Bobby Hauck used to sell a dream. A vision. A plan wrapped in a football field’s worth of potential and unproven theories.
He has something far more significant to offer now.
Never is there a bigger step taken by a college program than when the dream becomes reality.
Than when the vision becomes proof.
“We can now show kids that we have won here instead of just hoping to do so down the road,” Hauck said. “That’s what we want — continuity in terms of wins and losses. We want to consistently be a good football team.”
Hauck will introduce Wednesday his first recruiting class at UNLV that follows a winning season, just over a month after the team’s New Year’s Day appearance in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against North Texas.
It’s a small class by numbers given the Rebels return so many bodies from their 7-6 season that included UNLV’s first post-season appearance in 13 years and its first victory against rival UNR in nine tries.
It’s always a good thing when key components return from a side that discovered success, always a welcome sight come spring football practice.
The last time we saw UNLV, it was losing its bowl game 36-14 after being tied 7-7 at halftime. Hauck and his staff watched the film a week later and it showed what most already thought — that the Rebels hadn’t held up on both lines in the second half and North Texas was simply better those final 30 minutes.
Better on the offensive front.
Better on the defensive front.
Better where it counts most.
“It’s something we needed to acknowledge and learn from and move on,” Hauck said. “We played hard. We tackled pretty well. We did some good things. We just got beat up front in the second half. We got out of some gaps and weren’t good at the point of attack and didn’t get off blocks and they took advantage. They were a good football team. They had a really good run game and our defense was on the field for a long time.
“It wasn’t a bad game for us. It was a bad half. There weren’t any huge issues. They just played better than we did. Things snowballed on us a little. We needed to get something going and we didn’t.”
So they turned off the film and went recruiting.
Hauck’s class will include a few junior-college defensive tackles that are needed immediately and a junior-college quarterback who is already enrolled in classes and prepared to compete for the starting job.
Blake Decker is listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and threw for over 4,000 yards and 44 touchdowns at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College. He will walk onto the field for spring drills with every chance to be the one who replaces Caleb Herring, the quarterback who won the job for good in the fourth week last season and led the Rebels on their memorable run to Dallas.
Herring replaced the inconsistent Nick Sherry, who as a redshirt sophomore fell into a bad habit of throwing the ball to the wrong colored jerseys. Sherry will also fight to regain his No. 1 role this spring.
It’s an interesting scenario, a team with so many critical pieces returning for a head coach’s fifth season and yet the most important position on offense being unresolved.
Running back will be another key job for the taking, given the school’s all-time leading rusher (Tim Cornett) is gone.
“I think we feel about as comfortable as we can (at quarterback) for a position that isn’t settled and we have good running backs who have played returning,” Hauck said. “But having to replace key guys is a big part of college football.
“I’m fired up about our recruiting class and there would be something wrong if I wasn’t. We’ve watched all these kids on film and have gotten to know them and their families. We think they will all be great additions to our program. Just keep adding good players. We have always been able to win our share of (recruiting) battles against other (Mountain West) teams. It’s the same this year. Some teams are a little tougher to beat than others but we’ve more than held our own and even been a little better in some cases.”
Signing day is here and things are different this time for Hauck.
He has a new contract that will pay him at least $700,000 annually through 2016 and finally owns what every coach in America needs in order to make that next step in building a program.
Tangible evidence of success for recruits.
Bobby Hauck is no longer selling a dream.
Reality plays so much better in living rooms.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.