The good, bad and ugly of spring football

UNLV completed spring practice with a scrimmage at Sam Boyd Stadium on Friday night. Rebel Nation columnist Terry Tarver was there and also at a number of the other 15 spring workouts and gives his opinion on the good, the bad and the ugly of UNLV spring football practice.

Honestly, it is pretty hard to know what to make of these scripted Spring games at the end of each Rebel football season. I understand the need for them, as most fans don't get to see that year's version of the Rebels beforehand, but I am sure a lot of those fans leave the stadium wondering what they just witnessed. Well, here are some of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from this year's 15 Spring practices:


** Although, I really believe that Rebel defensive coaches pulled back last night on some of the constant pressure they applied the majority of the Spring, I love the attitude and speed of this defense. They will catch a lot of the early teams by surprise.

** The impact new OC Todd Berry has had on this offense. It appears the Rebels have taken on a new, more physical attitude on this side of the ball since the departure of Noah Brindise. The Rebels are using more power sets by going under center and using an attached TE much more often. Gotta love this new philosophy, it has worked in Boise for quite a while now.

** Frank Summers. He, quite simply, will change the face of this offense. Look for him to be even better by Fall. This kid has it all, including a great work ethic.

** The Rebel receivers. This group is very good and very deep. I really like what I saw from transfer WR Gerold Rodriguez this Spring. He plays with a quick-twitch effort to his game. Aaron Straiten dropped a few balls last night after having a nice Spring. If his hands go south on him again, look for G-Rod to get a lot of his minutes. Also, I really like what Chris Butler has done from the TE position. The Rebel QB's missed him on a few occasions last night but he is going to be an asset as both a blocker and a receiver. Wait, did I mention that Ryan Wolfe is a freaking stud.

** Although they struggled in Pass-Pro at times this off-season (which isn't unusual for a new group of players to do this early in the year), I like the attitude of this O-Line. They seem to like playing together (which hasn't been the case in the past yet is very important) and seem to learn very quickly. The emergence of Ramsey Feagai and Evan Marchal coupled with the Summer arrival of mammoth JC All-American Sifa Moala, the Rebels will also have some nice depth and flexibility as most of these guys can play multiple positions. Joe Hawley and Richie Plunkett will be stars in the near future.

** I mentioned the defense as a whole earlier but I have to say that our front seven is as good as I have seen at UNLV in quite a while. I really like what I have seen from young DT's Tim High and Malo Taumua. And after meeting incoming JC DE Luke Plante last night, it will only get better at DE. I love our LB's and our young, aggressive depth at safety which will also get better when Shane Horton arrives. Our corners are a question because we have yet to see most of them in a real game but I like what I see from Quinton Pointer, Geoff Howard and Nehemiah Mundy (who has really come on as of late). If they hold up, this defense could be a real asset.


** Injuries have been a real problem this Spring (though many of the injuries were carried over from the past season) as many of next years starters sat out. If this team cannot stay healthy it will be a long year. It is really that simple. We need our team leaders on the field to show the young players how to win. What else can I say?

**For a while this Spring I was very concerned about depth on the OL. If Feagai can keep his weight down he could the sleeper of the group. He is huge and has great feet for a big guy. The commitment of Moala did a lot to help alleviate some of my concerns. If injuries (or lack of performance by even 1 or 2 of these OL guys) hit this group, however, it could be a long season for the Rebel offense.

**I know it won't be popular when I say this but I worry about the lack of a true high-caliber back-up at the QB position. We need true competition at the QB and I can't see it happening unless Rocky Hinds can't fully recover from his knee injury. I like Dack Ishii's overall feel for the game but I need to see more to know if he can continue to develop. Travis Dixon seems to be more one-dimensional and really needs to spend some time working on his arm in the off-season. The Rebel coaches addressed this problem in a big way with the signings of Mike Clausen and O'Ryan Bradley but those dividends may not pay off for a year or two. The fans will love how these two players play the game.

**Depth at punter. The Rebels don't have much quality depth at this position. Pacheco will be the starter (and has a nice leg) but has shown himself to be inconsistent. Let's hope he stays healthy, at least. Losing Brian could be a major loss for this team.


** Really, only one thing stands out as really ugly this Spring. That, unfortunately, has been some of the QB play in the passing game. I have seen some pretty bad execution on the part of a few of the QB's when throwing the ball. The Rebels coaches (and players) are working hard to correct the problem but I am not so sure it is about effort. I just wonder whether any of the players have the big league arm. Ishii is the closest but he is more of a touch passer who has adequate arm strength. We will see how it plays out. All I can say is pray for a healthy, hungry Rocky Hinds. He could be THE difference this year when it comes to scoring points.


All-in-all it has been a very productive Spring. In fact, this may have been the most productive Spring since Robinson's LV Bowl year if Rocky had been taking the first-team snaps. Still, though, the Rebels are working hard to give Las Vegas a winner. I just pray coach Mike Sanford and his staff see many positive results for all of their hard work. Here's to that magical season!

Go Rebels!

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