rebels football:

Assistant coach already has good feel for UNLV program

Rob Phenicie recalls his first stint on the UNLV football coaching staff with fondness — even though it was only for six months.

Phenicie, who was hired as the Rebels’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach three months ago, was also on staff in 1999. He was an offensive assistant on John Robinson’s staff and calls the season in Las Vegas one of the best learning experiences of his career.

He did a little bit of everything for Robinson, from off-field duties, editing game film and helping during practices. It was a crash course on how to be a college coach.

“He’s a living legend. You don’t get to be around coaches who are in the Hall of Fame too often,” Phenicie said of Robinson, who in 2000 led UNLV to its last winning season and bowl victory.

Phenicie left UNLV after one season for Wyoming, where he worked three years and was the Cowboys’ co-offensive coordinator in his final year of 2002. After his time at Wyoming, Phenicie was the offensive coordinator at Montana, working under now-UNLV coach Bobby Hauck for the past seven years.

When Hauck took the job at UNLV in December, Phenicie had no reservations about returning to Las Vegas.

And, after just three months on the job, Phenicie has noticed a few differences since he was last with the program.

The first is the talent level of the players.

The Rebels have fell one-win short of bowl eligibility in each of the last two seasons, and Phenicie said the cupboard is far from bare in terms of talent. He credits former coach Mike Sanford for bringing in several capable players.

“There is a lot of potential and a high talent level here,” he said. “You can really recruit well here. There are a whole lot of kids who are going to be interested in coming here.”

Phenicie, whose offense at Montana last year averaged 35.8 points and 427.4yards per game, is spending most of spring practice working with the seven quarterbacks on UNLV’s roster. Through the initial four practices of the 15-practice spring, one of Phenicie’s biggest obstacles is finding reps for each signal caller.

The trio of incumbent starter Omar Clayton, rising junior Mike Clausen and redshirt freshman Caleb Herring will ultimately compete for the top spot on the depth chart. That makes this spring invaluable for Phenicie, whose offense at Montana ranked second among Football Championship Subdivision schools in scoring, to evaluate talent and how each organizes his offense.

“It’s tough (sometimes) to get two reps each for these guys,” Phenicie said. “But that is the nature of the position. Until someone separates from the pack, we will continue doing it that way.”

However, juggling quarterbacks hasn’t been his biggest challenge.

Phenicie’s wife and children are still living in Montana while their house is being sold. Phenicie shares a furnished apartment with another assistant coach.

During his first go-round with UNLV, Phenicie rented a studio apartment near campus while his family stayed in their native California.

But that’s the price he was willing to pay to return to Las Vegas. He speaks with optimism about the potential of the UNLV program.

“I’m excited to be back,” he said.

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  1. Already love this coaching staff. I was one of the 1st ones pulling to hire coach Hauck, glad it actually worked out. There are so many differences between this staff verses the previous and the most obvious is Hauck will not accept losing as an option. That is the 1st trademark of a winner. Love his attitude, wish I was 19 again..

    Phenicie has a lot of weapons to work with & unlike Berry he will utilize them right. I promise you we will see a fine tuned high powered ball control offense under this staff. This team is going to be much better then the MWC thinks & coach Hauck will not let this defense self destruct like seasons past, they will play with consistancy. JRob took over a horrible team from Horton and went bowling in his 1st year, this team is much better then that team & coach Hauck will make them play like they have something to prove.
    This staff will win here because the mentality has changed. So much I want to say but I'll cut it short. Calling all Las Vegans who love football to support this team and get your tickets now!!

  2. This is a bit off subject but...I'm hoping Coach Hauck puts the names back on the uniforms again.

    First, the notion that removing the names enhances the team focus is a gimmick. If that logic held true then take the numbers off the jerseys, as well. That way no player would have a personal identifier of any sort.

    Second, division I-A jerseys without names on the back look like high school jerseys. Certainly there are traditional uniforms like USC that have never featured player names but they are the exception. If memory serves correct, both Alabama and Texas wore jerseys with names on the back in the BCS Championship game and it didn't seem to hurt their team focus.

    UNLV's football uniforms are sharp. They'd be better with the player names on them.

  3. I agree hedon, put the names back on the jerseys. Gimmicks do not win football games - especially Sanford's gimmicks.

  4. Agreed here also hedon58, put the names on the back.. We are out of Sanford's era and are in the hopeful Hauck era... Feeling good about this year..

  5. Let's start a rally for Coach Hauck to put the name's on the back of the UNLV Football Jersey's please let's go.

    GO REBELS FOOTBALL................

  6. What are you guys talking about?!?!?! Don't you know that names on the backs of jerseys and the locker rooms are the reasons Sanford was largely unsuccessful? It is things like these that prevent winning at an abundant quantity. GET REAL SANFORD!!!! I wonder if L-ville is going to take the names off of the back of their offensive units jersey's. I really hope we got the right guy this time. It really feels like it. And do us a favor Bobby, put the damn names back on the jersey's.

