Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, May 1, 2012 | 2 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer discuss the UNLV football team's efforts during spring practice heading into Friday's Spring Showcase. The Rebels, which are coming off a two-win season, have shown signs of improvement.
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The upcoming months are just as important as any stretch of time the UNLV football team will have, including the 2012 season.
Without the days in the weight room, player-run practices at Rebel Park in the sweltering heat and time to further learn the playbook, UNLV doesn’t have much chance to perform better than the teams that won two games each of the past two seasons. As the Rebels go into this crucial period, coach Bobby Hauck emphasized the difference between liking the promise he sees now and seeing results come August.
“Potential’s a bad word,” Hauck said. “Let’s be guys who achieve rather than guys that have potential to achieve.”
The Rebels’ spring practices ended with the Spring Showcase on April 20, and one week later Hauck met with reporters to discuss the team moving forward. During the week in between, he and the coaching staff were busy scattering across the country for spring recruiting, a schedule so busy that they hadn’t yet met as a group to discuss what they saw in the final scrimmage.
There’s probably not a lot for them to break down, though. On that tape they’ll find a lot of potential — running back Tim Cornett and new defensive end James Boyd come to mind — but nothing that will guarantee wins this fall. The closest they can get to that is in summer workouts, during which Hauck expects 100 percent participation.
“College football players don’t take the summer off. They’re all here,” Hauck said.
Strength and conditioning coach Mike Gerber will be in charge of the weight room — a place with which Hauck said his guys need to get familiar — but outside of there it’s up to the players to get together for workouts. They’ll have free reign of the two practice fields at Rebel Park, which will be the closest thing to practice until the team reports for fall camp on Aug. 6.
Part of those summer workouts will be the quarterbacks and receivers continuing to get comfortable with each other, specifically with timing patterns. The bonds forged during those hours could serve as a good indicator for which signal-caller — freshman Nick Sherry or junior Caleb Herring — will be the starter for the opening game. However, Hauck emphasized that he’s not going to rush that decision, even though some would say picking a starter lets the team know who’s going to be their leader.
“I want the team to know it doesn’t really matter who the quarterback is,” Hauck said.
At running back, Cornett may have had the best spring of anyone on the team. Some of that credit certainly goes to the offensive line, and maybe it’s even a warning of how the defense will play, but even a pessimist would have come away impressed with the junior.
While this may mean that Cornett will get upwards of 20 carries per game and shoulder the offense, Hauck said he’s not ready to proclaim that his plan.
Beginning with the Aug. 30 home opener against Minnesota, UNLV plays 13 games with no bye weeks, and odds are against one guy getting that many carries injury-free through that schedule. Backups Bradley Randle and Eric Johnson, a converted wide receiver, both looked solid in spring, but again that brings up the question of whether they were that good or the defense that bad.
No one can answer that for certain because right now it just looks like the offense has that forbidden p-word. The next few months are the Rebels’ chance to turn that into something real.
“Good teams,” Hauck said, “have great summers.”