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New coordinators settle in during UNLV spring practice

Updated April 4, 2022 - 11:41 am

New UNLV defensive coordinator Keith Heyward has been in Las Vegas for about a month and a half. Pointing to a second-floor window of the Fertitta Football Complex, Heyward made it clear that where he’s spent most of that time.

“That’s where I live,” Heyward said. “Right there.”

UNLV wrapped up its first week of spring football Saturday, the first week of practices for Heyward and new offensive coordinator Nick Holz. The duo are part of the retooled coaching staff of Marcus Arroyo, who enters his third season at the helm facing lots of turnover.

After finishing the 2021 season with a 2-10 record, UNLV and Arroyo saw several coaching departures. Former offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas left Jan. 31 to take the same position at Arizona State, eight days before defensive coordinator Peter Hansen took a job coaching linebackers for the Denver Broncos.

“Good people are going to be wanted,” Arroyo said. “That’s out of our control… . If we can keep guys here, we want to. We think continuity is a huge piece of any successful organization. We try to do that as best as we can, but those things are going to happen.”

Thomas and Hansen leaving created an opportunity for Arroyo to bring in coaches he’d been eyeing for a long time. The UNLV coach already had a strong relationship with Heyward from their time on Mario Cristobal’s staff at Oregon. Arroyo tried to bring Heyward to UNLV earlier in his tenure, but the timing didn’t work out.

However, when Arroyo approached Heyward again this offseason, offering the defensive coordinator job, the former Cal outside linebackers coach felt he was ready to take the next step in his career. Arroyo said he’s already appreciated the energy and attention to detail Heyward has brought with him, something the players have also mentioned.

“He’s a good dude, I like him a lot,” senior linebacker Austin Ajiake said. “He’s going to demand a lot and that’s what we want here. We want to be the best that we can. We trust him. We’re right behind him. We know he’s going to put us in the right positions to make plays.”

While Heyward is more of a known quantity, having spent the past several years with a variety of Pac-12 schools, Holz will be returning to the college level for the first time in more than a decade.

Holz has spent the past 10 years working in a variety of offensive roles for the Raiders. He and Arroyo first met about a year ago, when he interviewed for a different position.

UNLV went in a different direction, but Arroyo remembered their interaction and they stayed in touch. When the offensive coordinator job opened up, he reached out about offering Holz the job.

The Rebels’ quarterbacks have been the biggest beneficiaries of Holz’s arrival so far. Sophomore Doug Brumfield and new transfer Harrison Bailey both mentioned learning a lot from film sessions with Holz already.

Holz believes the transition has been smooth. Getting to start at the same time as Heyward has allowed them to ramp up on the same timeline, instead of one feeling rushed to catch up.

“We’re really kind of building at the same speed,” he said.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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