Rebels earning their stripes in fall camp

Photo Courtesy of UNLV Athletics

As UNLV football begins to enter the home stretch of its first full fall camp under Marcus Arroyo, there has been something noticeably different with the Rebels helmets. Most of the helmets are blank, with no UNLV arch on them. 

It’s something that has gotten hardly any attention so far in camp. When Arroyo was asked by the media after Monday’s practice about leadership, he explained that he and his coaching staff are making all the players earn the arch on their helmet. 

“This camp, we didn’t put them on their helmets at all… Over the course of camp, every day as a staff, we watch every snap on tape and we go through and we delegate who has that reflection of identity and culture, and we hand out the arches,” said Arroyo. “And make some pride in what we’re doing, a lot of that has to do with leadership, the ability for guys to gel and understand what we’re asking of them.”

Regardless of whether a player has been at UNLV for a few years, is a transfer, or is a part of the 2020 or 2021 recruiting class, Arroyo and his staff have used the arches as a way to help keep everyone focused on the bigger picture during fall camp. 

A point of emphasis for UNLV this camp is to learn how to practice together as a group. No matter how long someone has been with UNLV or at another school, this is still the first fall camp with this group, with this coaching staff, in a somewhat normal environment. As everyone learns how to practice with one another as a team, the coaches are creating opportunities for team leaders. 

Arroyo calls it “shrinking the gap,” which is something that has been created in the program internally to help the relationship between the leaders and the rest of the team. He and his coaches show the players all the reps and everyone’s engagement. If there’s a gap between starters and those behind them in the depth chart, the Rebels could lose a big piece of productivity on the field. 

“Shrinking the gap between the most committed, the least committed, the oldest, the youngest, the most experienced, the least experienced, is a big deal for us… Those gaps have to be closed every day, and those guys have to understand that’s how you get a group and a culture really tight,” Arroyo said.

Kyle Williams Stepping Up

One player who showed great leadership last year and in the spring is wide receiver Kyle Williams. His play last year earned him Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors. He is only expected to get better this year as his role with the team grows. 

So far in camp, Williams has brought the energy that is needed of a leader. Williams confidently praised his wide receiver group, calling them “the best group in the Mountain West,” and his own skill, saying, “I feel like I’m the best route runner there is, nobody’s hanging with me.”

But William’s leadership goes much further than just his confidence. 

“As far as leadership,” Arroyo said, “the biggest thing is just influence… it’s not about title, it’s not about being at the front of the line, it’s about influence. Kyle does a good job of doing that, and what he asks of his guys, when he does talk, his work on the field reflects the biggest body of his influence.”

Quarterback Competition

Offensively, the Rebels are still in the heat of the quarterback competition. Doug Brumfield missed some time with a “tweak.” Arroyo said it was a precautionary measure, and he has returned to practice since then.

As the coaches figure out the starter, it has not slowed down the chemistry of the offense. Williams is confident that whoever is under center will help the offense operate at its best. 

“We’re coming together pretty well,” Williams said. “In the quarterback position, we’re all connected, so whoever gets the job… is going to be the best man up and we’re going to have the time of our lives.”

“The quarterbacks are competing well,” Arroyo said, “we have some on-field promotion, battle-field promotions are awesome, especially in camp with guys getting a chance to come in right off the sideline, sometimes jumping right in the middle of a drill. Those types of things are what you like to work through in camp, so guys can understand that those can happen at any time, create engagement, and continue to shrink the gap.”

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