Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011 | 2 a.m.
- Tim Cornett hopes improved body, mentality helps UNLV rack up wins (8-16-2011)
- UNLV coach Bobby Hauck establishes Twitter policy with players (8-16-2011)
- 3 key questions UNLV faces as it opens camp in Ely (8-15-2011)
- Back on offense, Taylor Spencer emerging as a serious contender for playing time (8-12-2011)
- Caleb Herring looks to secure starting QB job he’s long desired (8-10-2011)
- Tuesday Practice Briefs: Timetable for Phillip Payne’s return unknown (8-9-2011)
- UNLV sophomore RB Tim Cornett named to Paul Hornung Award watch list (8-8-2011)
ELY — Each day during UNLV's fall training camp, there's bound to be at least one moment that drops some jaws.
Tuesday afternoon, it happened to be a punt. No, not the punt return, but the punt itself.
It came off the foot of Chase Lansford and traveled roughly 60 yards in the air, rotating in a perfect spiral during its entire flight.
Lansford will likely handle the punting duties for the Rebels, and though booming the ball 60 yards every time would be far too much to ask, it already appears that he'll give UNLV a much-needed boost in the punting department.
Last season, the job belonged to now-graduated senior Brendon Lamers, who struggled with his consistency, averaging only 37.8 yards per kick on 76 attempts. It ranked 88th in the Football Bowl Subdivision ranks.
Now, the guy taking over the job is a junior college transfer who just happened to stumble upon punting full-time a year ago at Santa Ana (Calif.) College.
A place kicker by trade, he would shag kicks for teammates and punt the balls back to them instead of throwing them. The coaching staff picked up on his natural ability not long after.
While excelling as a kicker, going 8-of-11 as a sophomore including a 52-yard conversion, he also averaged 43.7 yards per attempt in his lone year as a punter.
A handful of Pac-12 schools gave Lansford a close look, including Arizona, Cal and USC. But he needed the spring semester of his sophomore year to finish getting his grades in order, and none of the Pac-12 suitors would give him a realistic shot at securing the top spot on their depth chart as a kicker without participating in spring ball.
UNLV took that chance, though.
"They came out to me and said they needed a punter, and I said, 'All right, but I really want the kicking spot,'" he said. "I told them I'm not that interested if I'm not going to get a chance to compete to kick field goals. They said you'll get to compete, and I was in."
The want to be a kicker comes naturally for Lansford, who began kicking footballs when he was just 5 years old. That was when he started learning from his father, Mike Lansford, who kicked for the Los Angeles Rams for nine years under former UNLV coach John Robinson.
Mike Lansford to this day teaches young kickers in Southern California and even had Chase helping him instruct by the time he was in high school, when Mike finally forced him to join the football team as a sophomore.
"He dragged me out there and said, 'You're going to kick,'" he joked. "I said, 'All right, I guess it runs in the family.''"
Becoming UNLV's starting kicker won't be easy, though, as he'll have to eclipse sophomore Nolan Kohorst as their competition heats up more over the next two weeks in camp.
Kohorst, a former Green Valley High standout who was a high priority recruit for Bobby Hauck and his staff as soon as they were hired, enjoyed a strong freshman season. He was 8-of-11 on field goal attempts and made all but one of his 30 extra point tries. On field goal kicks of 39 yards and closer, he was 7-of-7.
In Hauck's eyes, there can never be too many capable kickers. He doubles as the program's special teams coordinator, and at the very least, should have fewer headaches in the punting game this fall.
"I'm trying to get both positions and be the best at them," Lansford said. "(Not getting the kicking job) won't sour me as much as it'll make me try harder.
"I'm really starting to focus on punting like I never have before."
Fresh faces arrive
Two newcomers arrived at camp on Tuesday. One is freshman fullback Darius Andres from Claremont (Calif.) High. The other is sophomore linebacker Taylor Walstad, who transferred in from Arizona State and will sit out the 2011 season per NCAA transfer rules. Walstad was a three-star recruit out of Chandler (Ariz.) High in the 2010 class, coming out as a running back. He'll move to linebacker as a Rebel.
What's on tap?
The Rebels will have two practices in Ely on Wednesday, going in half pads at 9 a.m., followed by a 3:30 p.m. full-pads session.