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UNLV football hopes early signing day brings instant impact on defense

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Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels Tony Sanchez watches play during a game against UTEP at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018.

The Rebel Room

Big win, big injury

Ray Brewer, Mike Grimala and Case Keefer assess where UNLV basketball stands after a last-second victory over BYU that saw it playing without Shakur Juiston. They also briefly touch on football recruiting before National Signing Day.

UNLV football hit it big today, adding 15 recruits from the Class of 2019 on the first day of the early signing period. And more importantly to head coach Tony Sanchez, many of the incoming prospects are projected to make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball.

For a Rebels team that allowed an astonishing 37.2 points per game last season, shoring up the defense was by far the top priority on the recruiting trail. Sanchez came up aces in that regard, nabbing productive players from the junior college ranks who should be able to step in as starters for Week 1 of the 2019 season.

In total, UNLV signed 15 players, with nine of them earning 3-star designations from 247 Sports.

The headliner of the incoming class is Vic Viramontes, an outside linebacker who played last year at Riverside City College. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder originally committed to Minnesota as a quarterback but transformed himself into a playmaking linebacker at the juco level.

Viramontes is rated as a 3-star prospect by 247 Sports, making him the highest-ranked defensive recruit signed by UNLV since the site began rating players in the early 2000s. He had offers from Boise State, TCU and Baylor, and Sanchez said Power 5 schools were attempting to lure him away as late as Tuesday night.

Viramontes remained loyal to UNLV, going so far as to dub himself “Vegas Vic” while cosplaying as the eponymous local landmark for his signing day announcement.

“We’re excited about [Viramontes],” Sanchez said. “He’s going to bring a lot a lot of swagger, a lot of athleticism to a really good group of guys."

Sanchez also secured some help in the trenches in the form of 3-star defensive end Tavai Tuitasi. The juco product recorded 45 tackles and 6.5 sacks for City College of San Francisco last season, and at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, he should be able to take over a starting role on the defensive line right away.

Two-star defensive tackle Eliel Ehimare of Cabrillo College and 2-star cornerback Aaron Lewis of Chaffey College should also vie for immediate playing time.

Sanchez also scored at the high school level, nabbing a trio of 3-star linebackers who project as future contributors. Kyle Beaudry, a Liberty product, is the headliner of that group, which also includes Seth Robinson (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Jacoby Windmon (Marrero, La.).

While most of the focus was on the defensive side, the Rebels also managed to secure some promising offensive commitments. Dual-threat quarterback Travis Mumphrey (Marrero, La.) is a 3-star recruit, as is receiver Steve Jenkins (Harbor City, Calif.). Sanchez is also high on 2-star running back Courtney Reese, a Miami product who profiles as a Lexington Thomas replacement.

Sanchez said he expects to add 10 more recruits during the spring signing period, and if all goes according to plan, the Rebels should be set up to make a real push toward bowl contention in 2019.

“The exciting thing about this is there were no real surprises today,” Sanchez said. “We got the 15 guys we thought we were going to sign. They all stayed with us. We have 10 more to get, so we’re excited about that. We’ve got a good group of guys we’ve got our hooks into, we’re working right now. I think when it’s all said and done, you’re going to see one heck of a class coming in.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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