By the time the dust settled on Wednesday UNLV football had landed one of its highest-ranked recruiting classes in school history with the addition of 28 players to the program.
The class boasts 22 players with at least a three-star rating, which is the most the program has ever had and easily trumps the previous record of 12 three-star recruits in 2010. It also includes two transfers from TCU, Justin Rogers and Adam Plant Jr., who were ranked as four-star and three-star recruits out of high school respectively. The class is ranked No. 76 nationally and second in the Mountain West according to 247Sports.
“The goal overall was to bolster the roster all the way around, any and all positions, and you saw that,” said UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo. “We put our first step forward in building a program that when I first got here, I said that I wanted to build it the right way, recruit at a high level, and compete and contend each year.”
The collection of 28 players can be broken down into three categories: 23 high school players, three junior-college transfers, and two four-year transfers, both from TCU. The players also come from a wide range of places, including 12 states, with one player coming from Australia. Also, all three phases of the game are represented in the class, with 14 defensive players, 13 on offense, and one special teamer.
The success that Arroyo and his staff have enjoyed is quite impressive considering they had around just 30 days to recruit players. Arroyo had made the decision not to sign players in the early signing period in December, citing the inability to recruit players and build the culture the “right way.” At the time it seemed like a risky decision, but his confidence in his staff paid off in the end.
Arroyo spoke glowingly of his staff on Wednesday and their ability to out-recruit larger schools, especially given the shorter timeline.
“We didn’t shy away from anybody else’s offers,” Arroyo said. “I have a Power Five staff. I have an elite staff that will go up to bat with anybody.”
One aspect that Arroyo felt attracted recruits and their families to UNLV was the city of Las Vegas itself. He feels that the city has a lot to offer to recruits both during and after their playing careers and reassured any concerned players and their families by explaining his decision to move his own family to the city.
When speaking on the players themselves, Arroyo had a fondness for the men in the trenches. The class features five defensive linemen and four offensive linemen, all of whom Arroyo is excited about.
“Those big guys in the trenches are the heart of any program,” Arroyo said. “Everyone’s excited about quarterbacks and being flashy and running it and catching it and that’s all sexy and stuff but I’m excited about these big guys.”
One trait that Arroyo pointed to when it comes to his excitement around those units is their length. According to Arroyo, there are eight or nine players with a wingspan above 80 inches, which gives linemen a significant advantage in keeping opponents far away from them and making it easier to successfully block or rush the passer.
Outside of the trenches, two players stand out in this class as potential difference-makers early on: inside linebacker Brennon Scott and quarterback Justin Rogers.
Scott is 6 feet tall and 234 pounds and comes from Dallas, Texas. He is the highest-rated high school player in the class and can fill a need for the Rebels early on. Rayshad Jackson, the Rebels leading tackler last season, and former team captain Gabe McCoy, are both gone and leave a void at inside linebacker. While the Rebels will have some experienced linebackers back such as Farrell Hester III and Vic Viramontes, Scott could quickly ascend to the top of the depth chart with a solid spring showing and fill the void left at inside linebacker.
Rogers, on the other hand, adds another name to an already complicated quarterback room for UNLV. He is a 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound dual-threat quarterback who was a four-star recruit out of high school. He is transferring from TCU where he didn’t play at all due to a knee injury he suffered in his senior season in high school.
It is unknown whether he’ll be eligible this upcoming season, but either way, UNLV will have an important decision to make as their top three quarterbacks: Armani Rogers, Kenyon Oblad, and Max Gilliam have all had in-game experience, with Rogers and Oblad splitting time behind center last season.
There’s still a lot to be decided on the field, and coach Arroyo and his staff will look to begin developing their players when spring practice opens March 24. Arroyo’s first test is over, however, and he’s passed with flying colors.