Ranking a college football recruiting class is about as exact science as predicting what storylines will follow Snooki and JWoww through Italy. But that doesn’t stop coaches from treating the first Wednesday of February each year as if it’s Christmas 10 times over.
Bobby Hauck is no different. He is in charge of rebuilding the sorrowful state that has been UNLV’s program and now has two recruiting classes to pledge toward that effort.
“Every coach in America is excited about his class, and if he’s not, he better fake it,” Hauck said. “These guys, along with last year’s class, can really help us get this thing going.”
Hauck is all football. He is one of those bone-crusher handshake guys who jokes how he never had to worry about the pretty girl in high school turning down his prom invitation. Bone-crusher handshake guys are intense in an amusing sort of way but also supremely confident.
That’s a good thing for the Rebels, because no one improves from 2-11 by following someone with the leadership qualities of a cold-fish handshake guy.
They usually end up in Huntington, W.Va.
Hauck thinks UNLV will win under him and that the 23 players announced Wednesday will play a major role in that happening.
Who am I to doubt a guy who never had trouble finding a date?
Some observations about Hauck’s haul:
Hauck just might recruit more physical basketball players than, well, the school’s basketball team.
Hey, it wouldn’t be a stretch.
Of the 23 bios released on Hauck’s recruiting class, 10 mentioned basketball backgrounds. Of the 10, six stand at least 6 feet 4 inches, and five of those weigh from 230 to 260 pounds.
“Over the years, we’ve recruited a lot of guys off the basketball court,” Hauck said. “We’ve literally turned the car around and said, ‘Hey, we have to see this guy play basketball.’ It helps us gauge their athletic ability. You can see them moving with their feet and find guys who are going to be good, big athletes rather than just big.”
There is one. No, really.
And that’s fine. Connor Afoa is the lone signee from Nevada, and unless the Foothill High standout completely recovers from a knee injury, he might not enroll until midsemester of next year.
No reason to sign local kids merely for the sake of it, especially with a program that has seen just two bowl games since Nancy Kerrigan was attacked as she left a skating rink.
If those out-of-state players Hauck signed Wednesday eventually help lead the Rebels to a conference championship or even the New Mexico Bowl, the community will embrace them as their own.
“We want to be their first choice and are not going to be a fallback plan,” Hauck said. “We want local guys chomping at the bit to come to UNLV.”
Pause here … . It’s a good theory and the right one when you have actually won consistently, but you can say it and not totally buy into it today.
Meaning, had Bishop Gorman defensive end Jalen Grimble telephoned this week to say he just couldn’t imagine four years without Red Rock Pizza and wanted to attend UNLV over Miami, Hauck would have found a spot.
Right after he ran through his neighborhood screaming like a lunatic and crushing the hands of anyone he met.
Words tell everything.
Raw … unlimited potential … great upside … under the radar … infancy of development … really raw … unknown …
These are just some of the ways Hauck described many of those who signed. Put it this way — ESPNU wasn’t closely following those faxes the Rebels received Wednesday so as to adjust its national rankings.
Hauck’s staff went everywhere but the Kerguelen Islands to find players, and missed that trip only because there is no airstrip and those French scientists have never really produced many kids with great 40-yard dash times.
But history might be on UNLV’s side here. Hauck built a Football Championship Subdivision power at Montana by coaching up recruits whom others passed on, by getting the most out of kids with something to prove.
He subscribes to my theory that stars are better left to astronomers than predicting future All-Americans, that correctly forecasting how most 18-year-olds will develop and adapt to Division I football is at times impossible. Big-time programs miss all the time on kids.
“I pay absolutely zero attention to (recruiting services),” Hauck said. “I don’t look at it. I don’t care about it. The only evaluation that matters is ours.”
Secure. Confident. Bone-crusher handshake guy is pumped.
It tends to happen the first Wednesday of February.
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 2 to 4 p.m. Monday and Thursday on “Monsters of the Midday,” Fox Sports Radio 920 AM.