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Rebels’ QB Kenyon Oblad gaining early experience in spring practice

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L.E. Baskow

Liberty’s QB Kenyon Oblad (7) fights to break a tackle by Green Valley’s Jay Kakiva (55) during their high school football game on Thursday, September 28, 2017. .

Kenyon Oblad's transition to college is going well. He arrived at UNLV in January, and in the past few months he's gotten acclimated to life as a freshman. He's living on campus, where he says the food is better than expected, and he's getting used to the structure of college classes. And his parents still live only 10 minutes from his dorm room, so they're just a phone call away.

Oblad is no normal freshman, however. As the first ever early enrollee in the history of the UNLV football program, campus life is just part of the equation.

The 6-foot-3 quarterback has also been using the past three months to get his feet wet and prepare for his freshman season in 2018.

On the football side of things, Oblad is still finding his footing. He graduated from Liberty High School in December as the state's all-time leader in passing yards, and he threw for 2,699 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior, but that was then. Spring practice has been an entirely new, eye-opening experience for Oblad.

After Tuesday's practice in full pads, he listed the challenges of making the jump from high school stardom to Division I college football.

"Most of the throws here are deeper than in high school, because there are faster guys who can cover more ground in less amount of time," Oblad said. "The [route] combinations are different. I think the biggest thing for me is the reads. If the defense is lined up one way, you've got to adjust everything. So that's been the biggest thing for me."

Oblad has also had to adjust his approach to practice. As a record-setting recruit at Liberty, he was the focal point of the offense. At UNLV, he is a third-string quarterback fighting for reps. During Tuesday's practice, incumbent sophomore starter Armani Rogers took the majority of the snaps, with junior-college transfer Max Gilliam seeing most of the backup reps.

Oblad and redshirt freshman Marckell Grayson were limited to just a handful of snaps apiece during 11-on-11 work.

"It is different just going from starter to backup because you're getting less reps, but my freshman year at Liberty I had the same thing," Oblad said. "There were seniors ahead of me and I had to sit back and get less reps, so I'm used to it. I'm just glad to be here and getting any reps I can. I could be in high school not getting any [college] reps, so I'm just happy with the reps I'm getting."

Even though he's not taking every available snap, Oblad is still gaining valuable experience with every spring session. That's why head coach Tony Sanchez and offensive coordinator Barney Cotton wanted to get him on the team as soon as possible and approached him with the idea of enrolling early.

Sanchez said it takes a certain maturity level to make a smooth transition to college as an early enrollee, and that so far, Oblad has taken everything in stride.

"Considering that he should be on his way to lunch at Liberty right now, I think he's doing a really good job," Sanchez said. "The biggest thing is he's a really smart kid. I think he's comfortable with the environment now, I think he's comfortable with the team now. Those are things you get to do in the summertime with a bunch of guys coming in, but when you're an early guy you just jump right into the college atmosphere. It's tough sometimes. I think he's done a tremendous job. Today he looked really good, made some great throws. He has progressively gotten better through spring, so I'm really impressed with him and how he's handled it, maturity-wise."

Listed at a lean 185 pounds, Oblad may not throw a single pass in 2018. With Rogers entrenched as the starter, it may make sense for Oblad to redshirt this season and wait until 2019 to start his eligibility clock. Oblad said there haven't been any formal discussions with the coaching staff regarding his status.

Whether he makes his freshman debut in 2018 or 2019, Oblad expects to be prepared — in large part because of his early enrollment.

"I didn't realize how big an advantage it was, but it's a huge advantage," Oblad said. "I already know some of the offense and I've been able to build chemistry with some of the receivers and O-linemen. I've been able to get in the huddle and call plays with them and command the offense. I think it's good that I graduated early because this is something I wouldn't be able to get in the fall."

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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