UNLV has less leeway on football signing day

For years, the challenge for UNLV's football team was building its roster to get anywhere close to the maximum of 85 scholarships, trying to sign enough players each year to reach that magic number.

Now the Rebels face a much different challenge.

UNLV expects to receive only 15 to 17 letters of intent today, and that's by design.

Even including the five junior college players who signed early, the Rebels will fall short of the limit of 25 because they don't have room.

Edging up against the overall scholarship total and the number of grayshirts from last year who count against this group forced UNLV to limit its offers.

"Next year, it will be worse because the class will be smaller," said coach Bobby Hauck, who is finalizing his fourth UNLV recruiting class. "We could have 11 or 12. That shows how young we've been."

Recruiting a smaller class is challenging because the margin for error is thinner. Miss on a key linebacker or running back, and the effect is more profound.

But Hauck said each class has its own dynamic, so the size doesn't necessarily equate to quality.

"It depends on the year," he said. "Some years, you get a lot of good players who want in the door, and you have spots open up to make that happen. Remarkably, that happened this year."

NCAA rules don't allow Hauck to comment on specific players in this class until his news conference this afternoon.

It's a different class from his first three, when he scrambled to the end.

In Hauck's first class, in 2010, he picked up defensive linemen Tyler Gaston and offensive lineman Alex Novosel the day before signing day.

Sonny Sanitoa committed the night before in 2011, and fellow defensive lineman Louvan Green didn't even tell coaches of his intentions until faxing in his letter in time for UNLV to include him in the news conference.

Then last year, wide receiver Jonavaughn Williams committed the Monday before signing day, and a day later, safety/linebacker Marc Philippi and offensive lineman Ron Scoggins switched commitments from New Mexico to UNLV.

Eleventh-hour commitments apparently aren't expected this year, but no coach at any school assumes anything.

Indeed, until all the expected faxes arrive, it's doubtful the coaches at Lied Athletic Complex will feel too comfortable. UNLV already lost one commitment when running back Kani Benoit switched to Oregon last weekend.

But Benoit's commitment to the Rebels long was seen as being shakier than the UNLV basketball team's judgment in the final minute of a road game.

The Benoit loss, though, isn't devastating. Two other backs have committed to the Rebels - Niko Kapeli (5 feet 11 inches, 195 pounds) of Liberty High School and Keith Whitely (5-9, 175) of La Porte (Texas) High - and that position already could be the strongest part of the team.

It's a team that is becoming older, even as the roster is becoming more full.

UNLV could hit the maximum 85 scholarships next season.

The Rebels haven't been at that mark, or even close to it, since John Robinson called student-body right plays from 1999 to 2004.

"I'm hoping for 85," Hauck said. "If not, it will be 84 or 85 next fall. For the first time, we'll be there. It's taken some doing to get there."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.


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