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White, Williams emerge as leaders of UNLV receiving corps

It didn’t take long for attrition to hit the UNLV football team.

Wednesday night, senior Steve Jenkins, who led the Rebels in touchdowns, receptions and yards during the 2021 season, announced he was entering the transfer portal.

“He came in and said something was on his heart,” coach Marcus Arroyo said. “That’s kind of the world we live in right now.”

With the transfer portal meaning rosters are anything but set, especially during spring football, UNLV’s coaching staff and players are learning to adjust. However, if any position group can absorb the loss of some major production, it’s probably the wide receiver corps.

“It’s out of our control,” Arroyo said. “We’ve got to move forward, wish him the best and now … we’re excited to put guys in some more opportunities, so that’s great.”

Arroyo didn’t rule out Jenkins’ return, citing former UNLV wide receiver Tyleek Collins, who entered the transfer portal but eventually returned. However, the receivers he already has are ready to impress.

Arroyo mentioned senior Jeff Weimer, redshirt freshman Deamikkio Nathan II and junior Senika McKie, who recently transferred to UNLV from Division II Erskine College, as players he wants to give extra repetitions.

However, the group’s most important receivers will likely be junior Kyle Williams and sophomore Ricky White III, whose arrival from Michigan State has set a new bar for the wide receivers.

“Since day one, (White)’s been excited,” Williams said. “He’s definitely different. He’s a game changer. I love having that on the opposite side of me. It takes some of the pressure off me.”

White says he’s still trying to get used to the heat, but he’s enjoying getting to know Las Vegas. Both receivers said the group has spent a lot of time together off the field as well, learning the playbook but also developing chemistry within their group.

Williams and White hope their growing bond off the field helps them click on it. In particular, the duo want to help stretch the field vertically. They spent most of the first four practices focusing on deep shots. Their ability to become viable weapons on offense also depends on Williams’ health.

The 6-0 junior from Hawthorne, California. missed two games with a hamstring injury during the 2021 season. As a result of the missed time, Williams’ receptions per game and yards per game dropped during his second year at UNLV. Now back at full health, the junior says he’s just hungry to get back to his game.

“It’s a different chip on my shoulder right now,” he said. “Everything is a little personal for me.”

Beaudry fills gap

Senior Kyle Beaudry is preparing to play his fourth season at UNLV. He’s learning his third defense ahead of the 2022 season.

“It’s just a lot of different variations,” the linebacker said. “A lot of guys moving around, using a lot of different guys in different ways — they’re just letting us play fast and free.”

Beaudry and the rest of the defense are two weeks into the tenure of new defensive coordinator Keith Heyward.

Beaudry, a former Liberty linebacker, said he appreciates Heyward’s ability to teach concepts in the bigger context of the defense and his personal approach.

Beaudry also said the new defensive coordinator has a good balance between bringing energy and keeping calm. It’s something the senior linebacker is also learning to do as he steps up as a leader after emerging as an important player on the defense during the 2021 season.

One of six captains assigned for spring football, Beaudry broke into the lineup last season after injuries sidelined fellow senior Austin Ajiake. Now, he’s trying to help replace Jacoby Windmon, UNLV’s 2021 tackles leader who transferred to Michigan State during the offseason.

“It’s always a next-man-up mentality,” Beaudry said.

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

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