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February 27, 2011

UNLV has lots of work to do ... again

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck enters his second season with plenty of work to do.

Then again, there seemingly always is lots of work to do at UNLV. The program has been to only three bowls in its history, with the last trip coming in 2000. Expect that bowl drought to stretch to an 11th season in 2011, but Hauck is making strides.

The second-year coach injected a hefty dose of youth into the lineup in 2010, so he'll spend the spring continuing to groom what Hauck claims "was the youngest team in college football" in 2010. Fourteen true freshmen saw action, and that youth showed as UNLV ranked 109th in the nation in total defense (450.5 ypg) and 118th in total offense (274.2 ypg). Things only can get better for a program that has won just 20 times in the past seven seasons, right?

Here's a look at the Rebels as they prepare to open spring drills.

Bobby Hauck is making strides as he is set to begin his second year as UNLV coach.
Coach: Bobby Hauck
Last season: 2-11 overall, 2-6 in the Mountain West.
Spring dates: Feb. 28-April 2.
(minimum seven starts last season)
Offense (5): TE Austin Harrington, WR Michael Johnson, C Andrew Mack, WR Phillip Payne, G Doug Zismann.
Defense (3): E B.J. Bell, CB Will Chandler, T James Dunlap.
Special teams (1): K Nolan Kohorst.
Positions of strength

Running back looks strong. Tim Cornett was the first freshman in school history to lead the squad in rushing (546 yards), and the Texan tied the school record for touchdowns in a season by a freshman with eight (six rushing, two receiving). Cornett will compete with a stable of veteran runners, including Bradley Randle, Deante Purvis and Omari Thompson; there's also Dionza Bradford, a grayshirt who enrolled last month. JC transfer Eric Johnson also could get in the mix. Receiver also looks strong, with the top five pass-catchers from a year ago back. WRs Phillip Payne and Michael Johnson form a nice duo, though Johnson is suspended for spring. Marcus Sullivan should shine as a sophomore.

Help is needed

Where to begin? There is lots of work to do on the lines on both sides of the ball. Three starters are gone from an offensive line that allowed 36 sacks. Two starters are gone from a defensive front that recorded only 12 sacks in 13 games. It's hoped JC transfer Trent Allmang-Wilder -- one of eight junior college players signed by UNLV -- can bring heat off the edge; he enrolled last month. "Trent is the type of player we were lacking -- a big, physical presence at defensive end," Hauck said. The linebacking corps must be rebuilt. And who will play quarterback? Omar Clayton is gone after playing more games at quarterback than any Rebel in history (40). Sophomore Caleb Herring played in eight games and passed for 365 yards and four touchdowns (three picks) in a reserve role last season. But his skills are better suited for the former staff's spread offense.

3 guys to watch

S Corbin Brown: Keep an eye on Brown, a Las Vegas native who began his career at Air Force. He didn't like the Academy even though he played as a freshman. Brown sat out last season and looked good on the scout team. He packs a wallop despite his 6-foot, 175-pound frame.

CB Quinton Pointer: Pointer, a three-year starter, is back for his final season after taking a medical redshirt. It's vital for Porter, a legit NFL prospect, to not just claim a starting spot but to excel.

QB Sean Reilly: He might be the key JC signee for the Rebels. Reilly, a 6-4, 210-pound pocket passer, is built for Hauck's pro-style, two-tight end set. Reilly, who posted some big numbers at Saddleback College (Calif.) in 2010, already has enrolled and will make a strong run at the starting job.

The pressure is on

DE B.J. Bell: It's time for Bell to finally do what he was signed to do coming out of junior college. After suffering an injury, he redshirted in his first season on campus in 2009. He did enough to gain a starting job at one end spot last fall. But he had only 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss in 13 games. Bell, a former junior college All-America, needs to show he can be a playmaker this spring.

The buzz

This spring will be all about learning and teaching for Hauck, who is trying to get a youthful lineup up to speed quickly. There's reason for hope on offense, with running back and receiver showing potential. And quarterback has a chance to be a position of strength, too. The positions that must show improvement this spring will be the lines on both sides of the ball.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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