Rebels coming down to the wire with Hauck’s fourth recruiting class

Last year, UNLV gained a couple of commitments in the final day; last weekend, there already were decisions going both ways


Steve Marcus

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck keeps watch during UNLV’s game against New Mexico at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012.

2013 recruits expected to sign Wednesday

  • *C.J. Backlund, OL, 6-3, 285, Chabot C.C. (Hayward, Calif.)
  • DeVonte Boyd, WR, 6-1, 172, Basic High
  • Efrem Clark, DE, 6-3, 265, Trinity Valley C.C. (Athens, Texas)
  • Damon Collins, DB, 5-11, 180, Diablo Valley C.C. (Pleasant Hill, Calif.)
  • Kori Gaines, DB, 5-9, 165, College of the Canyons (Santa Clarita, Calif.)
  • Niko Kapeli, RB, 5-8, 2-5, Liberty High
  • *Jack Killian, WR, 6-0, 195, San Joaquin Delta C.C. (Stockton, Calif.)
  • *Asten Koki, DT, 6-3, 255, Mt. San Antonio C.C. (Walnut, Calif.)
  • Jared Lebowitz, 6-3, 195, St. Francis High (La Canada, Calif.)
  • David Moffitt, LB, 6-2, 205, De La Salle High (Concord, Calif.)
  • *Pingi Moli, DE, 6-4, 250, Mt. San Antonio C.C. (Walnut, Calif.)
  • Jacobie Russell, TE, 6-4, 225, North Shore High (Galena Park, Texas)
  • Kyle Saxelid, OL, 6-7, 240, Cosumnes Oaks High (Elk Grove, Calif.)
  • Charles Spencer, LB, 6-0, 200, American Canyon High (American Canyon, Calif.)
  • *Siuea Vaesau, DE, 6-3, 235, Diablo Valley C.C. (Pleasant Hill, Calif.)
  • Keith Whitely, RB, 5-10, 180, La Porte High (La Porte, Texas)
  • Anthonio Zepeda, DE, 6-5, 230, Camelback High (Phoenix, AZ)
  • * junior-college player who already signed a letter of intent

At this time last year, UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck was putting the finishing touches on a pair of moves that solidified arguably the best of his three recruiting classes. Bishop Gorman grads Ron Scoggins and Marc Philippi changed their commitments from New Mexico to the Rebels the night before signing day, a move that strengthened UNLV and hurt an opponent.

Hauck will hold a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce his fourth recruiting class on national signing day, and as the hours tick down, it’s possible the final list of signees will look different from the 17-player list on the right side of this page.

After all, Hauck said last year that coaches generally lose as many of those last-minute battles as they win, so the Rebels aren’t guaranteed to get everyone they’re hoping for. Or maybe they’ll add more. It’s a race to the finish for programs across the country.

In fact, UNLV was already on the losing side of one recruit’s decision this weekend when Kani Benoit, a three-star running back from Phoenix, jumped at an offer Sunday from Oregon just after returning from a visit there. Benoit had originally committed to Colorado State, then switched to UNLV. Players can make any number of verbal commitments but aren’t tied to a school until they sign a letter of intent.

It’s possible the Rebels were never going to get Benoit to sign on the dotted line, but it’s certain now. Not all news was bad news this weekend, though. On Friday night, the Rebels picked up a commitment from 6-foot-2 linebacker David Moffitt out of California’s De La Salle High. Moffitt also was considering Pac-12 schools and other Mountain West Conference programs.

He’s UNLV’s first three-star recruit, according to, though the recruiting site has him as the program’s fifth three-star guy according to its own rankings and a composite ranking from several recruiting sites, including Rivals. The Rebels, along with the rest of the Mountain West, don’t have any four-star guys.

Overall the league, which this year will include 12 teams and a conference title game for the first time, hasn’t made a whole lot of waves on the national recruiting scene. The top-ranked class belongs to Boise State, which ranks 56th in the country, according to’s composite rankings. UNLV comes in at ninth in the league and 104th in the country.

After a third consecutive two-win season, Hauck tried to address some of the Rebels’ issues with junior college players who are more likely to contribute right away. UNLV signed five players to its midyear class, all of them from California, and there are three more expected to sign Wednesday. The signed group includes two offensive players — an offensive lineman and a wide receiver — and three defensive linemen. Hauck also has commitments from a couple of high school defensive ends, a pair of defensive backs and another linebacker. The Rebels ranked second to last in the league in total defense last season.

On the offensive side, the stars of the class could be a pair of local athletes: Basic wide receiver DeVonte Boyd and Liberty running back Niko Kapeli. Boyd could find a role immediately in the passing attack while Kapeli, a probable redshirt candidate, adds depth to the backfield behind starter Tim Cornett and backup Adonis Smith, a junior from Northwestern who sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules. Kapeli and fellow incoming freshman Keith Whitely (La Porte, Texas) could have an outside shot to get carries as the third-string back because of redshirt junior Bradley Randle’s decision to declare for the NFL draft.

UNLV’s class isn’t going to turn a lot of heads, and you probably won’t see a lot of the freshmen on the field in 2013. That last part is a good thing, though. It's a sign that although the on-field results aren’t where UNLV or fans want them, at least the age and experience of the guys on the field should be trending higher.

