UNLV football:

Rebels young and old shift focus to camp in Ely ahead of 2012 home opener

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UNLV defensive back Peni Vea straps up his helmet 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 »

UNLV football camp in Ely has a different feel from the week of practices that just finished at Rebel Park.

The main reasons for that are twofold: first, and most obvious, is the weather.

“Guys will probably be sprinting to the buses to get out of the heat,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said.

The weather forecast in Ely from Sunday through Wednesday calls for a chance of thunderstorms with a high no greater than 88 degrees. And when you’ve been banging your head against a 106-degree furnace for the past week, that sounds like paradise.

The other reason is that UNLV’s trip to Ely is the last major checkpoint before the 2012 regular season begins.

The Rebels practice in Ely for 11 days, and when they return to Las Vegas it’s essentially game week for the home opener Aug. 30 against Minnesota. So most of the game preparation and nearly all of the final personnel changes will happen up north.

In truth, there might not be much to monitor as far as the depth chart goes. UNLV hasn’t released one since the spring, but aside from figuring out the quarterback spot, it shouldn’t look much different.

When asked about it, Hauck made it sound as if there wasn’t much left to figure out. Other than how to defeat the Golden Gophers, of course.

“All of this is more about game preparation than position battles,” Hauck said. “Obviously there’s some of those going on, but our guys, they’re competing for playing time, but they’re getting ready for Minnesota every day out here.”

The players have been counting down the days until the game, eager to hit somebody in a different uniform.

For UNLV, that includes a lot of guys who will play in a Division I game for the first time, such as redshirt freshman Peni Vea.

Vea, a safety from Hawaii, spent the summer in Las Vegas, allowing his body to adjust to the climate he’ll need to excel in to start for the Rebels. Although he’s too young to feel comfortable taking leadership of the secondary ahead of veterans such as safety Kenny Brown or cornerback Sidney Hodge, Vea is working on that aspect of his game.

“I want to help them to make things easier for our defense,” Vea said. “And I’m working toward becoming something better on the field so I can help, too.”

Hauck’s goal for the program is that he'll be able to redshirt a player such as Vea, then allow him to compete for a spot on special teams in his second year before trying to crack the starting lineup during the player’s third year in the system.

“We have not been there yet, obviously,” Hauck said. “So those guys are out here, and the best guy plays.”

He needs players such as Vea, or tight end Jake Phillips, or defensive end Sonny Sanitoa or even quarterback Nick Sherry, all of them redshirt freshmen, to step into the lineup and produce.

Unlike true freshmen, those players have spent a year in the program. Although Hauck emphasized that there’s no replacing the experience of fall Saturdays — or Thursday or Friday, as the case may be — that experience might help them avoid mistakes. Still, young players constantly are learning.

And Ely is the next place they’ll learn. Once they go there, the season is practically here.

“I’m a little nervous because it is my first college game,” Vea said, “but as the days get closer, I am getting more and more excited.”

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

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  1. every year the rebels go too ely to get away from the heat and the same result every year . maybe if they stayed in vegas this would make them tougher in those 4th quarter situations how much does this cost the athletic department ? its not like they have a lot of money to begin with

  2. Our teams in the late 70's and early 80's did not have any camps outside of Vegas. We practiced in 100 plus degree heat and never had anyone faint, get sick, etc. because of it. I know this helped our conditioning as we would always have a lot left in our bodies when it came down to the fourth quarter. I personally do not see the benefit of an outside camp. Yes, it is nice to not have distractions and the players can focus on nothing but football, but the past 2 years does not show very good results from it.

    I think the team should stay on campus. It will be hot for the first few games at home and we do not need to be out hustled in our own backyard because we succumb to the heat!

  3. The UNLV Now project needs to include an indoor football practice facility, right next to the new campus stadium.