Rebels football:

UNLV football’s staff prepares for 2012 season opener with new play-callers

Assistants J.D. Williams and Brent Myers each moved to coordinator in February, replacing Kraig Paulson and Rob Phenicie, who are still on staff

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Special to the Las Vegas Sun

UNLV assistant coach J.D. Williams talks to players on the sidelines. In the 2012 season, Williams takes over as the defensive coordinator while also working with the defensive backs.

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UNLV assistant coach Brent Myers tosses a ball before a game. In the 2012 season, Myers takes over as the offensive coordinator while also coaching the tight ends.

Bobby Hauck knew something needed to change.

In February, after leading UNLV to its second consecutive two-win season, Hauck made changes to his coaching staff.

“When you win two, you’ve got to shuffle the deck a little bit,” Hauck said last week in Ely. “That’s just the way it goes.”

What’s different with the Rebels’ situation is they didn’t lose any cards with the moves. In March, Hauck lost first-year linebackers coach Robin Ross and replaced him with Hauck’s former boss Tim Hundley, but the promotions and demotions didn’t kick anybody out the door.

Hauck moved defensive backs coach J.D. Williams up to defensive coordinator and tight ends coach Brent Myers to offensive coordinator, and he also kept former coordinators Kraig Paulson and Rob Phenicie to coach the outside linebackers and quarterbacks, respectively. Paulson also picked up the title of assistant head coach.

While also hanging onto their position-specific titles, Williams and Myers will make their UNLV debuts as play-callers in Thursday night’s home opener against Minnesota at 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. Close by will be the guys who did the same thing the past two seasons.

Paulson and Phenicie came to UNLV after long stints as Hauck’s coordinators at Montana. With the Grizzlies, they won at least a share of the conference title in all seven seasons and made it to three national championship games, losing all of them.

Hauck said their drawer of rings proves they know what they’re doing; they just have to keep moving forward. That’s exactly what Paulson and Phenicie intend to do, though in different roles.

“It’s worked out well,” Hauck said. “It shows character and shows (we have) guys who want to be here.”

On the flip side, it’s a big opportunity for Myers and Williams. Myers last was an offensive coordinator for two seasons (1998-99) with Boise State. Williams said he hasn’t called plays since his first real coaching job, in 1998 at Cal Poly. As the defensive backs coach, he was called upon to run the show defensively for a few games.

“It’s good to be back doing it,” said Williams, who was at Utah (2009), Washington (2006-08) and California (2002-05) before coming to Las Vegas. “I welcome the challenge.”

Of the nine full-time coaches who work with specific positions (excluding Hauck, the special teams coordinator), Williams and Myers are two of the three guys on staff who hadn’t worked with Hauck before UNLV. The other is defensive line coach Michael Gray.

Turning the play-calling duties to guys he has less of a history with shows that Hauck is trying to break new ground and bring a (relatively) new game-day philosophy to both sides of the ball.

“Freshen the approach a little bit,” Hauck said. “We’ve been doing a lot of the same things for a long time.”

With the addition of Hundley, Hauck said, UNLV got a guy who has forgotten more about defense than most people will ever know. Hundley first worked with Hauck when the latter was a graduate assistant at UCLA and Hundley was the linebackers coach. They also were on the same staff at Colorado and Washington, where Hauck coached the secondary for Hundley’s defense.

Hundley said this situation is proof you always want to treat your underlings with respect because some of them may turn into your boss. Their good relationship is the reason Hundley jumped at the opportunity.

“I’ve always thought he was a guy with a great deal of tempo. Very organized, very efficient at what he does,” said Hundley, who coached UCLA’s secondary for the past three seasons. “I wasn’t real interested in coaching someplace where it wasn’t a guy like that.”

The staff’s new dynamics will play out throughout the season, starting Thursday. And the lesson behind Hauck’s moves is the same one you often hear from coaches about their players: The name on the front of the uniform is more important than the one on the back.

“As long as we work together, it doesn’t matter who’s making the calls,” Williams said. “I think we all coach together in the same uniform and work to get the best out of our guys.”

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

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  1. J.D. I like your credentials 4 Superbowl appearances. Lets get the Rebel "D" stabilized and eventually something we can hang our hat on!
    Go Rebs