Tuesday was unofficially “Quarterbacks Day” at UNLV spring practice.
One week into a position battle that figures to last well into fall camp, the competitors took turns addressing the media for the first time in 2021 — except for the freshman who may or may not be the favorite to eventually claim the job.
According to head coach Marcus Arroyo, his group of passers is making progress with each session at Rebel Park.
“They’re working their tail off in the film room,” Arroyo said. “Pre-practice and post-practice, getting things done, doing it the right way, competing together.”
Sophomore Doug Brumfield, junior Justin Rogers and freshman Cameron Friel will duke it out for the No. 1 QB job over the next three weeks, and throughout the summer, and maybe right up until kickoff against Eastern Washington on Sept. 2.
While it’s entirely too early for any of the three quarterbacks to distance themselves from the competition, Arroyo believes spring practice is giving him an opportunity to quantify what each player brings to the offense.
Arroyo said that due to the environment of spring practice, he is demanding a lot from his quarterbacks.
“We’ve got a pretty high standard and high expectations,” Arroyo said. “We’re pressing those guys pretty good. In spring ball there’s a really high standard for those guys in that they don’t get hit, you’re going against your defense, everything is pretty scripted, and so the expectations are to be almost perfect.”
UNLV certainly did not get “almost perfect” play from the quarterback position last season. Max Gilliam started all six games and put up pedestrian numbers, but that was enough to hold off challenges from Brumfield and Rogers.
Rogers got into two games in relief of Gilliam and completed a respectable 14-of-22 passes (63.6%) for 161 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Brumfield saw action in two games and hit on 9-of-21 throws (42.9%) for 151 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Brumfield did run for a score.
Brumfield, a 6-foot-5 lefthander from Inglewood, Calif., is embracing the opportunity to compete for the No. 1 job.
“My whole career, I’ve always had quarterback competitions, so I feel like this is just routine for me,” Brumfield said. “You want to go out there and compete every day, no matter if there’s somebody else out there taking snaps or it’s just you. It’s just the way of football.”
A former 3-star recruit, Brumfield said his main goal for spring practice is to throw with more pace and accuracy.
“I tend to throw with my arm a lot, because I feel like I have a pretty strong arm and I can make throws with just arm,” Brumfield said. “But that tends to make me overthrow my passes and throw, say, a 5-yard pass at 90 miles per hour. It’s unnecessary. If I bring my whole body into the throw, I can make a better throw overall.”
Rogers, as the veteran of the group, echoed Arroyo in saying that mistakes cannot be tolerated at quarterback — even during spring.
“[We are] putting pressure on ourselves,” Rogers said. “It’s not okay to miss balls here and there. We set a high standard as far as completion percentage and things that we want to do as far as explosive plays and things of that nature.”
Rogers believes the eventual starter will be the player that best executes the finer details of the offense, as well as the player who sets the best example for the entire team.
“Internally we have our goals and things we want to accomplish,” Rogers said, “and whoever does the best job of that — runs the offense, leads the team as a whole — that’s who I think will win the competition.”
Friel, a 3-star recruit from Hawaii, enrolled early and has been taking classes at UNLV since January, allowing him to get a head start on football practice.
True freshmen are not allowed to speak to the media during spring practice, per team policy, but Arroyo said Friel is gaining invaluable experience.
“There’s no replacement for that experience,” Arroyo said. “Cam is excited. His demeanor is the right one. He’s got a great attitude toward it and it’ll be big dividends once we get to a certain point.”
Friel, a 6-foot-4 pocket passer, might be the favorite to earn the job, but at this point Arroyo is more concerned with getting him used to the college game, knowing that spring reps will pay off down the road.
“You see those dividends pay off,” Arroyo said. “They’re usually not right off the bat. There’s usually a big growth curve right there, because there’s a little bit of a panic button when you come in from high school and all of a sudden you’re thrown into the mix like that and thrown into the fire in this type of environment.”
Charles Williams becomes a father
Charles Williams has done a lot during his time at UNLV. The sixth-year running back has a 1,000-yard season, 19 career touchdowns and an All-Mountain West selection to his name. But his biggest accomplishment came last week, when he welcomed his daughter into the world.
The first-time father said his daughter, Kamiyah, weighed in at six pounds, six ounces and measured 20 inches (she got her height from her mom, the 5-foot-9 Williams said).
“It was a great experience watching her come into the world,” Williams said. “I was speechless … She makes me happy every day I come home. I’m glad I’ve got her in my life now.”
The sure-handed back said that handling a newborn is not all that different from securing the football.
“Basically the same: Don’t drop it,” Williams said.