 hit “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range. To many, getting beat by the pass is just the way it is for UNLV football.
That’s why they’ve got to start making changes.