UNLV football:

Rebels happy to get key injured players back for first practice

Brett Boyko, Devante Davis and Tim Cornett among the players who missed spring camp that are back on the field

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Steve Marcus

UNLV wide receiver Devante Davis catches a pass during practice at UNLV Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013.

UNLV Football Is Back

UNLV wide receiver Devante Davis stretches out during practice at UNLV Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Brett Boyko didn’t get to lead the UNLV football team from the field much last season, playing only four games on the offensive line because of a left knee injury that required offseason surgery. Now that he’s back for fall camp, he wants to lead in as many ways as possible, which currently includes a pencil mustache he’s hoping catches on throughout the team.

“Mine’s a little thin, but at least it’s noticeable,” Boyko said Tuesday after the team’s first official practice.

More noticeable are the guys UNLV has on the practice field who weren't there for spring camp, including key offensive pieces such as Boyko, running back Tim Cornett and leading receiver Devante Davis. All three missed spring practice while recovering from surgeries, although even then it was hard to keep them off the field. During one particularly intense drill, Cornett, who wasn’t wearing any pads, tried to insert himself into the scrum.

Now all three are trying to insert themselves back into the offense. They got a jump on that by participating in summer conditioning drills.

“They’ve had good summers,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “I anticipate it will be pretty smooth for them transitioning back in.”

Davis and Cornett, former teammates at North Shore High in Galena Park, Texas, both played in every game last season. Cornett said at July’s Mountain West media day that he tore his labrum in the first game and played the rest of the season injured. That makes his 1,232 yards and seven touchdowns on 242 carries even more impressive.

Davis broke through for 854 yards and four touchdowns on 61 catches. After the season, he had to have the meniscus repaired in his right knee, the same knee he said he had scoped as a high school freshman. This being his first major injury, there have been some mental hurdles to clear.

“At the beginning it was more mental because I was thinking, ‘Man, I hope it gets back. I don’t know if it’s going to get healthy,’ ” Davis said. “Once it started getting stronger, I believed in it and now it’s more than 100 (percent).”

Despite participating in seven-on-seven drills and running throughout the summer, Davis said he wasn’t officially cleared until a few weeks ago. Part of what motivated him to get out and practice before then was the excitement about working with the same core players as last year.

“The offense will function better,” Davis said. “The offense can finally push forward with everyone from last year.”

Both sides of the ball have nine returning starters. Other key players who missed spring practice but are back on the field include defensive lineman Parker Holloway and offensive lineman Robert Waterman.

An upside to Boyko’s injury for the team’s future was that Bishop Gorman product Ron Scoggins stepped onto the line and played well, giving the Rebels some extra experience up front. And there’s also the fact that Boyko knows the level he needs to reach.

As a freshman, Boyko suffered a torn labrum before ever taking a real snap and redshirted that season. Now the former honorable mention all-league pick has some work on his resume.

“I didn’t know what to expect before and now I’m used to it,” Boyko said. “I know what it takes to come back and I know what it takes to play.”

And he knows what it takes to grow a mustache, something he may not have been able to do as well back then, either.

Locals looking at redshirts

Basic High receiver Devonte Boyd and Liberty running back Niko Kapeli are not yet academically cleared for this season, Hauck said.

“It’s my hope that we can get them in sooner rather than later but it may be midyear before that happens,” he said.

If the process drags on as Hauck expects it to, both players will likely redshirt this season, which was a possibility no matter their academic standing. Hauck added that all the returning players were cleared academically.

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

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