Long Scrimmage Not Short On Action
April 11, 2008
LAS VEGAS - With just one week until the annual Scarlet vs. Gray Spring Game, the UNLV football team staged its longest scrimmage in recent memory on Friday, starting out in the heat of the afternoon and ending up in the chill of evening at Rebel Park.
Coaches put the squad through a 27-period practice and scrimmage in front of a healthy crowd on campus and produced highlights on both sides of the football.
The Rebel who had the strongest showing of the scrimmage on the offense was senior wide receiver Renan Saint Preux (Immokalee, FL/Immokalee HS), who made three outstanding catches, including one for a touchdown. He started the evening by making an acrobatic reception down the left side line that went for 36 yards, and then had a nice catch-and-run that covered 29 yards. He capped his evening by hauling in an 11-yard pass from Omar Clayton (Normal, IL/Normal Community HS) in a red zone series, giving Saint Preux his trio of receptions for 66 yards.
"It was a good night," said UNLV head coach Mike Sanford. "We stayed healthy so we got a lot of reps in for our quarterbacks. We got a ton done tonight and had no major injuries. We did a lot of special teams work. We were live on kickoff, kickoff return and punt as well as PAT and field goals. We wanted to wait until this week to get to work on that. Malo Taumua (Honolulu, HI/Aiea HS) and Jacob Hales (Las Vegas/Las Vegas HS) were creating havoc again tonight like they have been doing all spring.
"Saint Preux kind of came out of no where and did a lot of good things tonight," Sanford said. "Overall on offense we were able to get the quarterbacks a lot of reps and also get a lot of red zone work in. That's where we struggled last year so we worked a lot on it tonight."
Clayton started off slowly but finished the scrum by completing scoring strikes on his final two pass attempts, the one to Saint Preux and an eight-yard pass to Channing Trotter (Mesa, AZ/Red Mountain HS). Fellow sophomore signal caller Travis Dixon (Chandler, AZ/Hamilton HS) made some nice plays with his feet while freshman Mike Clausen (Riverside, CA/John W. North HS) twice finished red zone series with rushing scores.
On the ground Frank "The Tank" Summers (Oakland, CA/Skyline HS) carried the ball six times and rumbled for 42 yards, including a 22-yard scamper that he punctuated by running over a couple would-be tacklers in the secondary.
Defensively, the line continued to dominate the proceedings while linebacker Ronnie Paulo (Las Vegas/Western HS) also stood out with three solo tackles. Daryl Forte had the only interception on the night, picking off Dixon.
GETTING THEIR KICKS
Sophomore Ben Jaekle (Las Vegas/Bonanza HS) and junior Kyle Watson (Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Alta Loma HS) both got a lot of work in Friday's scrimmage, which featured a heavy dose of special teams. The pair may be used as a combination to replace graduated place-kicker Sergio Aguayo. Two or even three jobs may be open: kickoff man, which Watson filled last year, PAT/short-range place-kicker and long-range field-goal booter.
Jaekle turned in one of the highlights of the long night when, after Watson missed on two straight 50-yard field-goal attempts, Jaekle calmly slammed his 50-yard attempt right down the middle and with plenty of distance to spare.
ALUMNI ON HAND
Friday was also the annual Rebel football alumni gathering and there was a nice mix of young and old lettermen who once wore the Scarlet & Gray. At least 30 former players were on hand either for the meal and staff social earlier in the evening or for the scrimmage itself.
"It was a great event and a lot of fun," said Sanford. "We kind of had some older players and some recent players, which is just awesome."
Some of those on hand at Rebel Park were two-time All-American Jamaal Brimmer (2001-04), Hunkie Cooper (1990-91), Bill Casey (1968), Joe Haro (1999-2002), Jay Staggs (2003-06), Larry Croom (2002-03) and Jerry Reynolds (1990-93).
Two former players who are also fathers of current Rebel gridders were also in attendance: Art Plunkett (1977-80), whose son Richie Plunkett (Henderson/Las Vegas HS) is vying to start at right tackle this fall; and Bob Braner (1973-74), whose son Eric Braner (Las Vegas/Del Sol HS) is a long-snapper on the team.
THE BLACK JERSEY
Continuing the dominance of THE BLACK JERSEY by the UNLV defense was junior safety Daryl Forte (Culver City, CA/Culver City HS), who earned the jersey following a strong practice on Wednesday. Also in the running for THE BLACK JERSEY was junior offensive lineman Joe Hawley (Yorba Linda, CA/Esperanza HS), Summers and Taumua. Overall seven of the nine Rebels who have earned THE BLACK JERSEY have come from the defensive side of the ball. THE BLACK JERSEY is worn by the previous practice's top performer and the coaching staff votes on the winner.
UNLV's next practice will be Monday (April 14) at Rebel Park and is scheduled to last from approximately 4:00-6:00 p.m. (PDT). All practices this spring are free and open to the public but visitors must stay in the designated viewing areas on the grass practice field.
Fans are also invited to attend the FREE Scarlet vs. Gray spring game on April 18 at Sam Boyd Stadium from approximately 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.