Hauck and his staff, including new offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach, are facing basically a "bowl game or bust" scenario this season. The odds, certainly, are against it, and achieving that goal probably has more to do with UNLV’s offseason work to improve what it already has. Improvement from guys such as Scoggins, who had to step into the starting lineup because of injuries along the offensive line.

Considering the situation, UNLV was very pleased with what Scoggins was able to do. And without a last-minute commitment change, the Rebels would have had to look elsewhere.

In the next 24 hours, UNLV has a chance to work down to the wire to win a couple of those battles, like last year. Although the outcome won’t likely decide the Rebels' season, the chance to create a winning environment starts now.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at

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  1. 104 out, building a powerhouse.

  2. Looks like another great bet for the under in total wins. Thanks Bobby for at least making us some money since you have decided not to build a better football program, you sir keep making us money and you can stay....

  3. Love ya, Bobby, and think you are an excellent coach but this is THE year for you. I would guess you gotta be bowl eligible or it's off to (probably) greener pastures for you.

    I think we'll see a few more wins this year as the team matures but will we see 6 W's? Gonna be tough...

  4. Oh man, 104th recruiting in the nation. That's about as good as the defense has been the past few years. I hate to be a downer here again, but geez, this recruiting class is not looking well. Time will tell, but next year's expectations aren't looking much better than last. I bet it's been pretty difficult to recruit for Hauck with the last couple years of performance...

  5. You guys have to understand how hard it is to recruit for football at UNLV. The facilities are awful, the stadium is 30 minutes from campus and is also awful. To get parents to let their kids come here is difficult plus no tradition to use a selling point or reference of the success that could be obtained. Basketball all you need are 5 kids and you have a storied tradition with outstanding facilities. UNLV doesn't even have the best facilities in town, that title belongs to Gorman. Hauck is a great coach but like all coaches you have to be given the tools to succeed and those don't exist at UNLV. In my opinion the only shot he has is to go the KSTATE route that Snyder used in the 90's and take all the talented cast offs and juco guys. Finally, Hauck knew what he was getting into when he took this job and only has himself to blame. I will bet if he leaves UNLV he will be successful wherever he lands.

  6. Enough excuses about the facilities. He's not winning games. He was hired to win games. If the Rebels don't make it to a bowl game, then he needs to be fired.

  7. great comments here !!!! the past 4 years i have bet under 4 wins and have cashed tickets .i see no reason not to do the same thing again .the schedule maybe has unlv winning 3 games .other teams dont want to get beat by unlv and they see an easy win when they play unlv . i encourage other people to visit your local sports book when the season wins come out . take advantage of living in vegas and making extra money

  8. Folks can't hate on Hauck. We haven't had a coach with a winning record since the early 80's. The last SIX coaches have come and gone and not a single one could break .500

    Somebody has to be bottom, unfortunately that's us and has been for decades and won't change until things improve. That's not just a coach. It's the system. Community support, boosters, local ties with youth and HS coaches through clinics for coaches etc.. to build good relationships. Better facilities are definitely a part of it but not the whole thing.

    Otherwise yes, everyone will call for Hauck to be fired but the next guy will be just as doomed to stay under .500

  9. Truth is this recruiting class wasn't ever going to be ranked really high because they only have about 18 scholarships available instead of in the mid 20's. I like the kids we got, they filled some immediate needs at DB and got some depth at WR. I hope they all stay. Most importantly we didn't lose anyone to Reno!!

  10. There is a four star recruit right here in Vegas who is thus far uncommitted. Nobody in the MTN West wants him but WE HAVE TO SIGN HIM! Without him, we are doomed for another 30yrs of mediocrity. He plays offense, defense, & kicking game. His talent level & pedigree alone will transform his teammates, the program, the fan base, & the university.

    His name is Build TheStadium.

    If we dont get him, then its pointless & it doesnt matter who we sign tomorrow. Period.

  11. I've been going to Rebel games for years. I grew up in Vegas. I even played on that turn when I played for Gorman in the late 70's (that was their home field back then). Last few seasons have been tough. Last year lost some games early on that they should have won, ruined their season and effort level in the later games wasn't there. I was impressed with their freshman QB. He has some good upside potential and we all know a team can only go as far as their QB will take them. For that reason, I feel UNLV will win 6 or more games this year. They have a good QB, have some experience under their belts, packed on a few more pounds of muscle, and will finally "learn to win" this year, that is, believe they can win in their hearts, expect to win in their minds, and perform at a high level with the confidence of knowing that they have what it takes to beat anyone on any given Saturday. Football is mostly mental. You can beat a bigger, stronger team they see you want it more. If you line up against a player that is pacing back in forth frothing at the mouth like a crazed caged animal, talking to himself and punching his own helmet, who the attacks you like he's out of his mind on drugs, it does have an effect on you. I want to see the Rebels go out this year and play emotional, intense football on both sides of the field and at least "beat up" the other team if they can't win. Let them know when they come to Vegas they're going to get a good smack down. If they can do that, they'll win. They definitely have the right coach (tough guy vs nice guy). And he's been recruiting his kind of kids for a few years now. This is the year it all comes together. Just remember I told you so.

  12. Phillips: If facilities don't matter than why did we just build the Mendenhall Center, and why does every program in the country continue to upgrade their facilities? When you don't have a winning tradition these are the things that attract players. You clearly have never been a part of the recruiting process.