Coaches corner: Mackovic on the Rebels

It may have been an off week, but that doesn't mean Coach John Mackovic doesn't have something to say. The coach has been scouting the UNLV Rebels and realizes that they are a very talented team. Coach Mackovic addressed the media and discussed the problems the Rebels pose.

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QUESTION: How does UNLV compare to the other teams that you have played this season?

John Mackovic: "UNLV will be the best of the three teams that we have played to date. They are very athletic, they move well, they challenge you, and they have good size and speed. They return many talented players on both sides of the ball, and they have one of the most athletic defenses that we have seen."

QUESTION: They seem to have a lot of speed on defense, is this a major concern?

MACKOVIC: "They incorporate a little of what I would call the 'Deion Sanders concept.' They have one particular cornerback, Kevin Thomas, who will lock horns and get up and play bump-and-run coverage and take one particular wide receiver out of the game. They are using that as a concept. They did not use it as much against Arkansas, but they clearly used it against Northwestern.

"They have some other players up front (on defense) who have played well. Their two guys in the middle are 310 and 300 pounders. Anton Palepoi is their best man up front, and he is definitely going to be a pro prospect along with Kevin Thomas."

QUESTION: What do you expect them to throw at you on offense?

MACKOVIC: "They have built their offensive attack around (quarterback) Jason Thomas. He runs a lot, and he pulls it down and goes. They have built the offense for that, and if he's on the corner, he can take off and go any time. The biggest thing for us is that we have to contain him. They use a lot of option offense, and they spring out the quarterback quite a bit so you will see him on the run. Their receivers are veteran players, and they know what they are doing. They also are the best running team that we will have seen."

QUESTION: Are you impressed with the way John Robinson has turned around the program?

MACKOVIC: "We (Arizona's coaches) have seen how they grew and developed last year. I remember sitting in the studio last year watching them play, and it was very obvious to me that John Robinson had done a good job of getting them on track and playing. When they handled the Arkansas team in the bowl game last season, it awakened everybody's eyes to the fact that there was something happening in Las Vegas.

"They have been off to a rough start (in 2001). In the Arkansas game, they clearly had won except for some unfortunate circumstances at the very end of the game. And then the Northwestern game was a game where some of the special teams areas really hurt them. They were right in there with Northwestern. They have shown that they will match up with the teams that have size and speed."

QUESTION: As far as your own team, you have to be pleased with the way Jason Johnson has played, are you surprised by his composure?

MACKOVIC: "Jason has had two good weeks. His completion rate is 66 percent, and I like that. His only interception came on a tipped ball at San Diego State, and he has done a very good job of avoiding traffic and getting rid of the ball when he needs to. We will continue to change things just enough to keep defenses off balance, and Jason continues to learn week by week. He is coming along very well."


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