Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 | 7:15 p.m.
- Rebels coming down to the wire with Hauck’s fourth recruiting class
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- Ray Brewer: New stadium would be major score for city, instant program changer for UNLV football
- Planned stadium will be state’s ‘next big thing,’ UNLV official says
- UNLV football adds four midyear JC transfers
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These two recruits could be the gems the UNLV football program desperately needs.
Athlete Torry McTyer from Cathedral High in Los Angeles and running back Keith Whitely from the Houston area had scholarship offers from more accomplished programs entering Wednesday’s national signing day. But despite the aggressive pushes from those schools, each signed a letter-of-intent with UNLV to highlight the Rebels’ 20-player class.
McTyer, a 6-foot, 175-pound wide receiver, was verbally committed to Cal until last week. A three-star recruit by Rivals.com, he was clocked at 10.57 seconds in the 100 meters and is considered the No. 117 overall recruit in California. In 2012, he caught 33 passes for 662 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Whitely, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound running back, is another three-star recruit and the nation’s No. 87 overall running back prospect. He verbally committed about two weeks ago to UNLV and didn’t waver despite significant pressure to switch his commitment.
Each stayed true to UNLV — a fact not lost on coach Bobby Hauck when talking about his fourth recruiting class.
Despite the Rebels winning just two games in each of the past three seasons, Hauck said the response on the recruiting trail from prospects remains positive. Like last year, the interest in players coming to UNLV was so high, Hauck had to be selective in which players he offered a scholarship to keep under the 85-scholarship limit.
“(That’s a good thing considering) where we are at, where guys have to buy into the future instead of the past,” Hauck said. “The kids we recruited, with the help of our current players, have really bought into that.”
Whitely, who had scholarship offers from West Virginia and other schools from major conferences, rushed for 1,347 yards and nine touchdowns last year to be named the top player in his district. He helped La Porte High win consecutive 5A titles, also rushing for 1,400 yards and 14 scores as a junior.
“He said, ‘I’m your guy, I’ve been in since the day I said yes,’” Hauck said. “All of our fans and all the people involved in our program should be grateful for Keith having that much character and telling some pretty fine football programs: ‘No, I’m going to UNLV.’”
Of the 20 players signed, seven come from the junior college ranks and are expected to compete for a spot immediately on the two-deep depth chart. Five of those players are midyear transfers, meaning they’ve already enrolled and will take part in spring practice.
It’s the highest number of transfers Hauck has taken in his four recruiting classes, but then again, he’s looking for a quick fix at several positions, especially on defense. After the struggles at the end of last year, when UNLV dropped several winnable games and extended its road losing streak, Hauck’s future as the Rebels’ coach likely hinges on having a winning season in 2013.
The junior college players could be part of the solution. At the very least, UNLV’s lineup won’t be dominated by younger players are several key positions — a theme of the past three years.
“We got a good blend of high school and junior college kids,” Hauck said. “Obviously, we took a few JC guys to shore up some deficiencies in our depth. Frankly, we did that because it is time to quit playing so many freshmen and sophomores. It would be nice to have a few seniors and a lot of juniors on our two-deep next year.”
Here are some other highlights from the class.
• UNLV signed two local players — wide receiver Devonte Boyd of Basic High and running back Niko Kapeli from Liberty. Of the roughly dozen players from Southern Nevada who signed Wednesday, Hauck said he offered all but three. He’s signed 14 locals in four years, which is easily more than any previous UNLV coach. He opened his press conference talking about locals in yet another sign of how important recruiting Las Vegas is.
“We are going to keep pounding the area and keep going after (the locals),” he said. “We are going to continue to convince guys in Las Vegas this is a good place to play and to play college football in their hometown.”
• The breakdown of the class is 4 DL, 3 LB, 3 OL, 3 WR, 2 RB, 2 TE, 1 DB, 1 QB and 1 ATH. Landing just one defensive back may hurt, considering pass defense was clearly a weakness last year, but junior college transfer Damon Collins might make an immediate impact. “Damon is a great young man, very engaging and very confident,” Hauck said. “The thing that sticks out to me is how competitive he is. He competes for the football and will add a great level of competition to the corner position for us.”
• When three-star linebacker Malo Feula of American Samoa took his recruiting trip to UNLV, it was his first time off the islands. He also didn’t have a cellphone, a rarity in this day and age for a teenager. Hauck told a story about how Feula became nervous in the short car ride from McCarran International Airport to UNLV. At 6-foot, 235 pounds, Feula is a fast linebacker with a knack for making tackles. “When he tackles you, he is going to knock you down,” Hauck said.
• Quarterback Jared Lebowitz, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound signal caller from Pasadena, Calif., was a four-year starting quarterback. He played two years in Vermont before moving to the Los Angeles area to play at St. Francis High to better his college prospects. He’s another three-star recruit. “He moved to California from Vermont to get some more exposure and we are sure glad he did,” Hauck said. “He’s got a big arm and can come in here and make some noise.”