Rebel Forces Unite|
Aug. 7, 2008
LAS VEGAS - For the first time during camp the UNLV football team practiced as a full unit, with veterans and rookies going through 22 five-minute periods on a hot morning at Rebel Park.
"It is great to have the team together," UNLV head coach Mike Sanford said. "I really like our tempo and attitude out there on the field right now."
The Rebels ran through each period crisply as the benefits of the split-squad practices showed with rookies knowing where to go with a feel of what to expect during each drill. Thursday also was an opportunity for several veterans who missed spring football to practice as a full team for the first time since last fall. Offensive linemen Johan Asiata (Kalihi, HI/Yuba College), John Gianninoto (Tucson, AZ/Catalina Foothills HS) and Richie Plunkett (Henderson, NV/Las Vegas HS), along with linebacker Starr Fuimaono (Chula Vista, CA/Bonita Vista HS) were just some of the players who had to sit out spring football due to injury.
"It is exciting to watch the new players mix in with the veterans for the first time," Sanford said. "We are so far ahead of where we were at this point last year, especially getting guys back and practicing after they missed the spring."
UNLV held just a single practice today, as the players will spend the rest of afternoon and evening attending the UNLV Experience, a series of meetings and classes to educate the Rebels on issues such as gambling.
"This is something that we do every year to educate our players on several issues they will face both on and off the field," Sanford said. "This will help our players avoid the pitfalls that some college student-athletes unfortunately find themselves in."
STRIVING FOR PERFECTION
At the end of Thursday's practice the Rebels were introduced to a new drill called the `Perfection Drill', designed to eliminate mental errors such as false start and offside penalties.
Sanford separated the offensive and defensive units and both squads ran plays and if one of the 11 didn't do their job to perfection, the result was extra conditioning at the end of the drill. Now that the entire team is practicing together, the drill will become a regular ending to each day's workout.
"The whole purpose is to eliminate penalties and to get our football team to run each play to perfection and get everyone to do their job all the time," Sanford said. "We are working toward perfection, but we are not nearly there yet."
WISELET RETURNS IT
One of the highlights of Thursday's session was near the end of practice when junior safety Wiselet Rouzard (Immokalee, FL/Immokalee HS) returned an interception 15 yards for a touchdown. The offense was coming out of its own end zone and Rouzard stepped in front of a pass from Omar Clayton (Normal, IL/Normal Community HS) and ran to pay dirt.
COMPETITION HEATING UP
The first day of full team practice on a balmy morning signified the heating up of several position battles that Sanford and his staff will be closely evaluating through camp.
There is stiff competition at cornerback where Geoffery Howard (San Diego, CA/Grossmont) is entrenched at one spot, but with the injury to Quinton Pointer (Cape Coral, FL/Mariner HS), the second, third and fourth spots are wide open, with junior Lafayette Fletcher (Anaheim, CA/Morningside HS) and freshman Will Chandler (Los Angeles, CA/Birmingham HS) pushing for playing time in the defensive backfield.
The offensive and defensive lines return a plethora of talent and experience, along with talented newcomers, meaning players will be pushing each other for starting spots as well as playing time on a daily basis.
"We have just started evaluating the cornerbacks, and there is a lot of competition there," Sanford said. "We are also much deeper along the offensive and defensive lines this year than in previous years."
Frank `The Tank' Summers (Oakland, CA/Laney College) is entrenched at the starting tailback position and All-MWC standouts Casey Flair (Anchorage, AK/East HS) and Ryan Wolfe (Santa Clarita, CA/Hart HS) return as the best pass-catching duo in the league. Who backs that trio up is where things get interesting on the depth chart. At running back Channing Trotter (Mesa, AZ/Red Mountain HS) and David Peeples (North Las Vegas, NV/Cheyenne HS) will be in the mix, as will newcomer Imari Thompson (DeSoto, TX/Cedar Hill HS). And with the Rebels deploying four receivers at defenses nearly every play, there will be plenty of pass-catching opportunities to go along with the production of Flair and Wolfe. Senior wide outs Gerold Rodriguez (Los Angeles, CA/Venice HS) and Renan Saint Preux (Immokalee FL/Immokalee HS), juniors Rodelin Anthony (Immokalee FL/Immokalee HS) and Jerriman Robinson (Rialto, CA/Rialto HS) and newcomers Michael Johnson (Suisun, CA/Rodriguez HS) and Phillip Payne (Las Vegas, NV/Western HS), are all vying for the final two receiving spots.
"One of the things we want to make sure with Frank is that we keep him healthy and make sure other backs get some carries to keep him fresh," Sanford said. "In regards to the receivers, those two guys (Flair and Wolfe) are special players and they provide so much to the team. Behind those two there are a lot of talented guys who will be competing against each other."
UNLV will be in full pads for the first time on Friday, as the entire team will go through a 22-period practice at Rebel Park slated to run from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. All practices this week are open to the public.