After more than a decade of losing seasons, the UNLV football team had a breakthrough year in 2013, winning seven games and earning a bowl bid. Now trying to build off that success, the Rebels will conclude spring practices with the annual Spring Showcase game, which is free to the public at 5:30 p.m. April 11 at Peter Johann Memorial Soccer Field. UNLV coach Bobby Hauck talked about the team’s preparations for the upcoming season.
How is the pressure different coming off a seven-win season versus coming off a trio of two-win seasons?
The pressure is always there, because everybody involved is competitive, and we all want to win. Last season doesn’t really have a lot of impact in that regard on the succeeding season. It’s more about wanting to win and getting the work in that we need to get done to have a chance in the fall.
Do you sense a different mindset in the returning players who were part of last season’s success?
I think so, from the standpoint of knowing they can do it. We can be a winning football team, we can beat teams in our conference that we haven’t beaten, win on the road, beat our rival—all those things that had not been done for a while. That lends credence to the daily grind. To me, it makes it easier. You have to put in the work. You can’t be thinking you’ve arrived at any point in time, whether you win them all or lose them all. But the ability to participate in the daily grind may be a little bit easier.
One of your biggest decisions this year is deciding who will replace Caleb Herring at quarterback. You’ve said you don’t want to name a starter until this fall, but what can you tell us now about the competition between returning junior Nick Sherry and junior college transfer Blake Decker?
Nick has had a real nice spring; I’m fired up about him. He’s grasping more and more every day. And Decker being new, his learning curve is even steeper, but he’s bright—they’re both very bright guys—and he’s picking it up fast, maybe faster than expected. They’ve both had nice springs so far, but with that being said, we’ve got a ways to go. But they have a good, healthy competition going on. As I say often as we get into fall, you better have two [quarterbacks who can play] because you’re going to need them both before the season is over with.
Who are one or two players most Rebel fans don’t know about now that they’ll be talking about during the season?
Defensive back David Greene. He was our co-Special Teams Player of the Year last season [as a sophomore], which generally lends itself to a guy having a big year the following season. And [sophomore] Charles Howard has a chance to have an impact somewhere on the offensive line. It’s a new position to him [after playing defensive line last year], but he’s got a real chance, and he’s somebody who no one has ever heard of.
When your first-string offense goes against your first-string defense in a scrimmage, which side are you rooting for?
That’s the interesting thing in my job. Everybody else gets to root for their side of the ball, and in my job I can either choose to be irritated by the side that doesn’t succeed or be happy for the side that succeeds. I’m a glass-is-half-full guy, so I’m always with the side that wins in the spring.