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WWJD #29: 2021 UNLV Football Recruiting Class

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UNLV Head Football Coach Marcus Arroyo and his staff entered the first day of National Signing Day with the second rated class in the Mountain West Conference, 68th overall, and locked in another class of that they hope become the foundation to a winning program.

 

 

UNLV vs San Diego State       
Photo Credit: UNLV Football/Lucas Peltier

Coach Arroyo knows what it takes to win on the recruiting trail. After all, he picked up recruiting knowledge from his former boss Mario Cristobal at Oregon and previous bosses Jeff Tedford at Cal and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State.

He also knows what type of fit he wants for his program. With more additions expected during the traditional signing period in February, UNLV’s class already ranks second in the MWC and 68th in the nation, according to 247Sports at the time of this article. In the 10 years previous to this coaching staff’s arrival, the average class ranking was eighth in the league and 103rd in the country.

The theme with the type of recruits UNLV has been recruiting is hard-working, aggressive, long, athletic, fast players who play with that DAWG in them and remain disciplined. He doesn’t want players who have a losing mentality and players who show no flinch with the challenges that the Rebels have faced on the field, in the weight room, and in life.

But what is it about UNLV that has recruits buzzing on the recruiting circuit? Is it the fresh uniforms Coach Arroyo has helped design that the players call “icy?” Is it the $2+ billion home field for UNLV, Allegiant Stadium? Is it the $36 million Fertitta Football Complex? Or is it the approach Coach Arroyo and his staff use to recruit players? The answer is simple: it’s all the above!

Coming off a season in which we all faced unparalleled and difficult circumstances, UNLV football had to deal with more than most programs. From COVID-19 taking away spring ball and changing the landscape across the board, to COVID opt-outs, to player suspensions to 10 players whose injuries had them miss the season or significant time, which took away what little depth they had, Coach Arroyo and his UNLV football staff were fighting an uphill battle.

 

But that didn’t stop Coach Arroyo on the recruiting trail. Even with not being able to show off the Rebels new digs to recruits, Arroyo and company were able to lock in 19 recruits and again have the Mountain West Conferences 2nd highest rated class with the February signing date still to come.

 

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Photo Credit: San Gabriel Valley Tribune

The staff was able to keep key players in the fold, like defensive end Nick Dimitris out of Sierra Vista High School in Baldwin Park, California. Dimitris currently is the fifth highest rated player to ever commit to the Rebels in school history. In November, Dimitris backed off his commitment to UNLV for a few days, only to recommit after rethinking his decision. When he announced that he was recommitting to the Rebels he stated that the staff had become “family,” which is a reoccurring theme for Coach Arroyo and his recruiting classes.

According to 247Sports, Dimitris is the highest rated signing for the ’21 Rebel class with a 0.8742 rating. The defensive end drew offers from Power Five heavyweights Florida, Auburn, Arizona State, LSU even had current unbeaten Coastal Carolina clamoring for him before choosing the Rebels.

Unarguably the key member behind the scenes in the ’21 UNLV recruiting class is Dimitris high school teammate, offensive lineman Anthony Rosas, who is the highest-rated offensive lineman, 15th overall, to ever commit to UNLV currently. Rosas is also this class’s leader in recruiting other players to UNLV. Every class has them, and Rosas was in the ear of players who committed as well as players who were thinking about it, talking up the Rebels and the future at UNLV.

Rosas embodies Coach Arroyo’s “no flinch” attitude. He isn’t afraid of a challenge and is looking to come in and compete from day one. He goes to push his teammates to be great every snap of every practice and won’t back down from anyone. Being that he is only 16 years old, Rosas, who is very personable, shows maturity beyond his years; coupled with a blue-collar, no-fear attitude that will fit in well not just with the coaching staff but in the city of Las Vegas.

Shadow Creek High School (Pearland, Texas) safety Jaylen Lane is the 14th highest-rated recruit to commit to UNLV. The 6’0, 180 pounds playmaker has a nose for the ball and always seems to create turnovers. He excels in coverage over the No. 3 receiver (slot) and can also play centerfield in a defense. Lane is also not afraid to come up and bang either. His style of play reminds me of a younger version of Ed Reed during his University of Miami days.

So in the entire history of UNLV football recruiting, Coach Arroyo has landed the No. 3 (Brennan Scott last year), No. 5 (Dimitris), No. 10 (LeShaun Bell last year), No. 14 (Lane), No. 15 (Rosas), and No. 20 (Deammikkio Nathan). Not a bad start considering he recruited the entire ’20 team in less than a month and the ’21 class during a worldwide pandemic and not being allowed to have any official or unofficial visits.

 

The 2021 recruiting class is far from done, and it could get better.

 

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Photo Credit: Marco Garcia/AP

So far, UNLV has 19 total commitments, including University of Arizona transfer Kylan Wilborn, who will play defensive end/outside linebacker for the Rebels. As of the writing of this article, UNLV ranks just behind Boise State, which has 17 commitments with a rating of 168.24. But the way Coach Arroyo approaches and attacks recruiting, I fully expect him to be aggressive with the players who remain unsigned and players who have entered the transfer portal.

For a person who is known as one of the best recruiters in all of college football, for Coach Arroyo to have scholarships available and 47 days to recruit and acquire talent to his roster, UNLV could end up being finishing with the MWC top-ranked class and possibly finishing with the best class in school history. With the NCAA now allowing players to have one free transfer without sitting out a season, this could open the door for players to come to UNLV and have an immediate impact on the field.

