RENO - Joey Garcia came to Nevada hoping to compete for a starting cornerback job.
With approximately three weeks to go until the opener on Sept. 9 against Washington State, Garcia has inherited the starting cornerback spot left vacant when Paul Pratt tore his anterior cruciate ligament last week in practice.
Garcia, who spent two years at UCLA and one at Long Beach City College, is holding off challenges from Shannon Sevor and DeAngelo Wilson to start opposite Kevin Stanley.
"I was kind of surprised," Garcia said after Tuesday's practice at Wolf Pack Park. "I definitely wanted to battle for a spot, and obviously I was hoping to play. I didn't want to get it (starting job) this way, but I have to take the opportunity when it presents itself and make the best of it."
"We want more competition for it," secondary coach Kim McCloud said. "Joey Garcia is doing his best. He's a smart player and works hard. The bottom line is that he's producing the most right now. We didn't know much about him. He played mostly wide receiver last year and we had no video from UCLA. We didn't know what to expect."
Garcia ended up at Nevada because Don Johnson, a former Nevada assistant who helped recruit him to UCLA, talked with current Nevada assistant Kenny Wilson, who told Johnson that they were looking for defensive backs.
Garcia is happy to be in Nevada, but more importantly he's happy to have a chance to actually get on the field and compete for a job. That wasn't the case at UCLA.
"I was there two years ago," said Garcia, who grew up in Southern California. "I redshirted my first year. Then they made a coaching change (Karl Dorrell), and I really didn't get along with the new staff. I wasn't having fun playing.
"I stayed (after the coaching change) because I figured with a new staff there would be a fresh start. I traveled to five games my second year there, but they never gave me a shot; never got a chance to play."
Garcia left Westwood for Long Beach City. Of the 25 recruits former coach Bob Toldeo brought in, only 11 remained.
There was a shortage of receivers at Long Beach, so Garcia volunteered to play there.
"I always wanted to play receiver," Garcia said. "I liked it. It was fun.
"I didn't play defensive back the whole year until we got into the playoffs. I started both ways. They kind of just threw me in there. Saddleback had this guy Jerard Rabb (now at Boise State) they wanted me to help cover."
Garcia likes the Pack's new 3-4 scheme because it enables the cornerbacks to do more things, even blitz the passer on occasion.
"The corners won't be as uncovered as much as they were last year," McCloud said. "We have different ways to protect them; help them out if they need it."
McCloud said that both Sevor and Wilson have the athletic talent to become solid players. Sevor's time a year ago was spent at safety and on special teams. Wilson redshirted.
"This is his (Sevor's) best chance to get on the field this year," McCloud said. "He doesn't have a shot to start at safety. I am going to stay on these two. They are one play (or injury) away from playing. They can do it."
Sevor considers himself more of a safety, but he was willing to make the switch to help the team and give it some depth at that position.
"Safety is kind of a downhill position," he said. "You are looking at things as they develop. At corner, you have to react to a lot of things.
"This creates a lot of competition. I'm up for the challenge. I'm enjoying it a lot."
Darrell Moody can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281