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3 key questions UNLV faces as it opens camp in Ely

Rebels head north for 11 days with plenty of work to do to rebound from 2-11 campaign

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Sam Morris

UNLV football head coach Bobby Hauck watches his team during practice at Rebel Park on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011.

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UNLV's first fall practice in full pads was Saturday morning in Las Vegas, and Mother Nature brought a welcomed break from this week's sweltering heat. The three-hour session was played under cooler temperatures, overcast skies and some intermittent drizzling.

It was a nice way to transition into a comfortable climate for second-year coach Bobby Hauck and his team as they arrived up north in Ely on Sunday evening. It's there where they are conducting practice 15 times and having two scrimmages between Sunday and next Thursday.

Off a 2-11 campaign in 2010, the Rebels have more than just a few unanswered questions heading into the meat of their fall camp. Here are three notable areas that will be worth tracking as camp gets into full stride.

1) Is Caleb Herring really the Rebels' top option at quarterback?

In short: Yes. Junior college transfer Sean Reilly was brought in to compete with Herring for the right to start the Sept. 1 opener at Wisconsin and beyond, but early on in camp, Herring appears to have a strong hold on the top spot.

Last fall's battle between incumbent starter Omar Clayton and Mike Clausen went almost all the way up to the season's opening night. Clausen won out, and even though he was replaced by Clayton during the first game and later moved to safety, it was proof that whoever has the better camp in the coaches' eyes would get the job, no matter how the résumés looked.

This year, though, it doesn't feel like it's as close of a competition. Herring looks sharper with his throws and appears more comfortable within the offense he adapted to last season while making appearances in eight games.

When camp opened last week, it felt like the job was Herring's to lose. Now, how long is it until Hauck and his staff make it official?

2) What will be some names to look for on an inexperienced offensive line?

It's going to start with the most visible position on any offensive line: Left tackle.

Barring some sort of unforeseen development, redshirt freshman Cameron Jefferson will start in that spot. Hauck burned several redshirts last season out of necessity due to injuries and other reasons, but he was able to hold back from using Jefferson. He pictured him all along as his future starting left tackle, and the future is now.

Jefferson checked in at just 265 pounds this fall, but with his build, he has room to put on more weight and maintain his sharp athletic presence up front. He will likely have some bumps along the way, but he could turn into a good one.

On the other side of the line, of the likely starters, junior right tackle Yusef Rodgers will bring the most experience to the unit. He's always been technically sound, but at just 250 pounds, how will he hold up?

If you're looking for a bit of a sleeper in the interior, 6-foot-4, 300-pound junior Allen Carroll is an intriguing prospect. He redshirted at Washington in 2008 before spending two years at College of the Sequoias. Now medically cleared, he's trying to work his way up the ladder over the next couple of weeks.

Expect a bit of a clearer picture in terms of an offensive line depth chart by the end of next week.

3) If the defense is going to have more bite, who's going to provide it?

The guy with maybe more outside pressure on him in this department than anyone else is junior college transfer Princeton Jackson, who played for powerhouse Blinn College in Texas the last two seasons.

He checks in at only 230 pounds, but has already shown an affinity for mixing it up and a nose for the ball. He'll be a big-time vocal leader on the defensive side, and he'll throw all 230 of those pounds into every hit he delivers. He'll likely have to dish out a lot of them in run support, too, as the Rebels will have just as many hurdles to clear on the defensive line as they will on the offensive line.

He comes to UNLV with loads of expectations, and will have to show up early for the defense to improve from 2010, when it ranked 109th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision programs.

It's going to be interesting to see how much control he takes as the potential heart and soul of the defense as the season draws nearer.

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  1. Get ready for a 3-10 or 4-9 record this year. Then back to 2-11 or 1-10.

    Any over/under's on when the "We want Mike Leach" chants start? I say week 4.

  2. Patience. This program is starting from the bottom.

    I am encouraged by the reports on the team's attitude, speed, and toughness.

  3. Program is starting at the bottom but is going to stay at the bottom. Patience is what we have had to endure for years now, and its gone now. We know we suck, stop trying to sugar coat it by saying oh, well the speed and attitude at camp is great, thats what we heard last year and the year before that, and the year before that... Its an endless cycle.
    As for the Mike leach chants wait till Boise comes in and destroys us or we lose an easy one to say SUU or at least its a close one.
    The style of offense isnt going to win much these days especailly when the deffense spots the opponent 28 points before they even step on the field. Sanfords spread at least scored points and fast, not that Im suggesting hes better cuz he sucked too. Just cant wait till October and First Look!

