Saturday, April 8, 2023 | 2 a.m.
• What: UNLV football spring game
• When: 1 p.m.
• Where: Allegiant Stadium
• Details: Free admission, free parking, on-field autograph session
The UNLV football program is still very much a work in progress.
New playbooks are being taught on offense and defense, the roster will be tweaked when the transfer portal opens again in May and players are still working on their physical development.
In fact, in coach Barry Odom’s mind, the monthlong weightlifting regimen that players will begin next week will be just as important as the on-field work his team put in during the spring practice window.
So yeah, the Scarlet and Gray are far from a finished product.
But after the conclusion of Thursday’s penultimate spring session at Rebel Park, Odom took stock of his squad and expressed his approval at the progress it’s made.
“It’s a much improved team in every area, by position group,” Odom said. “They’ve been able to take what we taught and then go apply it. That says a lot about the team we have.”
Those improvements will be on display today when the team plays its spring game at Allegiant Stadium. Though it won’t take on the true format of a game, Odom said he plans to emphasize long scrimmage periods that will feature the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense.
UNLV has been scrimmaging throughout the spring, but Saturday figures to be a lengthier simulation with down-and-distance continuity and real game situations.
“It will be a true offense vs. defense lineup, try to go block and tackle, run and hit, score points and then on defense, try not to give up any,” Odom said. “Hopefully we’ll simulate a game, to a point.”
For fans, it will be the first chance to see Odom’s defense in action. It’s an aggressive style that puts defenders in the backfield, and the unit has been bolstered by the offseason additions of transfer linebackers Jackson Woodard (Arkansas) and Zavier Carter (LSU).
Expect Odom and defensive coordinator Mike Scherer to apply the pressure, while offensive coordinator Brennan Marion attempts to rev up his newly installed “go-go” attack.
Juniors Doug Brumfield and Harrison Bailey figure to see most of the snaps at quarterback, with junior Ricky White and senior Senika McKie serving as the top receiving options. Senior Courtney Reese appears to be the top running back, but Marion is likely to employ a committee to handle the carries in his multi-pronged rushing attack.
Odom wants to see both units execute, even if that sounds like a Catch-22.
“It’s hard. As a head coach you want the offense to score a million points and you don’t want the defense to give up any,” he said. “It will be exciting. They’ll play hard.”
Free for fans
Regardless of what happens on the field, Odom wants UNLV’s spring game to be a success in the stands.
Fan support has been tepid, to say the least, in the first three years the Scarlet and Gray have called Allegiant Stadium home. Not counting the 2020 season in which COVID-19 protocols severely limited attendance, UNLV has averaged just 22,234 fans per home game.
Odom wants to change that.
“For us to get where we want to go, we’ve got to become Vegas’ team,” he said.
UNLV is doing what it can to make the spring game fan friendly. Admission is free, as is parking. And when the practice ends, fans will be welcomed onto the field to meet players, take photos and collect autographs.
It’s part of Odom’s plan to win over the local fan base and develop Allegiant Stadium into a true home venue.
“I want Allegiant to be a homefield advantage for us,” Odom said. “We’re going to get that done. The only way to do that is embrace the opportunity to have fans there.”