Posts Tagged ‘Sidney Hodge’

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Tallis Wallington runs through a football drill Tuesday at the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Football Clinic at UNLV.

W.G. Ramirez

“Football has become safer to play than it’s ever been – it’s the world’s greatest game.”

That was the message UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck continually embedded into the minds of nearly 600 exuberant youths who attended Tuesday’s Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Youth Football Clinic at Rebel Park.

And while Hauck might have an easier time getting his Rebels back into the postseason than he did grabbing the attention of the rotating groups of roughly 100 whippersnappers ranging in age from six through 14, it was the ensuing message that left the parents in attendance eyes wide open.

“Last year there was one youth football player nationally who died; 600 kids died riding their bikes,” he told each audience.

Alarming? Sure. True? Possibly.

Based on the research I did by scouring the Internet, there is no doubt that hundreds of bicyclists died last year. Of course, many were hit by cars, but from what I can tell, the youths who died from head trauma were not wearing helmets.

Safety first.

Which brings us back to not only Hauck’s first comment, but the same message I’ve heard all summer in conducting several interviews for a handful of football projects.

Tuesday was no different, and it was refreshing to see so many kids enthusiastic about a sport that has been conked upside the noggin with a national concern toward head injuries.

“I think the game, to a degree, has been under attack a little bit,” Hauck said. “It’s good to see these parents and all these kids excited about football. Five and 600 kids out here on a Tuesday morning in early August to participate in a football camp is kind of exciting, just to see the interest level in Revel football, and also in the game itself.”

VIEW A PHOTO GALLERY OF THE CLINIC HERE

After a pre-clinic speech, the kids were broken up into colorized groups – purple, red, yellow, etc – and taken to different stations where the Rebels practice every day. Some moved through drills as if they felt they’d be the next Robert Griffin III, others were there with their youth-football league teammates – like the Las Vegas Aces – getting ready for the season, there boys and girls just having fun and like most athletic events like these, there was a random father or two that was more into the training than his son.

“My dad keeps yelling at me that I’m in the wrong line,” cried one little camper to UNLV defensive back Sidney Hodge, who promptly flipped the boy’s frown upside down with a vote of confidence, got him in line – which the boy was right about all along – and the young trooper dominated his next time through the drill.

“I have two kids of my own, so coming out here, being fired up trying to show a little enthusiasm for them, I know it goes a long way,” Hodge said. “I would strongly encourage a lot more kids to come out. I think it’s something good for them – as far as learning the game of football.”

And learning it the right way, at a young age.

“The key to the whole thing is teaching the kids the game the right way at the right age,” said John Saccenti, executive director of the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. “We have professional coaches here with UNLV football coaches and football players who hopefully can teach these kids how to play the game the right way and how to stay safe and enjoy the game.”

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Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl executive director John Saccenti addresses a group of youths at Tuesday’s football clinic. Nearly 600 local youths attended the clinic at UNLV.

On a national level, there has been an increased effort toward educating parents, players and coaches about the sport, much deeper than before. Heads Up Football has been adopted by nearly 2,800 groups, and as the second season of the educational program begins, it has the biggest backer it could ask for – the National Football League. The NFL has granted USA Football – the national governing body for the sport – with a five-year, $45 million endowment. With nearly 11,000 football leagues across the United States, former Pittsburgh Steeler and ESPN analyst Merril Hoge believes Heads Up Football can eventually become a teaching tool nationally.

“It is the responsibility of parents, administrators, coaches – I don’t care the sport, even a teacher at during recess or lunch – they need to be educated on head trauma,” Hoge told me earlier this summer. “We have done a better job in football.”

Hoge said the biggest mistake parents can make is to take their kids out of extracurricular activity, and that by avoiding to take action to provide a safer environment for their children, it’ll be a bigger detriment in the long run.

“Part of that is about playing the game correctly, teaching the game correctly, so if and when there is head trauma, the proper protocol is followed,” Hoge said. “When you do that, the (athlete) is returned to play in a safe state. Doing the right thing, understanding the right symptoms – whatever environment we’re talking about – we’ve created a safer environment.

“We have parents who are not going to let their son play (football), but they’ll drive home and let them jump on a bike without a helmet. There is more upside to sports and being active, especially in a certified program that provides a safer environment, than sitting on a couch eating donuts and playing X-Box.”

