UNLV football:

Dionza Bradford’s return could be big boost for Rebels backfield

Bradford, who left the team in spring for personal reasons, was the team’s second-leading rusher in 2011

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Sam Morris

UNLV running back Dionza Bradford runs a route during practice Tuesday, August 7, 2012.

UNLV Football Practice: 8/7/12

UNLV running back Dionza Bradford takes a break during practice Tuesday, August 7, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Dionza Bradford is just looking for a chance, and UNLV coach Bobby Hauck will give him one.

Bradford, a sophomore running back, ranked second on the team in rushing last year, trailing only Tim Cornett with 615 yards and three touchdowns. Then came news in March that Bradford had left the team for personal reasons.

That seemed to be it for his UNLV career, but on Tuesday at the Rebels’ first official fall practice, Bradford was on the field taking reps with the rest of the running backs.

“Coach let me go home and take care of some things,” Bradford said. “I’m just grateful to be back.”

Bradford, who is from Phelan, Calif., said he always hoped he could eventually return and kept in touch with Hauck throughout the summer. He also kept in good shape, another key to having a chance to return to the field.

“He’s done a nice job working his way back,” Hauck said. “Obviously still got a ways to go.”

The addition of Bradford could provide a big boost to the Rebels’ backfield. Cornett figures to get the bulk of the carries no matter who’s behind him, but having Bradford’s experience and size (6-foot-0, 210 pounds) could help alleviate some pressure and keep Cornett from getting worn down.

If Bradford is able to regain his form as the top backup, which Hauck said was his hope, then junior Bradley Randle would likely be third string and running back/receiver Eric Johnson could move back to primarily a slot receiver.

Bradford wasn’t the only unexpected face at Rebel Park on Tuesday. UNLV added several players who waited until the summer to pick their destination, including a pair of junior-college transfers who could make an impact on defense.

Defensive lineman Mark Garrick out of Sacramento City College was taking classes at Syracuse and planned to join that team but never signed a letter of intent. Several reports, including one with a quote from Garrick, said he tore an ACL and had to have surgery on Jan. 23.

Garrick, who was OK for practice but missed some time with dehydration, was unavailable for comment after practice, and Hauck offered little when asked why Garrick changed his mind and came to UNLV.

“He decided this was better,” Hauck said wryly.

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UNLV's Dionza Bradford (33) heads into the end zone followed by New Mexico defenders in the first half of their game Saturday, Nov. 12, in Albuquerque.

Garrick is on scholarship because he took classes at UNLV this summer. Linebackers Iggy Porchia and Max Ehlert will be on scholarship once the fall semester starts. Porchia is a freshman out of Los Angeles, and Ehlert is a transfer from Chabot College in California.

“I like the direction the program was going,” Ehlert said about why he chose UNLV. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about how it’s being rebuilt and it’s going into a winning direction.”

Ehlert, a native of Helsinki, played safety as a freshman before moving to linebacker. UNLV assistant Tim Hundley attended one of Ehlert’s practices last year, and the next week Ehlert got a call from Rebels defensive coordinator J.D. Williams. Their sales pitches were enough to beat out Utah State, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas Tech, which wanted Ehlert to walk on and try to earn a scholarship.

“(Hundley) pointed out some things about my way of playing football that he liked, and I could relate to that because I also felt those were my strengths,” Ehlert said. “I felt they could actually utilize me here the right way.”

Those strengths are a low pad level and aggressive style. At 5-11 and 215 pounds, Ehlert looks like he could pack quite a punch at full speed. And that’s exactly what Hauck will ask him to do.

Similarly, Bradford knows what Hauck expects from him. Both men are pleased Bradford will have a chance to fulfill those expectations.

“I have to earn it back,” Bradford said. “Nothing is just given to me.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. Great news having Dionza back in the fold. This is really going to help the Rebels, as there isn't a significant drop off when Dionza is in the backfield.

  2. Nice to have a positive ending to the situation. Welcome back Dionza. I look forward to the team having a great running game.

  3. Great news can never have enough talent he'll get his reps. Positive news builds momentum!