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Thursday, April 15, 2010
Spring superlatives: UNLV

By Graham Watson

UNLV is getting a makeover this spring under new head coach Bobby Hauck, who is looking to install a power running game and refine the 4-3 defensive scheme. Hauck acknowledged that he doesn’t necessarily have all of the personnel to implement everything he wants to do this spring, but he’s slowly trying to turn the Rebels into the contender many thought they could be a year ago.

Here’s a look at the strongest and weakest positions for UNLV this spring:

Strongest position: Quarterback

Key returners: Senior Omar Clayton (60 percent completion percentage, 2,230 yards, 13 touchdowns, 12 interceptions), junior Mike Clausen (completed 52 of 88 passes, 463 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions)

Key departures: None.

The skinny: Even though Clayton has more than 20 starts in his career, Hauck opened the quarterback competition this spring. Both Clayton and Clausen have the ability to lead the team and have the ability to be a dual threat, which might come in handy as the running game, which was weak last season, continues to progress. Clayton and Clausen also are competing with freshman Caleb Herring for the starting role.

Weakest position: Defensive line

Key returners: Senior tackle Isaako Aaitui (31 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks), senior end Malo Taumua (26 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack)

Key departures: End Heivaha Mafi (37 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks), tackle Martin Tevaseu (28 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack)

The skinny: The UNLV defense struggled last season and was one of the worst scoring and total defenses in the country. Linebacker Jason Beauchamp, who led the team in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss, is gone, which will put even more pressure on the defensive line to produce. It had trouble stopping the run and getting to the quarterback last season. The defensive line returns two starters with 52 total starts between them, and players such as Preston Brooks, whose season was cut short because of a shoulder injury, and Nate Holloway could a make a difference in Hauck's 4-3 scheme.