UNLV FOOTBALL:

Caleb Herring looks to secure starting QB job he’s long desired

Job appears to be there for the taking for redshirt sophomore, who got his feet wet in spot duty in 2010

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Sam Morris

UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring rears back to pass during practice Tuesday, August 9, 2011.

UNLV Football Practice: 8/9/11

The UNLV football team practices Tuesday, August 9, 2011, at Rebel Park. Launch slideshow »

UNLV holds first day of football practice

KSNV coverage of UNLV's first day of football practice, Agu. 9, 2011.

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Two years ago, Caleb Herring arrived on the UNLV campus as a skinny kid with braces, carrying the label as the Rebels' quarterback of the future.

Now a redshirt sophomore, this is supposed to be the beginning of that future.

He's bulked himself up some, shed the metal in his mouth and speaks in the confident tone that a starting quarterback should speak.

All what's left to do? Win the starting quarterback gig.

UNLV's fall camp opened Tuesday morning at Rebel Park. The first three-hour practice session of the season saw Herring take the majority of the snaps with the first team offense.

The job is closer than ever for Herring, who appears to be solidly in front at the start of fall camp.

The first steps for the Moreno Valley, Calif., native toward becoming the Rebels' top signal-caller were a bit rough, but they came last season during a trying 2-11 campaign. He never got a chance to start but made appearances in eight of UNLV's games.

It was the first one that assured him he could eventually be Bobby Hauck's top option under center.

In a 30-7 blowout loss at Idaho last September, the Rebels' offense sputtered for much of the night. Herring was inserted into the game in the second half but was roughed up early behind a struggling, overwhelmed offensive line.

"It was my first time really getting out there with the live bullets and taking some pretty big hits from some guys who didn't like me," he recalled. "The other thing I'll remember is the feeling of being defeated. As a competitor, you won't let go of it. There's a bad taste in my mouth from it to this day. It's just as bad."

By the time Herring came in, there was nothing he could do to reverse UNLV's fortunes on the scoreboard, but he did finish the night with a gorgeous 23-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Payne in the final minute. In the grand scheme of the game and the season, the play didn't have any significant meaning, but it meant the world to Herring.

And it still does.

"That throw to Phil definitely boosted my confidence, reminded me that this is what I do," he said. "I'm a quarterback. I throw touchdown passes. This is my job. it just seemed easy after that."

Herring finished the season going 28-of-56 for 365 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

That was followed by a strong spring camp, with Herring continuing to get comfortable in a run-oriented offensive system unlike the one he was recruited to operate under former head coach Mike Sanford.

"What I'd say about Caleb is when I look at his skill set, it's a little more tilted towards being a drop-back guy than it is being a spread guy," Hauck said. "I don't know what everybody had in mind when he was recruited other than he was a good player, but that's what you do. If you get a good player, you take him and temper your offense to suit him.

"He's got good pocket presence, he seems to be grasping things, he's got a good arm, got good delivery, just all of those things that drop-back guys have."

Still, despite all of the tangible positives …

"Whenever we're ready, whenever we get a clear view of who should start at quarterback, that's what we'll do," he said of naming a starter. "Frankly, we've got great battles for second- and third-(string), too, so it'll be fun to watch."

Behind Herring on the depth chart at the moment, reps in practice are being split by junior college transfer Sean Reilly, redshirt freshman Taylor Barnhill and true freshman Nick Sherry.

Last season, in his first fall camp at UNLV, Hauck waited until the week of the season opener against Wisconsin to name Mike Clausen his starter following a lengthy battle with incumbent Omar Clayton. Early indications say that this fall's competition for the top spot won't last all the way up until the final days before the Sept. 1 return trip to face the Badgers.

At the moment, it appears to be Herring's job to lose, and he's sounding like a veteran who understands that.

"From Day 1, when I first got here, I had the attitude of a competitor," Herring said. "(I've always thought) 'That's my job; that's what I'm here for.'"

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  1. Those poor 5 people that have voted the Rebels to win 6 or more games.. Have you even looked at the schedule? there are two winable games on the schedule and we might not even have as good a chance versus WSU as many would want to believe.
    Starting QB, just gonna follow the lines of all the others who have gotten under center for the Rebels lately, a couple nice games to start, takes a real beating becasue no one can block, then gets injured. Maybe thats why there are 4 QBs on the roster?

  2. I thought after 2 years in the weight room, Caleb would have put on a bit of bulk.

    Nope.

  3. Caleb looks really skinny. That said, why didn't Hauck just start him last year so he could have gotten more experience. Clausen/Clayton were terrible and it didn't really make sense to keep going with a terrible senior (especially in light of the current trend of starting 4! offensive linemen) that didn't really put the team in a place to win.

    Also, what was the deal with running the ball so much last year instead of throwing slants? The offensive line was terrible last year and got zero positive push against the defensive line. Johnson/Payne are bigger wide outs and had an advantage on a quick slant to gain more yardage than a weak rushing attempt.

    Finally, how does camp look under Hauck in year two compared to year one? It would also be nice to read your thoughts about the way that Hauck conducts his camp compared to Sanford.

  4. I share the thought that Caleb is pretty small, needs to gain a few lbs. The QB's are going to have a hell of a time this year though with a brand new O-line. I hope they can take a hit pretty well and can scramble too.

  5. I dont think it matters who plays QB they wont have 3 seconds to throw the ball. Last year UNLV had a veteran line and still couldn't block nobody. The qb & running backs will have a long year. The rebs only sure win is against Southern Utah, UNM isn't too far behind UNLV so that could go either way. I've stopped being positive about rebel football. I like coach Hauck but I think this is way too much for him to turn around. I hope I'm wrong & the rebels can pull together some kind of miracle season but I dont see it happening. Way too many holes to fill on both sides of the ball and not enough players or time to do it.

  6. I just believe that Coach Hauck has the right stuff. I think he is taking the correct approach in building from the ground up. The first couple of years may not be real pretty but by the 3rd and 4th years we should see some real football from the Rebels for a change.

  7. yawn really? Ive been waiting years for some real football from the Rebels, still waiting. All in favor of creating a second basketball season at UNLV and eliminating football please raise their hands. Football can try to get better but when all you do is lose it doent help, no matter whos coaching. Waiting one or 2 more years no longer is good enough, thats what we said for Sanford and look what happend, nothing.

  8. LV - should I welcome you back on the bandwagon when football starts to produce again? During the period from 92 until Kruger got here I suppose you thought we should just give up BB also?