UNLV football:

Quarterback Nick Sherry’s stellar play to end the day stands out

It’s still an open competition at quarterback, but Sherry looks more and more like a good option for the Rebels

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Sage Sammons / UNLV Athletics

Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Sherry calls a play at the line of scrimmage during UNLV football practice on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, in Ely. Sherry is competing for the starting spot.

UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry talks to a reporter before practice at Rebel Field Monday, March 12, 2012.

UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry talks to a reporter before practice at Rebel Field Monday, March 12, 2012.

Nick Sherry threw the ball to a space at the back of the end zone. The pass wasn’t to Devante Davis, per se, but to a spot he hoped Davis would be able to reach.

Davis sprinted around his defender and went to the ground just inside of the rear out-of-bounds line to haul in the 12-yard touchdown pass on what turned out to be the Rebels’ final offensive play of Tuesday’s practice in Ely.

Overall it was an up-and-down day for Sherry, a redshirt freshman quarterback out of California. But at least it ended with the up.

Early on, Sherry missed receivers badly. Most were overthrows, but a couple of tosses lacked timing and made Sherry look very much like a guy who hasn’t played in a real football game in nearly two years. Which, of course, he hasn’t.

But then there were moments like that last play. The celebration it set off among players seemed like more than just that for a touchdown or even for the end of practice. It looked and sounded like an offensive group that can feel itself playing better together than it ever has before.

A group that works well with Sherry calling the shots.

“I’m excited just to be out on the field again,” Sherry said. “It’s going to be a fun ride.”

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck has not officially named his starting quarterback and, even hidden beneath sunglasses, you can see him start to roll his eyes whenever the question comes up.

It’s an open competition, Hauck said. Like most of the other positions, no signal-caller has been running exclusively with the first-string offense. Junior Caleb Herring and senior Sean Reilly have gotten their reps in and, particularly Herring on Tuesday, at times looked better than Sherry.

But Sherry is still considered by most as the odds-on favorite to win the job. No one day of practice is going to win or lose it for Sherry or Herring, the top two guys, but it’s still better that Sherry bounced back from a bad start within the same session rather than not looking good again until Wednesday morning.

“He showed a nice knack for, when he doesn’t get off to a good start, being able to come back and compete and play well,” Hauck said. “I’ll take that as a positive.”

The problems for Sherry early on mostly had to do with his footwork. At Rebel Park last week, Hauck could be seen getting into Sherry about not being in the proper position and getting his feet set for an accurate throw.

Clearly the lesson didn’t take immediately. But that’s all part of the learning process, especially for a young guy. Sherry acknowledged the issue and throughout Tuesday’s practice worked to improve it.

The results speak for themselves. In addition to the final touchdown, Sherry placed a perfect ball to tight end Jake Phillips, who was streaking up the seam for a big gain. That’s a play that could lead to great success for the Rebels this season, no matter who’s throwing the ball.

When asked, Sherry knew exactly how many days were left until UNLV’s season opener on Thursday, Aug. 30, against Minnesota. He gets visibly excited talking about playing in a real game again, but then he quickly checks himself.

“I don’t want to look too far ahead,” Sherry said. “I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

It’s an open competition, Sherry said, and he’s out on the field working hard just like everybody else.

Yet only one player will get the job. And maybe only one player can throw a well-placed ball into space and trust his receiver to come around for the score.

“We’ll see what happens when Minnesota comes,” Sherry said.

INJURY UPDATES

The Rebels are banged up at a few positions on both sides of the ball right now.

Defensive end Sonny Sanitoa was expected to get into Ely late on Tuesday. He got an MRI on his knee and the good news, Hauck said, is that he doesn’t need surgery. The recovery time will depend on how Sanitoa responds to rehab.

New linebacker Max Ehlert is out with a hamstring injury, though it doesn’t appear to be very serious.

On the other side of the ball, offensive linemen Doug Zismann and Ron Scoggins both sat out practice on Tuesday. Hauck said that was because of the NCAA’s cautious policies regarding head injuries.

“If you have a headache or you’re light-headed, you’re probably going to miss practice time,” Hauck said. “That’s just the way it is.”

Other players out of practice included running back Dionza Bradford, who has a boot on his right foot, and tight end Nick Gstrein, who has a cast on his foot. Gstrein, a true freshman, may miss this season while Bradford is not expected to miss significant time.

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

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  1. Real positive I see. I'm not a coach, or staff at UNLV. I'm just a fan. Win or lose I'm there. Find another team if they bother you so bad.

  2. Looking forward to the season opener. Go REBELS!!!

  3. Glad it's finally time for football season!