UNLV opens the football season Aug. 30 at Arizona, and it was expected cornerback Chazz Eldridge would be on the field.
But the Rebels won’t have to be concerned about facing him.
If Eldridge is at Arizona Stadium, it will be in a UNLV uniform. Coach Bobby Hauck will decide later whether Eldridge makes the trip, but he was more than happy to announce Wednesday about the late addition to his fifth Rebels recruiting class.
The signing of Eldridge, an ESPN three-star recruit who had committed to Arizona, helped make up for the loss of defensive end Marcus Davenport, who switched his commitment from the Rebels to stay home and sign with Texas-San Antonio.
“Lose a $20 bill, find it in your pocket,” Hauck said.
Eldridge (6 feet 2 inches, 185 pounds) came to Hauck’s attention late last week, and the agreement was essentially done Tuesday that the Chino Hills (Calif.) High School senior would join the Rebels.
Snagging late commitments has been typical for UNLV under Hauck, creating quite a bit of drama leading into signing day. But this recruiting period was much less eventful, and much of that was due to giving out only 16 scholarships because of a heavy returning senior class.
The Rebels expect to be at the maximum 85 scholarships next season, which would be the first time since John Robinson coached the team about a decade ago.
“Though this class is not large in number, I think it’s high in quality,” Hauck said.
Ten of the signees are high school players, including four from Las Vegas. Hauck said his staff targeted nine of the 11 locals who signed major-college scholarships.
“I’m really pleased with the Vegas guys that are coming our way,” he said. “It’s good to keep kids home. We made that a major point of emphasis from the first day we got here.”
Two of the signees, however, will go on two-year Mormon missions — tight end Austin Hunt (6-6, 235) of Silverado High and kicker Conor Perkins (5-8, 160) of Green Valley High. Because UNLV is strong at tight end, Hauck said the timing of Hunt’s mission works out, but he was caught off guard with Perkins’ decision.
“He decided a little bit at the 11th hour that he’s going to go on a church mission,” Hauck said. “That potentially has us in a little bit of a bind, but we still want him here when he gets back. So we’re going to have to adjust and fix our plans.”
He said two kickers are being targeted as possibilities for next season, and one will be placed on scholarship.
UNLV signed six junior college players, and quarterback Blake Decker (6-2, 205) of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College is already on campus and will compete in spring practices.
The other five JC signees are defensive players who will join the team in the summer. Three are defensive linemen, and UNLV loses its top three tackles.
“We felt like we had to go to the junior college ranks and supplement that,” Hauck said.
Missing from the class are running backs and wide receivers.
The Rebels are deep at running back, and Hauck said they offered three backs scholarships. When the staff didn’t land those backs, they decided not to pursue others. UNLV also won’t get Niko Kapeli, who signed last year out of Liberty High and was ruled academically eligible last season.
Bringing in three grayshirts helped make the decision not to go after wide receivers. Devonte Boyd (6-2, 175) of Basic High, Kendal Keys (6-3, 190) of San Diego’s Helix High and Trent Riley (6-2, 195) of Mount Si High in North Bend, Wash., add depth to an experienced group.
Keys hoped to play last season, but was not cleared by the NCAA after originally signing with Boise State. Boyd sat out after being ruled academically ineligible.
Getting those players made for an even better recruiting period for Hauck.
“If we weren’t excited about this class, something would be drastically wrong,” he said. “It’s not. We’re excited about this class. We’ll really know about most of these guys in two years.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.