Hoge said concussion awareness has become widespread nationwide, and an arduous effort in educating and informing people – from youth football, to high school, to college and to the NFL – is finally paying off. Hoge believes, as a whole, football is in a proactive state, rather than a reactive state, as there is enough information available to learn how to treat head injuries properly.

“Where we’re at now, compared to three years ago, is astronomical,” Hoge said.

Said Saccenti: “If we’re all getting together and we’re teaching kids how to play the right way, how to tackle the right way … and trying to keep the game safe, at this age, hopefully that carries with them at every level and makes them better football players and safer football players.”

Hauck agreed.

“I feel good about the game, I think it’s safer than it’s ever been,” Hauck said. “I still think it’s the world’s greatest game.”

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By W.G. Ramirez

Sure, nobody likes to lose. Who does?

But for UNLV senior Sidney Hodge, an Interdisciplinary Study major who is scheduled to graduate in December and plans on going into the OCS Navy after college, he doesn’t even want to talk about it.

And you can’t blame the 22-year-old defensive back from Palo Verde High School, where he lost twice in as many years with the Panthers – once to Bishop Gorman and the second by one point to Reno’s McQueen in the 2009 state championship.

“He wasn’t a real vocal kid, but I know he really hated losing,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said earlier this week. “He only lost two games with us, and he took them both hard. He’s not a losing type kid. I think maybe it’s wore on him a little bit.”

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Palo Verde-graduate Sidney Hodge, a senior, is one of UNLV’s defensive leaders this season.

Yeah, probably, as he enters Saturday night’s game at Sam Boyd Stadium against Arizona as part of a UNLV program that has lost more than five times the wins it’s accumulated during Hodge’s time in the defensive backfield.

There’s a big difference in going 27-2 with a Palo Verde program that is the last team in the state of Nevada to knock off Bishop Gorman, and being part of the hometown college team that has gone 6-33 since stepping on the field for the Rebels. Hodge grayshirted after signing with the Rebels in 2009, and didn’t earn his first letter as a Rebel until 2010, coach Bobby Hauck’s first season at the helm. And he quickly learned the differences after his first spring camp.

“At Palo, the only thing that was on our mind week-in, week-out was winning; ‘Who are we gonna beat down next?'” Hodge said. “I came into the spring bug-eyed, bushy-tailed all ready to go. I learned it was a more patient game. This game, if you take it slow, you’ll pick up a lot of things quicker, quicker than most instead of trying to rush in and jump straight into it. From freshman year on, it’s been a pretty good experience; I wouldn’t change it for the world. Division I college football is probably the best experience you can have.”

Except, of course, the losing. Rost said his former defensive standout won’t let on about it either, as he’s always been a player who is going to keep quiet and simply do his job.

“He’s gone through a lot, I’m very proud of him he’s stuck it out,” Rost said “He’s really done well with the frame and body he has. He’s really worked hard to be a starter for them. I know the coaching staff really likes him. He gives 100 percent for them on the field and it seems like he always comes up with a play. I know we’d love to have him back.”

Asked about his team’s progress and any frustration in searching for the team’s first win during the weekly press conference last Monday, Hodge came across as professional as they come, saying: “Guys are getting in the film room, we’re getting together and studying up and trying to make plays we need to make. We’re getting more physical a lot.”

Sounds programmed, right? Maybe it was, but in person, after practice at Rebel Park on Wednesday night, Hodge was even more business-like refusing to discuss anything negative, other than to say: “Our biggest emotion is probably being anxious to win ball games.”

Said Hauck: “We all want to be positive. Negativity doesn’t get you anywhere. No one goes through every day or week or year, without some negative things happening to them. That’s how you handle adversity, with a good attitude and positive outlook. All of us have been faced with some adverse situations and everybody’s come through it with a great outlook.”

Last week after two quarters it not only looked as if the Rebels could pull off a season-opening win, but they would have also ended a 22-game road losing skid. But a disastrous start to the second half ruined all that when Minnesota’s Marcus Jones returned the second-half kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and Ra’Shede Hageman blocked a field goal that Martez Shabazz picked up and raced for a 78-yard touchdown later in the third quarter.

