Zak Krill / UNLV
Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 | 2 a.m.
The UNLV football team dressed just one tight end at Wyoming for its regular season finale last season.
And when spring practice begins next month, the Rebels will have just four scholarship wide receivers on the roster.
But help is on the way.
The Rebels announced a 23-player recruiting class Wednesday, including seven junior college transfers who enrolled last month, and expect many of the newcomers to compete for playing time.
“You will immediately see a whole different level of competition,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “We need to raise the level of competition on a daily basis.”
UNLV went 3-9 in Sanchez’s first season last fall, but only three times weren’t in contention at the start of the fourth quarter. In a few games, namely against San Jose State and Fresno State, the Rebels were a play or two from winning.
“This class has to bridge that gap,” Sanchez said. “We aren’t that far away. We are excited about that.”
They signed five offensive linemen, three tight ends, three wide receivers and two quarterbacks, filling roster spots at troubled positions.
Nebraska transfer Johnny Stanton and highly touted Los Angeles-area quarterback Armani Rogers should give the Rebels viable options under center. Stanton can play immediately; Rogers can develop.
They signed a record 10 three-star recruits and Sanchez hinted that multiple will have a chance to play this year.
Some notables include:
• Junior college cornerback Robert Jackson. “He is that big, physical guy with experience who will have confidence to come in and play right away,” Sanchez said.
• Junior college tight end Tim Holt, who can also play slot receiver and fullback. "(Tim) was a highly sought after guy that we really had to fight to keep. We feel like we got a good one," Sanchez said.
• Offensive linemen Jaron Caldwell from Gorman. “Jaron is a special kid. He had a lot of other opportunities but chose to stay home,” Sanchez said.
• Freshman defensive back Tykenzie Daniels of Texas. “He’s a physical corner who will push the depth right away,” Sanchez said. "He's going to have a bright future here."
• Defensive lineman Leveel Tatum III of Fresno. “He blocked three punts, had 100 tackles, three sacks. The guy is a football player,” Sanchez said.
• Running back Charles Williams, also from Fresno. “Expect to see him carry the ball this fall,” Sanchez said.
While Sanchez describes a few of the recruits as projects, most appear to be in contention to play as early as next season.
Sure, some of Sanchez’s optimism mirrors the hopes of most coaches across the country on national signing day who think they’ve secured upgraded talent. But, don’t be fooled, the Rebels have some significant needs across the board, and the coach is determined to create a culture of competition.
He told returning players such during the end-of-the-year banquet.
“We told our kids, ‘Our job is to go out and replace every single one of you while we are recruiting and your job is to make sure we don’t do it,’” Sanchez said. “It is a culture of competition. It has to be that way. Nothing should be comfortable.”
Depending on the evaluating service, the class ranks in the top-3 in the Mountain West. Some prospects picked the Rebels over more established programs in the league.
Now, it’s up to Sanchez and his staff to duplicate the recruiting success on the field.
“We really have a chance to change Rebel football in the next few years,” he said.