Sunday, April 8, 2018 | 2 a.m.
With just three practices remaining before the team’s annual spring showcase next weekend, the Rebels are getting serious about making every session count.
On Saturday, that meant 45 minutes of 11-on-11 football, in full pads with live tackling and a crew of referees.
After about 60 snaps of real football — or as close as can be approximated in April — head coach Tony Sanchez was happy with the level of competition. The offense produced big plays on the ground and through the air, the defense came up with an interception, and for the most part it was a cleanly played scrimmage.
Sanchez praised his team’s “workmanlike” approach to the spring practice season, and to Saturday’s scrimmage in particular.
“It was good,” Sanchez said. “It’s a good give and take. You like the turnovers the defense created, you don’t like that the offense gave them up. You like the big plays the offense had, you don’t like that the defense gave it up. Honestly, you go back in, you’ve got to watch film on it. You’re going to see some really good individual effort, you’re going to see some things that need to be corrected.”
The only player wearing a black non-contact jersey during the live scrimmage was sophomore quarterback Armani Rogers. After battling through a concussion last season, Sanchez didn’t want his starting QB to take any unnecessary hits.
“When you have a dual-threat guy that’s going to carry the ball 10 to 15 times a game, there’s no reason to get extra hits on him right now,” Sanchez said. “He’s going to get them in the fall. It’s just the nature of the way we play the quarterback spot with him. Those other guys haven’t had live shots, so they need to play some Division-I football and get hit a little bit.”
Rogers said he is feeling 100 percent healthy, and that as spring practice enters its final week, he already feels like a different player than he was at the end of the 2017 season.
“I’m becoming more of a leader,” Rogers said. “Just being able to recognize defenses as quick as I can, knowing the offense like the back of my hand, just putting everything together and just working on my whole craft from accuracy to running the ball to just putting everything together.”
Rogers ran for 780 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman, and passed for 1,471 yards and six touchdowns while completing 52.4 percent of his passes.
The Rebels will count on Rogers to deliver victories in the fall, and the last three weeks of spring practice have left little doubt that he is now the face of the UNLV football program.
“You’re seeing leadership,” Sanchez said. “The biggest thing is consistency. The other day he struggled throwing the ball a little bit, today he threw the ball well and he looked good doing it. You’re seeing a guy that just has a different approach.”
With Rogers in place, the remaining spring practices will be about fine-tuning the pieces around him.
Rogers is focused on maximizing the final week of spring practice and using it as a springboard for the rest of the offseason.
“Just fixing the little things we’re messing up on,” Rogers said. “It’s getting everything to the T. It’s like a puzzle right now, we’re just putting all the pieces together, and by the time the spring game comes and fall camp comes we want to have all the pieces together.”