RENO - There is a little more bounce to Kevin Porter's step this spring, and with good reason.
Porter, who played well as a true freshman two years ago, is the front-runner to replace Jason DeMars at inside linebacker alongside ex-Fallon star Joshua Mauga in Nevada's 3-4 defense.
Porter, a junior, will be the front-runner heading into spring because of his past experience if nothing else, but he knows he'll have to play hard and well to keep the job.
Nipping at his heels are junior Jerome Johnson (6-1, 265) plus redshirt freshmen Ryan Coulson (6-3, 220) and Jared Silva (5-11, 220).
Head coach Chris Ault also expects big things from incoming freshman Joe Easter (6-1, 235), but would prefer to redshirt Easter if possible, but you could tell by Ault's comments that Easter will be a force to be reckoned with.
"Kevin is a junior, but this is his fourth year in the program," Ault said. "He is very experienced and played a lot of football last year. He played his freshman year before blowing out his knee. He has a good feel for what we're trying to do in our defense.
"Kevin is not as big as DeMars, but he is probably more fluid. No, he is more fluid."
Porter, who played in all 13 games a year ago, said he's ready to be promoted to full-time status.
"I'm very excited," Porter said prior to Tuesday's workout at Wolf Pack Park. "It's a great opportunity for me to prove that I can go out there and make plays. I'm lucky enough to have a little bit more experience then the other guys. "I love this defense. It's all about movement and quickness. The three guys up front are moving things left and right, which allows the linebackers to make plays. It gives us the opportunity to slide around. It frees you up to play fast. The coaches like us to play fast. If you make a mistake playing fast, they don't seem to mind as much."
Porter was somewhat evasive when asked what things he could bring to this year's defense that DeMars couldn't.
Longevity is certainly one of them. Porter has already been at Nevada for three seasons, and no doubt he learned plenty during his red-shirt year when he was re-habbing his knee.
"I have two years experience behind me, and he only played two years," Porter said. "Nevada is a big part about who I am. I love playing for this team, and I want to do well."
Of the three returnees behind Porter, Johnson certainly would be the most prepared to play. Johnson played in 12 games and recorded a single tackle. At 6-1 and 260 pounds, he has the size and speed Ault likes in the middle.
"Jerome is a terrific athlete," Ault said. "His upside is he can be as good as he wants to be. He's got to understand how to play full speed consistently. He does have a knack for finding the ball."
Translation. His work ethic hasn't been the greatest. You can't play for Ault unless you go 100 percent every play. Taking plays off isn't the Nevada way.
"Silva is very strong," Ault said. "All four of the guys run well and can play both the pass and run."
At first glance, it's a position of strength. At any rate, Ault certainly likes the competition created for playing time behind Porter.
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281
THE PORTER FILE
Year in school: Junior
Position: Inside linebacker
Career highlights: Played in eight games as a true freshman, making 20 tackles, including four against Rice. Suffered a knee injury in 2005 and used that as a redshirt season. In 2006, he played in all 13 games last year, recording 18 tackles and a fumble recovery.