“Minnesota went after him and he held up really well,” Hauck said Wednesday night. “Sidney is a solid guy. He’s got a family. It’s a unique situation for a college kid to be in that boat. He’s a guy that his teammates all admire because he’s a guy who has lived up to that responsibility. He’s a good family guy and he’s a good teammate and he’s done a nice job playing too.”

So with his wife Natiyah and daughter Cameron in the stands tonight, the focus has shifted to Arizona, as Hodge and the Rebels will try to steal a win in the home opener.

“For a lot of people this is the last (season) they’ll play college football in their life,” Hodge said. “There’s a lot of words you can put into it. Every week you get a chance to go out and show what you’re made of no matter what conference the (opponent is) from.

“It’ll be pretty exciting, especially with a Pac 12 team coming in. Hopefully Sam Boyd is pretty packed for it.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:34 p.m.

By W.G. Ramirez

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Junior Brett Boyko, coach Bobby Hauck and senior Sidney Hodge spoke to the media Monday.

UNLV plays 12 football games, and they all count.

That was the message from UNLV coach Bobby Hauck at his weekly press conference this past Monday.

And one week after a disappointing start to the season in Minneapolis, where Minnesota handed the Rebels a 51-23 setback, UNLV opens the home portion of its schedule against the Arizona Wildcats and their dynamic running back, Ka’deem Carey.

“They’re really good, they’re a fast team,” Hauck said. “They’re certainly as good or better than anybody we’ll play. Ka’deem Carey is the best running back in the country; he led the nation in rushing last year. I don’t know if we can tackle him, no one tackled him very well last year. I think he’s the best running back in the country. The evidence to that would be he led the nation in rushing last year. He’s just the real deal. Had he not been a true sophomore I assume we wouldn’t be playing him. He’s a terrific player.”

If Hauck’s demeanor didn’t sound that encouraging, it’s probably cause it didn’t look too positive in person, either. Flanked by offensive lineman Brett Boyko and defensive back Sideny Hodge, the trio looked like they’d already been through a typical UNLV season, rather than just one game. Whether or not that’s the case, the Rebels will suit up for Saturday night’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Sam Boyd Stadium against a talented Pac 12 team that won 35-0 over Northern Arizona last week.

“I don’t think it matters who you play, you just gotta go play; we play 12 and they all count,” Hauck said. “We’re playing a Big Ten team on the road; we’re playing a Pac 12 team in our second week. We know what the schedule is going into it, we knew we’d have our hands full, that is what it is. I think we’ve got a good team, we just approach each week the same, try to get the win on that weekend and try to get the next one. That’s how it’ll be every week through the season.”

Hopefully, for Hauck and the Rebels, it won’t be exactly how it is every week, like it was this past one, mulling over a mistake-filled game at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers scored twice on special teams and turned a tight game into a rout without scoring on offense for the first 23-plus minutes after halftime. Minnesota also blocked a field goal that was returned for a 78-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and Briean Boddy-Calhoun scored on an 89-yard interception return in the fourth.

Yeah, it was ugly.

Whether or not the Rebels can get themselves up in time for Arizona, after losing their 23rd-straight road game – 21 under Hauck’s watch – remains to be seen against Arizona’s spread offense that is much faster than what they saw in Minneapolis.

“Their style is such that there’s going to be plays in space, it’s the spread offense they’re running; either make the plays or you don’t,” Hauck said. “They do put good skill players in open space and you have to make plays on them. Minnesota … was gonna be a physical test – ‘see who was man enough to hold up’ – and I thought we did. In terms of getting pushed around by what I would consider to be a pretty good Big 10 offense and defensive line, that didn’t happen. That’s fairly encouraging.”

And to UNLV’s credit, the offense moved the ball and looked efficient, while the defense was the Rebels’ best unit on the field. For the record, UNLV’s offense outgained Minnesota’s 419-320. All stats and mistakes aside, Hauck was pleased with his team’s heart.

“First game there’s always things to correct, there’s lots and lots of things to correct,” Hauck said. “The thing that probably stuck out in my mind the most is after all the bad stuff that happened, with 10 minutes left in the game we were down about the 10-yard line, we were gonna make it a one-score game and after all the bad stuff, our former teams wouldn’t have held up. It would have been ‘ugh, here we go again’ and this group fought its way right back into that.