  4. Gonna be a long year, but it's to be expected. Hopefully we will see some improvement and win a few. That's about all we can hope for I think this season.

  5. Love the positive attitudes. Face it, the cupboards were bare, the schedules were already set. Nothing like starting behind the eight ball. Give the guy a chance. I believe he will make us proud. I like his attitude, and what he is getting out of his team so far. I agree with Hedon, Patience.

  6. Tired of giving the guy a chance. His cupboard wasnt 2-11 bare it was 5-7 close to 6-6 or 7-5 bare if the defense was better. Face it a prostyle offense with a run first mentality only works if you have a defense that stops oppenents 3 and out every time. If the D is giving up 40 points a game you need an offense that can run up 41 a game. Instead we went 3 and out every time while the opponent ran up 3 TD or more leads. So yeah, we showed progress against the other teams 2nd and 3rd stringers because we were already down 21+ after 2 quarters. Patience is gone, we need to win, end of story.

  7. @lv_24. You do realize that Hauck has only been at the helm for a year right? A new coaching strategy is going to take a bit of time to transition.

  8. First off if you think we can beat CSU or UNR you are really optimistic. Im sorry I give the guy a shot but transition isnt something we needed. Las Vegas needs a winner. He may speak with fire and motivate them all he wants but dont complain about the schedule. Others play just as tough. This is a young team and we all know waht that means, More blowouts. Yeah we should beat UNM, SUU, but on the realistic side thats about it. WYM is a good squad all though none of us want to admit it, WSU althought they get beaten down in the Pac10 is probably still good enough to beat us by 21(See Idaho, 2010). Come on lets be real, are we down and out about this guy,no. Im not calling for his head or anything, Im just saying that we need Wins and an offense that scores. If our D gives up 35+ again its not going to get the job done.

  9. If you don't think transition was needed then you're a buffoon. Sanford blamed the players and the locker room every time. That got old real quick. The guy was a glorified OC that should have never ascended to a head coaching gig.

  10. I don't believe the cupboards were empty Hauck inherited a team that simply needed a defense. I've never understood why coaches blow things up simply for the sake of playing their recruits. It is always easy when you are on the outside looking in but I did not expect to take 10 steps backwards with Haucks arrival. When he said again this year we will be one of the youngest teams in college football that is letting the fans know "don't expect a whole lot". I agree Sanford had to go simply because he was doing nothing to address the defensive woes of the Rebels but it appears to me Hauck is headed in the same direction.

  11. Here's hoping for some kind of miracle season from this group but that might be far fetched. If coaches are like the rest of us then Bobby has to second guess his offensive strategies from last season, IMO
    continue with the spread & the previous coaches players for 1 yr & then emlpoy your strategy but its easier said then done. This season is full of unknowns, can this defense stop anything? Can this offense put up enough points to win? Will his underclassmen hold up the entire season? We'll see what happens, I think we'll have our answer if there are zero improvements after our first game. I dont expect to win again the Badgers but I expect to see something better than last year.

  12. No disappointments here cause I'm expecting nothing from this team, I already know what I'm gonna get. Its all good though, basketball season is just around the corner.

  13. "3 Key Questions?" I want to see this program get off the ground BUT only 3? Let's hope for a solid season where we're competitive even in losses. I think we have the ability to win 4 games this year - 5 would be over achieving.

  14. Guy has 1 year under his belt and people on here would have his head. I think standard protocol is to give the coach at least 3 years before you start asking for his job. I'll reserve judgement until then, but although last year was discouraging, I wouldn't exactly call is surprising. I'm cautiously optimistic about Hauck's ability to improve this team... just don't know that we'll see it in the win/loss category this year.

  15. Maybe instead of having the camp in ELY, they should change the mojo magic and have it another town as Pioche, Caliente, Tonopah, Rachel,or Alamo!

    All these years of doing it in ELY seems to NOT be doing the trick. CHANGE IT UP PEOPLE. Make the magic happen!

    You should see these players around Ely and at the White Pine County Fair. When you see them, you will know the truth.