Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 | 2 a.m.
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It's another week and there's another UNLV football loss to break down and dig in to for the Las Vegas Sun sports staff. The guys also get into some NFL betting and the UFC's return in Toronto.
- Keep your composure: Defending Air Force one of the more unique challenges in football
- Mountain Best: UNR tops the Sun’s initial Mountain West college football rankings
- UNLV needs better pickup lines as it enters difficult stretch of the schedule
- Rebels stuck in different version of same bad movie in 35-27 loss to Washington St.
- ‘We’re hard to love’: Bobby Hauck and Rebels dealing with reality of starting 0-2
- Bobby Hauck struggles to explain UNLV’s 17-14 home loss to Northern Arizona
- All UNLV Football Coverage
The long-term plan at UNLV, and really any football program, is to get to a point where only the most outstanding underclassmen are cracking the starting lineup. Relying on experience, rather than warm bodies, is a better recipe for success.
Clearly, the Rebels (0-3) aren’t there yet. The starters already are a young group — only three seniors in week one — and when UNLV coach Bobby Hauck has to find a replacement because of performance or injury, the faces staring back are even younger.
The most recent example of that is on the offensive line, where Bishop Gorman grad Ron Scoggins was called upon to make his first career start last Friday against Washington State.
“With my hand on the line for the first snap, I was a little timid, a little nervous, but once that first hit happened, I was ready to roll,” Scoggins said.
Scoggins got the start at left guard because sophomore left tackle Brett Boyko injured his knee in practice — sophomore Cameron Jefferson slid over from guard to tackle — and with Boyko listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Air Force (1-1), Scoggins may be thrust into the lineup again. The game will be televised locally at 7 p.m. on digital channel 8.2 and Cox Cable channel 129.
It’s not that Hauck wants to keep tossing guys into the fire year after year, but when he looked at his backups, it was clear to him that Scoggins, who otherwise might have taken a redshirt year, was the best interior lineman he had.
It’s similar to the decision to bench senior safety Dre Crawford in favor of freshman Peni Vea, the current leading tackler, or even the preseason announcement of freshman Nick Sherry ahead of junior Caleb Herring at quarterback. Scoggins’ move was a bit different because it came from an injury, but all three of them were in the lineup because Hauck believed they gave the Rebels the best chance to win.
UNLV still is in a position where it has to rely on freshmen and sophomores throughout the depth chart. That reality is reflected in the expectations, with Hauck giving Scoggins a passing grade against the Cougars considering the situation.
“If he was a fifth-year senior, I might not have the same assessment, but being a true freshman thrown into the mix against a Pac-12 school, he did a nice job,” Hauck said.
The clarification, still common in the program, is necessary because so many of the Rebels are prone to the gaffes, mistakes and errors that are commonplace with young players. Those are things Hauck doesn’t see on the Falcons’ game tape.
“They won’t make mistakes,” Hauck said. “They look like a veteran, well-drilled football team.”
Air Force likely will start just as many seniors at linebacker (three) as UNLV will on offense and defense combined. And because of the complicated zone blitzes the Falcons run out of their 3-4 defense, there’s no telling which one of them may be bull-rushing Scoggins or the other offensive linemen at any given time.
Air Force’s blitz package is difficult to prepare for, Hauck said, because it’s so extensive and because the Falcons are very good at hiding it until the play begins. That means Sherry likely will face the biggest challenge of his young career as he tries to identify the oncoming blitzers before the snap.
Senior right tackle Yusef Rodgers said he’s excited to prepare for the different looks, though that opinion easily could change midgame. Likewise, Scoggins is preparing like he’s going to play and said he’s ready, but there’s a big difference between what he saw and what he could see Saturday.
“If he does end up having to play some on Saturday, I hope he can handle all their stuff,” Hauck said. “And if he does, he’s going to be a capable player. I think his future is very bright.”
The future may be bright at a few spots, but Hauck and the Rebels still have to deal with their remaining 10 games this year, starting with Air Force. And with the youth movement in full force, UNLV has to hope that the experience those players get on the fly will be enough to win a few games.
“Next season we’ll be a veteran football team, which will be something unusual or unheard of around here, at least to date,” Hauck said.
For this season, it’s still about trying to get better by getting younger. So far, that has left the Rebels with more questions than answers.