Latest class not biggest key to fate of Hauck

I always felt that if a college football coach sat in my living room and sold my son on his program by mentioning the negatives of another, the meeting would be shorter than your favorite Super Bowl commercial.

Except the wonderful one about farmers, because it still might be playing.

Bobby Hauck believes his status as UNLV's coach - tenuous, year to year, game to game - didn't hurt when it came time to build his most recent recruiting class.

"It's a fair question," Hauck said. "Going into it, I was concerned that it would be a hard sell based on lack of wins and all the other stuff. But kids listened to us. It's a small class, but the good part is, more guys wanted to come than we had room for. We lost a couple very good players because we had to go slow on them, which is too bad.

"I only had two recruits ask me about my (job status). Some teams tried using it against us. Other coaches brought it up. But in this day and age, every coach out there is one season away from looking for a new job. It's not just here - there are 120 or so other Division I coaches in the same situation."

Well, everyone except that Saban guy.

I imagine he has at least a two-year grace period.

I'm a broken record when it comes to football recruiting classes. I care as much about stars attached to a player's name as I do Ryan Braun's next foolish excuse for his urine sample having the testosterone level of a bull shark.

College football is a different beast when it comes to how soon recruits physically are able to compete, and trying to predict which ones will blossom into impact players is tougher than making sense of the Manti Te'o hoax. It's not like the time I strolled into a high school gym, watched a 16-year-old named LeBron James play basketball for like, oh, 10 seconds, turned to a friend and proclaimed: "Yeah, he's going to be pretty good."

It's not that easy to project how a prep offensive lineman or cornerback will translate to the next level.

For me, rankings for football recruiting classes mean as much in the big picture as those for a top-25 basketball poll, only a lot less.

None of the names Hauck introduced Wednesday will decide his immediate future, the harsh truth for someone whose UNLV resume includes a 6-32 record in three seasons and whose athletic director nicely but unequivocally has hinted that either the coach wins at a certain level next year or someone else will be holding signing day news conferences.

Those players already in the program, the ones on campus today and lifting weights and watching film from previous seasons, will decide Hauck's future.

The ones trying to be better than 2-11.

"I had a one-year contract at my last job (Montana) for the last six years I was there," Hauck said. "Schools that choose to dwell on the negative recruiting against us ... we just don't get into that stuff much. We tell recruits about our place, our program, our vision, and I believe the majority of them and their families look more favorably upon that approach."

His numbers after this latest class - one that includes 13 high school players and seven junior college players, including five who signed early - finally resemble those of a major college program.

It has been written in this space before and remains fact: Hauck inherited a program from former coach Mike Sanford of 63 or so scholarship players, half of whom couldn't play a lick. Two legitimate linemen were on the roster, along with one player who could run the way you need to be successful at this level.

But after a fax machine produced 15 letters of intent to UNLV's football office Wednesday, Hauck will have a team next season at or around 85 scholarship players, meaning when an upperclassman goes down with an injury, a freshman won't necessarily replace him.

"We will finally be in the range you need to be," Hauck said. "It's huge. Coaches talk all the time about the importance of depth, and hopefully now we have moved past a time where we play so many young guys.

"If a freshman plays for us now, it will be because he has earned it and won the job, not because we need him to simply fill an empty space."

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com 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.