“This group is competitive, they like to play, they like each other, it’s important to them to win games and to play well for their team and I think that’s good progress.”

So there’s that.

And, of course, the fact they play 12 games – and they all count.

NOT-SO SPECIAL SPECIAL TEAMS – Shredded by the on-air commentators, and local media for what might have been the nation’s most inept special teams unit for Week 1, Hauck remained relatively cool during his press conference when asked, a couple times, about what needs to be done to fix the unit he oversees, and if there would be any extra time spent on special teams during this week’s practices.

As previously mentioned, it was the Gophers’ special teams that helped break the game open. Minnesota’s Marcus Jones returned the second half kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, helping the Gophers seize momentum, Martez Shabazz’s 78-yard scamper off the blocked field goal pretty much sealed the deal.

“We’ll spend our allotted time,” Hauck said. “We get X amount. There’s always a push, pull on how much time you get. We get our allotted time and we have to make great improvement with the time we have. Pending the day of the week… (we spend) anywhere from 5 minutes daily on punt, 10 minutes twice a couple times a week with the return teams and 18 minutes once a week with all three things. Our time in any given week is mandated by the NCAA, we get what we get. We’ve gotta utilize the time we have.”

OFFENSE WITH A SHERRY ON TOP – Sophomore quarterback Nick Sherry the better sophomore quarterback last week in Minneapolis, as he outplayed Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson, who admitted after the game: “The defense and the special teams, they saved us tonight.”

While Nelson was inconsistent most of the night – he was 10 for 22 for 99 yards and an interception and also fumbled on second-and-goal at the 1-yard line late in the second quarter – Sherry finished 35 for 50 for 226 yards and put the Rebels ahead, 13-10, with a 34-yard touchdown strike to Devante Davis with 5:04 left in the first half.

Sherry became the second Rebel quarterback to start back-to-back season openers in the past decade. Omar Clayton was the only other UNLV player to do it, when he opened the 2008 and 2009 campaigns in charge of the Rebels’ offense.

Nonetheless, Sherry’s 2,544 passing yards last season ranked as the fourth most in Mountain West Conference history by a freshman, and seventh overall in a UNLV single season.

SCOUTING ARIZONA – The Wildcats opened their season with a 35-0 win over Northern Arizona, and though it appears to be a solid win on paper – what shutout doesn’t – some are questioning the quarterback situation and how confident coach Rich Rodriguez is even after B.J. Denker seemed efficient in running the offense.

“We need to be able to throw a lot better than Friday night,” Rodriguez said at his weekly press conference. “I was really conservative in the play calling. We can get by with that because we were running the ball and NAU wasn’t scoring.”

Hauck knows the ‘Cats are talented team, though, and says his team needs to be prepared for what could be the fastest team his Rebels will face.

“Arizona presents enough problems,” Hauck said. “It’s a different style of team, specifically on both sides of the ball, that we’re going to play this week. … It’ll be more of a space game both for our defense and offensive lines. We’ll see how we play in space with Arizona.”

The ‘Cats racked up 306 yards on the ground against the Lumberjacks, versus a mere 87 in the air. And with Carey returning to the lineup for Arizona this week, that rushing game is sure to be tougher than it was against Northern Arizona.

“They’re a pretty fast team so we’re just gonna have to matchup and make plays in open field,” Hodge said. “We’re gonna have to make a few plays.”

GAME NOTES – Arizona is 1-0 all-time against UNLV … The Rebels is mired in a 6-26 slide against teams currently playing in the Pac 12 Conference … UNLV is now 4-10 in its season-openers since 2000, and comes into this Saturday’s battle having lost seven consecutive second games of the season. The Rebels are 3-10 in the second game of their season since 2000, but all three wins did follow season-opening losses … For entertainment purposes only, the Wildcats opened up as 13-point favorites over UNLV, while the total is 61 at various places. The line, however, has been bet down to 10 or 10.5 at most places. … Also for entertainment purposes only, the Rebels are an impressive 4-1 against the spread at home, while the Wildcats are mired in ATS slides of 3-9 after an ATS covers, 2-6 in September and 1-5 against the Mountain West.