Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- Boise State dominates the Mountain West’s preseason polls; UNLV selected 9th
- Rebels will have new football helmets for 2012 season
- UNLV football kickoff times set, including 3 day home games
- UNLV president: On-campus stadium looking like a reality, could be filled with more events than UNLV football
- Rebels football will play at Michigan in 2015 season
- Rebels need the summer to try to become a team with more than potential
- Navy cancels four-year series with UNLV football
- Having Marcus Sullivan back in the return game makes UNLV instantly better
- UNLV redshirt freshman QB Nick Sherry ready to compete for starting spot
- All UNLV Football Coverage
There’s a certain look successful football teams share. Part of it, for certain, is size. The bigger, the badder, if you know what I mean. But there’s more to it than that.
It’s confidence borne from hours of repetition and execution. It radiates off the program and creates an environment that’s as difficult to defeat as the team itself.
UNLV doesn’t have that look, not yet anyways. Coming off back-to-back two-win seasons, coach Bobby Hauck and a couple of players were the home team no one came to see Tuesday during the Mountain West football media day at the Cosmopolitan.
The media looked at UNLV and saw a ninth-place team with no player worthy of a preseason all-conference spot. The other teams likely saw a victory come fall.
In July, though, it doesn’t matter what outsiders see. They’re not the ones on campus while players sweat under the desert sun.
Hauck isn’t promising a bowl game or a victory in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon against UNR. But another two-win season would bring him to tears, Hauck said. And not because it could mean his job, though he is aware that most programs have tossed the five-year plan with new coaches for the three-year model.
It would be crushing because he looks at this team and knows that it’s actually capable of more.
“We’re better than that,” Hauck said. “I’m not sure we were a year ago.”
A year ago, UNLV was picked to finish second to last, and it did (score one for the media). That team started three freshmen on the offensive line, which may as well be a death sentence in football.
One of the Rebels’ problems over the past couple of years has been having to throw young players into the fire like that just to field a team. When everyone’s young, there’s no experience to be found.
UNLV hasn’t exactly turned the corner in that department — only three seniors are expected to be starters this year — but there are signs of improvement. Take that offensive line, for example. All five starters from last year are back.
“We know how to work together, and our knowledge of the game is just going to continue to improve,” said senior offensive lineman Doug Zismann.
Looking at the roster, Hauck said the Rebels are about 1 ½ deep at each position. Injuries, especially a rash of them, could be crippling, but with a little luck in that department, UNLV could make some improvements.
“We look like a Division I college football team,” Hauck said.
While not exactly high praise, that’s more than you could say for a lot of UNLV teams over the past two decades. With just three winning seasons since 1986, the process of positively changing the program is like turning around an oil tanker — it doesn’t just happen. It takes time and execution of a good plan.
As for the plan, Hauck believes his track record at Montana speaks loudly. The Grizzlies were a consistent power, and last offseason at least six of them — guys that Hauck recruited and coached at one time — were either drafted or invited to NFL training camps. So unless he suddenly forgot how to recruit, there’s reason to believe Hauck is capable of executing his plan.
You can see the beginnings of that plan in the Rebels’ size. Not only are guys getting bigger in the program, the most recent recruiting class shows that Hauck is getting guys who start with more size, too.
But size is only part of it. UNLV will be the underdog in almost every game this season because that’s still the way people look at them. That perception won’t change until the results change.
The Rebels don’t feel sorry for themselves. And they don’t blame anybody for doubting them. But there’s a little confidence around the program that wasn’t there in Hauck’s previous two seasons. To the outside world, there’s no reason for it to exist. Inside, though, they are patiently turning the tanker around, ready to take off in a new direction when the time is right.
“How many times have we gone out there over the last two years and the team on the other sidelines has said, ‘Wow, I don’t think we can beat those guys’?” Hauck said. “That probably hasn’t happened.
No one knows when that will be. The best they can tell you is it’s coming, and you’ll know it when you see it.