January 16, 2018 Currently: 63° | Complete forecast


Stress-free signing day for Sanford fills several needs

Rebels receive all LOIs by noon, hope holes are now plugged

Click to enlarge photo

Mike Sanford

2009 recruits already signed

  • *Kenny Brown, DB, 6-0, 180, College of the Canyons
  • *Alex Degiacomo, DB, 6-1, 190, El Camino College
  • *Warren Ziegler, DB, 6-1, 180, College of San Mateo

2009 recruits signed Wednesday

  • Brandon Babineaux, WR, 6-4, 190, Folsom (Calif.) High
  • Mark Barefield, WR, 6-0, 176, North Mesquite (Texas) High
  • Jordan Barrett, LB, 6-3, 225, Notre Dame (Calif) High
  • *B.J. Bell, DE, 6-4, 245, Santa Ana Community College
  • Courtney Bridget, CB, 6-3, 185, Dunbar (Md.) High
  • Charles Childers, DB, 6-0, 182, Bishop Gorman High
  • Mike Grant, DB, 5-11, 185, Sierra Community College
  • Caleb Herring, QB, 6-3, 185, Citrus Hill (Calif.) High
  • Sidney Hodge, DB, 5-8, 162, Palo Verde High
  • Nate Holloway, DT, 6-3, 332, Spring Valley High
  • Thomas Kilgore, OL, 6-5, 305, San Joaquin Memorial (Calif.) High
  • Andrew Mack, OG, 6-3, 285, Plano West (Texas) High
  • Bradley Randle, RB, 5-8, 195, Vista Murrieta (Calif.) High
  • Irshad Stolden, WR, 5-9, 180, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High
  • Marcus Sullivan, WR/RB, 5-8, 162, Cheyenne High
  • John Therrell, DB, 6-0, 170, Bishop Gorman High
  • Reggie Umuolo, LB, 5-11, 195, Centennial (Ariz.) High
  • Robert Waterman, OL, 6-4, 275, West Ranch (Calif.) High
  • Doug Zismann, C, 6-2, 273, Shadow Mountain (Ariz.) High
  • *denotes junior college transfer

Atop Mike Sanford's list of needs to fill with his 2009 recruiting class was help in the defensive backfield.

For all the steps forward the UNLV football program took in 2008, the secondary was one area that, if anything, pretty much was stuck in neutral.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, there were eight newcomers in place hoping to fix that leak, as Sanford announced the addition of 22 new names and faces to his squad on national signing day.

Of the eight incoming defensive back prospects, four came from the junior college ranks. Three of them -- Alex De Giacomo, Warren Zeigler and Kenny Brown -- arrived for the start of the spring semester. Mike Grant will come in over the summer.

It's a high volume of juco transfers, but the situation certainly called for it.

The Rebels' pass defense in 2008 ranked 60th in the nation, finishing right in the middle of the FBS pack. But in eight conference games -- where UNLV went 3-5 and fell a game shy of a bowl bid after a 3-1 start -- UNLV ranked eighth in the Mountain West, allowing 218.1 yards per game and a league-high 17 touchdown passes.

"We are mostly a high school recruiting football program, because that's the way you build a football team that's gonna last," Sanford said. "We are also going to recruit junior college players to fit specific needs, and we felt like we had some needs in the defensive secondary."

Sanford didn't hesitate to call the '09 crop his best batch of recruits since coming to UNLV in 2005.

In terms of being well-rounded, this haul fit the bill.

"The next need that we had was speed," Sanford said. "We got some very fast football players, and expanded our team speed tremendously."

With speed being essential to running a spread offense to perfection, you can never have enough. Much of the fleet-footedness in UNLV's class came in the skill positions on offense, namely with receivers Mark Barefield and Irshad Stolden, running back Bradley Randle and H-back Marcus Sullivan.

Sanford cracked a quick joke, noting that even though UNLV doesn't have a men's track program, enough speed is in this class to put together a pretty lethal 4X100 relay team.

Sullivan, a Cheyenne High product, was one of five local high school prospects to sign with UNLV. Sanford considered it a successful year on the local recruiting front, landing five of the 11 players he and his staff offered.

As far as filling the other needs, Sanford was pleased at the level of the high school programs that the Rebels' signees are coming from.

After not recruiting a quarterback a year ago in order to stagger the depth chart a bit, with junior-to-be Omar Clayton and sophomore-to-be Mike Clausen already in place, Sanford targeted a big-time high school quarterback to come in as essentially the heir apparent. He got that in Caleb Herring out of Citrus Hill High in Perris, Calif.

Herring won 28 consecutive games and two CIF Southern Section titles in his final two seasons with the Hawks, while other incoming Rebels from top prep programs include linebacker Jordan Barrett from Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and linebacker Reggie Umuolo, who won three consecutive state titles at Centennial (Ariz.) High.

The most familiar name to ink his name on Wednesday was B.J. Bell, who filled yet another one of Sanford's needs by bringing his speed-rushing ability from the defensive end spot to Las Vegas. Bell, out of Santa Ana Community College, is the younger brother of former Rebels linebackers Zack and Beau Bell. Beau Bell, who now plays for the Cleveland Browns, was the 2007 Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

In all, it was a pretty simple and clean day for Sanford and his staff, filled with little worry and a very free afternoon. All of the signed letters of intent were in-hand by the lunch hour.

Sanford will more than likely feel pretty relaxed now as he gets some time to come up from the recruiting trail for air before Spring ball officially begins.

Aside from a solid class, he has a contract extension in his hop pocket, too, something which he said helped make this class what it is.

"I'd say a combination of the (3-1) start, the team attitude and our belief and our expectation on our team, I think the coaching staff, building relationships with these recruits and their families," Sanford said. "I think the support that I've gotten for the future. All of those things came into play."

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