Kanallis becoming more comfortable with Pack | NevadaAppeal.com

Kanallis becoming more comfortable with Pack

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – It was a long time coming, but redshirt freshman running back Mike Kanellis finally got an opportunity to make a contribution to the Nevada offense.

Kanellis, who rushed for 533 yards against South Tahoe during his senior season at Spanish Springs, has been quietly going about his business and making the transition to college football.

Kanellis has been itching to get some snaps when it counted. Kanellis played much of the fourth quarter against Idaho, and responded with 66 yards on nine carries in the 45-7 victory.

“It felt great to get an opportunity,” he said prior to Tuesday’s practice. “Luckily the offensive line opened some big holes and made it seem easy. I was hoping to get my shot and make the most of it.

“Learning how to play running back and what it takes to play at this level was tough. The amount of time it takes; working year-round.”

Kanellis has had to call on all of his patience to wait his turn. He’s worked his way up by playing on special teams and working hard daily in practice.

“We’ve been wanting to get him some time,” said Jim Mastro, Nevada’s running backs coach. “We had some two-back formations we were going to use him in. “He just needed reps and a chance to show what he could do. He did real well. It’s just a matter of seeing things over and over. He still lacks a little confidence.”

Brandon Fragger, second on the Pack’s depth chart, is still nursing a sore shoulder according to Mastro. The assistant coach hinted that Fragger may not play Saturday against Utah State. If that happens, Kanellis figures to get a few snaps.

“The coaches haven’t said anything to me yet,” said Kanellis, who received quite a few reps in Tuesday’s practice. “I really hope I continue to step up. I need to have another good week of practice.”

Mastro said that it’s tough for an unproven youngster like Kanellis because there isn’t much margin for error.

“Guys like Hub (Robert Hubbard) and Luke (Lippincott) have worked hard and proven themselves. Guys like Kanellis have to really be consistent. They have to do things right everyday.”

Mastro said that Kanellis has a tremendous upside.

“He’s fast and strong,” Mastro said. “Look at his legs. He’s the strongest back I have.”

“My speed, the way I use my blockers and my work ethic,” Kanellis said when asked what attributes he has.

Kanellis gets through creases quickly, and he can make people miss.

“(Coach) Mastro likes us to hit it (opening) hard,” Kanellis said. “I’m reading my zone runs a lot better. I’m seeing the field better. Things start to slow down as you get more and more reps. You see things quicker.”

While Kanellis works to improve, he has tons of competition. He, Fragger and Lippincott all return next year, and Vai Taua, Malcom Tinson and Courtney Randall are redshirting this year. One would figure that head coach Chris Ault will bring one or two guys in for next season.

“It’s real competitive,” Kanellis said. “A lot of guys for one position. It’s going to take a lot of hard work. If I’m patient and keep working hard, good things will happen.”

Notes: Saturday is Fan Appreciation Day, and tickets will be discounted… Also, any fan showing his ticket stub from the football game will be admitted free to Saturday’s women’s basketball game … The visiting teams has won the last five games in this series. Thursday marks the 102nd anniversary of the first-ever meeting between the schools … Nevada has won nine straight at home. The Pack’s last loss at Mackay Stadium was the 2005 season-opener against Washington State … Chris Ault is the fifth winningest active coach in NCAA history with 183 wins. He trails Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, Penn State’s Joe Paterno, Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer and Ohio State’s Jim Tressel … Nevada will play its final regular-season road game against Louisiana Tech on Nov. 18 … There is talk that ESPN is interested in moving the Boise State game to Friday night, but Nevada officials want to keep the game on Saturday.