  7. Good posts!! Good to feel some positive vibes coming from a Rebel football article. I think you're right AJ, it really does "feel" like we got the right guy this time. Hope it's true. As a die hard Rebel fan, I am hoping he can turn it around quickly!!!

  8. I agree that the vibe on these posts is pretty positive and it's for a number of good reasons:

    1) Bobby Hauck has a proven track record of consistent success over an extended period of time as a HEAD coach.

    2) There is enough talent on campus to win games. Not just that, but players who we know and support. (I mean, tell me you don't pull for guys like Omar Clayton and Phillip Payne and anyone named Fuimaono).

    3) It wasn't that long ago that TCU, Utah, Boise State, etc., were non-factors in D-IA football. Now they're mainstays. In the 85-scholarship era, things can change quickly.

    4) And of course, we may see names on the back of UNLV football uniforms this coming season!

  9. Wow, seven QBs on the roster?

  10. I prefer not having the names on the backs of the jersey's, but for me it's whatever. The argument saying you might as well take off the numbers too, however, is pretty ridiculous. Jersey numbers, not last names, are used for assigning penalties.

  11. Few thoughts:
    1. UNLV's talent should allow them to remain in the middle of the MWC. Utah, BYU, and TCU are much more talented, but with Vegas high school football getting better, hopefully that gap will narrow.
    2. UNLV is facing an uphill climb for a few reasons. First, they have an off-campus stadium. In order to gain a true home field advantage, there has to be a student section. However, for students to get there, they need to travel 15 minutes. Not great. Second, their facilities (weight room, locker room, meeting rooms, are outdated. Recruits want to see expansion. They want the wow factor. Not getting that here. Last, Vegas is relatively small in terms of the number of teams that play football. For example, California has over 800 schools, so their talent pool is obviously bigger and better than ours. I do think UNLV will be better in the Hauke era, but they still have a long way to go to be in contention for the MWC.

  12. On a side note- since everyone is referencing uniforms and such, UNLV needs to get away from Russell (their football uniform manufacturer) and start using Nike or Under Armour. It seems like a minor thing but kids definitely consider that type of thing.

  13. I don't really care either way if the names are on the back or not. I always felt it was a way for coaches to remember the kids names cause they couldn't remember the numbers.

    What's wrong with Russell Athletic?

  14. Nothing is "wrong" with Russell Athletics, but teenagers (recruits) would prefer Nike or Adidas. UNLV Basketball is Nike, it'd be an easy switch. Programs like USC, Florida, and Alabama actually have pictures in the media guides of all of the gear they give to players. It is one of many recruiting tactics used by coaches.

  15. UNLV does use Nike jerseys. They've been using Nike since the uni change two seasons ago. The swoosh in the front is a dead give-away.
    I think names on the back of jerseys will help the fans. Notre Dame and USC can don't need to because of who they are. But in a town that has bee called "a sleeping giant" for college football, anyway to get fans better familiarized with the players would help IMO.
    Well at least this article shows that UNLV's talent was better than Montana's that's a start. Hauck seems to be a good recruiter, so hopefully he still has his recruiting ties from his PAC 10 and Big 12 days and we can recruit more than local players. Don't get me wrong, I do love that he is getting more local guys.

  16. Rebels have plenty of talent but only time will tell if they can produce on the playing field.

    I don't care if names are not on the back of their uniforms

  17. It's a relatively small thing, but yeah, put the names back on the jerseys.

    At least they don't have Pop Warner uniforms like Penn State, though.

  18. I stand corrected. UNLV does use Nike. Sorry.

  19. Putting names on the back of jerseys is marketing in its purest form. College football is a multibillion dollar business. It goes a couple of ways. A lot of fans simply buy a jersey for the name on the back of the jersey. If there are certain players that stand out on a team their jersey will sell well across the board. A university could own the rights to a players name being on the jersy. Perhaps some fans might forget a certin players number when buying a jersey but they will not forget the name. Another aspect is maybe there are fans at every game for the 1st time and this helps them identify with particular players they have come to see in action. Sometimes you will see 2 players wearing the same number, I dont know why but it happens.

    In the grand scheme of play on the field it makes no difference but in the pocket books of an athletic department it could mean a whole lot of chips to stack up.

  20. Just win Rebels with new coach Hauck at the helm

  21. We visited almost every school in the MWC and quite a few others. UNLV's facilities, weight room, locker room etc. or on par with the rest of the conference. USAFA and BYU were nicer as were Colorado's and ASU but the rest of the schools were the same or worse. An on campus stadium won't happen in our lifetime. The Silverbowl is OK and with some fan support it could be rocking.
    I'd love to see names on the back. Unfortunately you won't see #6 with Kohorst on the back. The kicker has to get a new number. I like 63 like his dad but I don't think it's going to happen.
    The intensity level at practice is much better as is the speed of practice. They even had tackling practice for the kickers.