For players who want to have an opportunity to compete for playing time right away, UNLV is a place that they view as a viable option. Doug Brumfield, Kyle Williams, Nohl Williams, Zyell Griffin, Alex Lines, Tiger Shanks, Brennan Scott, LeShaun Bell, Tyson Player, Ricky Johnson, Charlton Butt, and Tanner Brown were freshman in the ’20 class who all saw the field this past season. Add in Davone Walden, a walk-on who ended up starting at cornerback for the Rebels. Coach Arroyo has no issue playing the players who compete and give them the best chance to win regardless of classification. This has to be enticing to players who want to get on the field sooner rather than later.

 

Coach Arroyo addressed depth, size, and playmaking with the ’21 recruiting class.

 

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Artwork by Trisha LaCoste

With Justin Rogers and Brumfield returning in 2021, UNLV needed to add quarterback depth. It is unclear if Kenyon Oblad or Max Gilliam will return, so landing Hawaiian Cameron Friel was big. The strong-armed, athletic Friel reminds some of Justin Herbert, who Arroyo coached at Oregon. Mechanically, Friel has to clean some things up but if he can, he has a shot to be really special. If he would’ve played his senior season, Friel would’ve blown up and would have had more Power-5 schools in on him.

Running back SammyShadyGreen is a powerful runner who is also shifty and can run away from you. The Rebels will likely have Charles Williams back in 2021, but they also lost Dylan Downing to transfer, so Courtney Reese, Spencer Briggs, and Chad Magyar will be joining Williams and Green for the upcoming season. Green, who can also return kicks, is a powerful back who can also run away from defenders. He is tough to bring down and fights for every yard. He went up against some of the nation’s best in the Trinity League and won MVP last season.

Arguably one of the biggest gets for UNLV was flipping Utah commit Deamikkio Nathan to the Rebels. Nathan is a silky smooth route runner who excels at RAC (run after catch) yards. He can line-up inside or outside, run by you, and is electric with the ball in his hands. Aaron Holloway from Legacy High School in Las Vegas is another player that could make an impact early for UNLV. Holloway set state records for receiving yards and touchdowns during his junior year for the Longhorns. “A-Way” has a knack for finding soft spots in zone coverage but also has the type of speed that can have him blow right by you. Holloway was under-recruited and is a sneaky good get for UNLV and will be an impact on special teams right away.

The Rebels landed Shaun Grayson, a big tight end from La Mirada High School in La Mirada, California. The 6’4, 225-pound athlete is a FREAK on the field and is another guy who should be competing early for playing time. Another freaky athlete is Brye Lighon, from Linfield Christian School in Temecula, California. Lighon can play receiver, tight end, or lineup as an outside linebacker, defensive end. He is a twitchy athlete that is explosive and has a knack for making big plays.

Rosas headlines the offensive line group, and rightfully so, but the coaching staff is just as excited for offensive tackles Anton Ambuehl and Graham Keating. Ambuehl transferred and missed most of last season due to the transfer rules, but he was a guy who was about to blow up and become a big-time Power-5 recruit. He is the player I have identified as the “sleeper” of this recruiting class. Playing at two big-time High School programs, Ambuehl has the ability to come in and compete right away. Keating is another guy that was under the radar, like Tiger Shanks last year. He has all the tools and traits Coach Cam Norcross wants in his group.

 

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Artwork by Trisha LaCoste

The Rebels defense showed flashes of what they could be, but they need a few more pieces to become more consistent. UNLV got help up front with the signing of Dimitris and with Duncanville TexasKeyon Ivy. Armed with an explosive first step, Ivy has all the tools to be a disruptive force upfront. Marsel McDuffie, an inside linebacker and high school teammate of Nathan at South Grand Prairie High School, is another big-time hitter that plays with aggression and violently.

The back end of the Rebels defense was once again a major focus for the coaching staff. Beside Lane, UNLV added a playmaking cornerback from St. John Bosco in Kam Blanton. Kilinahe Mendiola-Jensen from Punahou in Hawaii is a long, athletic corner that can go up and get the ball with just about any receiver. Cameron Oliver from Fort Bend Travis High School in Texas is another tall, rangy corner who can make plays all over the backend. He had a hell of a postseason in Texas, making plays all over the field on both sides of the ball. Mychal Victor from Ventura Community College is yet another big cornerback who excels in coverage and will come up and bang you. His head coach at VC, Steve Mooshagian, knows a thing or two about producing FBS level talent and shares this connection with Arroyo: “Moose” worked with and is a longtime friend of the former Cal and Fresno State head coach Tedford. The Rebels added another safety in Jonathan Baldwin from Dobie High School in Houston, Texas. He, like Lane, is a playmaker on the backend and will come up and hit you in your mouth.   

 

Here are a few quotes about the ’21 recruiting class from UNLV head football coach Marcus Arroyo:

 

After conducting an extensive athletic, academic, and character evaluation of each of our signees, we are humbled and honored to officially welcome the RebeLVision21 class to our family,” said Coach Arroyo. “Our signees have full trust and confidence in our process and goals, and we look forward to welcoming them to campus.

“We anticipate this class to make an immediate impact, just as the 2020 class did, and feel they are ready to rise to the occasion with a high-character, low-ego, high-output mentality,” said Coach Arroyo. RebeLVision21 is on track to become the top class in UNLV history, and we will continue to diligently recruit to fill our remaining spots.”

 

The Rebels future is bright, so let’s meet the 2021 UNLV football recruiting class.

 

Photo Credit: UNLV Football

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UNLV’s recruiting is fast becoming one of the best in the country under Marcus Arroyo. As of this article, UNLV has the eighth best Group of 5 recruiting class in the country. With all of the anemities at his disposal, UNLV is able to give their football players things that no other MWC school can say they have in terms of help on and off the field, in the class room, wellness, recovery, and style.

 

Peace✌

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