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Phillip Payne getting closer to returning from broken foot

UNLV star wide receiver dons pads for the first time this fall camp on Friday afternoon

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Sam Morris

Injured UNLV wide receiver Phillip Payne tries to interrupt Mark Barefield during practice Tuesday, August 9, 2011.

ELY — UNLV will hold a 2:15 p.m. scrimmage on Saturday afternoon in Ely, and once again, star senior wide receiver Phillip Payne will take in the action from the sidelines as he recovers from a broken right foot foot.

But Friday's full pads practice session provided a sign that the preseason All-Mountain West selection is closer to a full return.

For the first time this fall camp, he suited up in half pads (shoulder pads and helmet) and ran drills during the day's second practice. He still did not participate in contact activities, but coach Bobby Hauck takes Friday's development as a good sign that Payne could potentially be back for UNLV's Sept. 1 opener at Wisconsin.

"Certainly, that's the hope, and it's been the hope since June," Hauck said. "But we've always had contingency plans ready to go, and he's been awesome, so hopefully he'll be ready to go."

In terms of contingency plans, 6-foot-5 sophomore Kurt Davis — whose redshirt was burned midway through last year while Payne was suspended for two games — looks like the likely starter in his place at this point in camp. Fellow sophomore Marcus Sullivan has also seen plenty of balls thrown his way in practice with Payne sidelined.

Payne caught 40 passes for 689 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games as a junior and has totaled 127 receptions, 1,786 yards and 19 touchdowns in his strong UNLV career to date. He has a realistic shot at securing UNLV's career record for touchdown receptions this year (24, held by Henry Bailey).

Payne began camp last week in a walking boot but began running routes and doing light work a couple of days in. He's expected to combine with fellow senior Michael Johnson to form one of the Mountain West's strongest receiving duos this season.

"He's been out here running around, and he could put pads on anytime," Hauck said. "He's been here and done his stuff. As soon as we can feel good about him not re-injuring himself, we'll go."

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  1. Sounds like Payne will be ready for sure this season.