UNLV Football showcases talent at 2024 spring game

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UNLV Football enters the field for the Spring Showcase at Allegiant Stadium on April 6. (Photo courtesy of Tairese Hall/Taiflicks)

UNLV Football hosted its annual spring game at Allegiant Stadium, showcasing a preview of what to expect for the 2024-2025 season.

The Rebels featured 16 new transfers, one of which was Big 12 transfer Casey Cain, a former University of Texas wide receiver who showed out today, catching multiple passes during the game.

“He’s a big receiver that can run, and that’s gonna be really valuable to us,” UNLV wide receiver Jacob De Jesus said. “Just getting him on the same page with me and Rick, with coach Alexander. Just setting the standard showing him how coach Marion wants him to run but he’s already molded in pretty well.”

The Rebels featured four different quarterbacks during the game. Hajj-Malik Williams, a senior transfer out of Campbell University, dazzled Rebel faithful with multiple complete passes on the run and throwing multiple dimes throughout the game.

Cameron Friel also shined during the game, picking apart the defense and putting on a display for the Rebels.

“Excited about the body of work and what our kids have done, the work they put in on non-practice days, the lifting, and the meetings and walkthroughs,” UNLV head coach Barry Odom said. “Our system coaches have done a nice job being, I think, good teachers this spring.”

The defense found themselves down as much as 15 points at the end of the first half. Key players, including Jackson Woodard and Tony Grimes, and the pressure from the defensive line flipped the script in the second half of the game.

“I thought our D-line played really well. We have a lot of depth at D-Line,” UNLV linebacker Jackson Woodard said. “It was really good to see just the backups at every position go in and not see a big difference.”

The defense rallied for a comeback victory, forcing three-and-outs, turnovers on downs and a game changing pick-six from Jah’Von Grigsby. 

“I had to talk with the defense at halftime, and they responded really well,” Woodard said. “Whenever it comes to season, we’re going to be down at times, but it’s good to know that we’re gonna bounce back.”

The Rebel defense stood strong and defeated the offense 64-53, giving the Rebels some takeaways heading into summer and fall camp.

“We held out a couple guys today that I think will be impact players for us,” Odom said. “We addressed some needs in the secondary with some different body sizes. Excited about the progress the part seven has made on that side of the ball.”

Former NC State running back Michael Allen saw the majority of reps at running back. He rushed for 251 yards and a touchdown last season for the Wolfpack, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. 

Other running backs, including Jai’Den Thomas, saw reps today for the Rebels. Thomas returns for his sophomore season after a sensational freshman season, gaining over 500 yards and 12 touchdowns. Thomas is expected to see more time on the field after the departure of Donovan Lester and Courtney Reese. 

“All of our backs are explosive, they run fast, run hard,” UNLV wide receiver Ricky White said. “We emphasize on running it through players, not running it out of bounds. So we’re going to compete, that’s what we love to do.”

The Rebels are set to start training camp in the summer and transition into fall camp to prepare for its first game against the University of Houston on Aug. 31.

“With strong conviction, I think we’re building and know we’re building something very special, and it takes a city,” Odom said. “They’ve been a fun group to coach. We’ll keep building and stay on the mission to win a championship.”

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