Freshmen step up to leadership roles during spring football

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Freshman quarterback Doug Brumfield continues to work on his game on the field, while also improving on his leadership as he battles for the starting quarterback position. Photo Courtesy of UNLV Athletics-Lucas Peltier.

UNLV football had to overcome a lot of challenges during the shortened 2020 season. While COVID-19 was an obstacle in the way of every college football team, the Rebels also had to deal with shortened offseason practices and a lack of roster depth. 

The pandemic hit just a few weeks before any official spring football practice would have started. The team was not able to get together during the summer and only had a few weeks to practice in the fall before the season. The group that was negatively impacted by lack of practice were the freshmen on last year’s team. 

Many freshmen had to play a lot of minutes, and some were thrust into starting roles due to roster attrition and season opt-outs. It was a big challenge for freshmen, like wide receiver Kyle Williams, quarterback Doug Brumfield and defensive back Nohl Williams, to have to play important roles with a limited offseason. 

Even while having to adjust so quickly during their first year of college football, the Rebels were able to see on the field improvement from their freshmen. Williams was named Mountain West Freshman of the Year and Brumfield showed promise as UNLV rotated quarterbacks much of last season.  

Now, entering their first spring ball with a season of college football under their belt, the freshmen are taking what they learned last year to not only improve their game on the field but to step up as leaders to help guide UNLV through its first spring practice with head coach Marcus Arroyo  .

“Guys like Kyle Williams and Doug (Brumfield) are two really good examples of guys that got thrown right into college football without anything,” Arroyo said. “That’s a tough act to do, but they’ve done it with maturity, humility, and they have put in a great offseason. Their leadership is starting to show based on that experience, and it’s been invaluable.”

For the freshmen, everything happened so fast last year, Arroyo and defensive coordinator Peter Hansen both said they “were drinking through a firehose.” Now, both the coaches and freshmen can use this time in the spring to fine-tune what they learned so quickly last year and work more on the details. 

The freshmen have not just garnered attention from the coaches, but everyone on the team is noticing a difference from the freshmen. Their on-field production and improvement will take up most of the focus on the outside, but their fellow teammates are noticing them taking charge within the team.   

“The biggest thing I see are the young guys, Doug (Brumfield), Kyle (Williams), developing into leaders in their groups and on offense because the offense is young,” senior offensive lineman Julio Garcia said. “I see a lot of improvement from them, trying to take over the offensive side and trying to be leaders.”

Brumfield is in the heat of a quarterback competition that will likely continue through the rest of spring and into the summer, leading up close to the season opener. He impressed coaches with how quickly he matured during a limited camp last season, which earned him playing time in the second half of last season. 

Leading by example comes pretty naturally for Brumfield. He has always played hard for his teammates and understands that leading by example with his play is important. However, this spring he is continuing to improve upon being more outspoken within the team. 

“What I’ve been working on lately is just being more vocal,” Brumfield said. “I have to be more comfortable being the young guy but also knowing how to be a vocal leader with the other guys and that I hold a position on this team where I can say something and they’ll take it and do something positive with it.”

Senior defensive back Bryce Jackson noted that the freshman came out with an urge to get better. The energy they all bring spreads across the rest of the team and motivates everyone to want to be better. 

As UNLV gets into the final week of spring practice, Arroyo wants to make sure everyone remains focused on the task at hand, continuing to get better and take advantage of this time to get better to work on the little things, time they didn’t have last year.  

“We set goals early on, and they don’t change,” Arroyo said. “We set them early on and try to make sure we are touching them every single day. We don’t deviate from that because that’s when you create a gray area in your program. That attention to detail continues to be something we are trying to hone in on.”

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