The Raiders stadium and Fertitta Football Complex long have been touted as program changers for UNLV.
Coach Tony Sanchez finally got to see for himself in the past several months as he took recruits to see the stadium that will open near the south end of the Strip in 2020 and the on-campus Fertitta complex that will open in the spring.
“One of the biggest things was watching their reactions as they walked through the (Fertitta) facility,” Sanchez said. “It’s different when you’re showing them pictures, and this year you’re showing them the Raiders stadium, and they can physically see the construction of it going up. That’s a reality now. Then you come over here, and the biggest reality is they walk into the Fertitta Football Complex.
“Now you don’t have to worry about being beat on things like that.”
Sanchez unveiled the 15-member class from the early signing period Wednesday, giving him up to 10 openings for the late period that begins Feb. 6.
— VIC VIRAMONTES (@VicViramontes10) December 19, 2018
His class was ranked by 247Sports composite ratings as high as second in the Mountain West as recently as this past weekend but is now seventh. The website includes three UNLV commits who didn’t sign Wednesday but are expected to in February. It does not include Humboldt State transfer Jackson McCullough, a 6-foot 6-inch, 305-pound offensive lineman.
The rankings will fluctuate through early February. Right now, UNLV’s ranking is its highest since it was third in 2016. That class produced impact players such as quarterbacks Armani Rogers and Johnny Stanton, running back Charles Williams, wide receiver Mekhi Stevenson and offensive lineman Jaron Caldwell.
UNLV was ranked 11th in 2017 and eighth in 2018. The 2017 class, however, produced safety Greg Francis, linebacker Farrell Hester II and offensive linemen Ashton Morgan and Justice Oluwaseun, and from 2018 came wide receiver Tyleek Collins with most of the rest redshirting.
“I think when it’s all said and done, you’re going to see one heck of a class coming in and adding to a very deep team coming back,” Sanchez said. “We return 19 of the 22 on offense and 16 of the 22 on defense. You add a group of 25 to it. It ought to give us a chance to be pretty good.”
UNLV coaches will find out quickly how well this class performs, with 11 players enrolling next month, which makes them eligible to go through spring practices. Five of those are junior college players.
The Rebels spread out the recruiting by addressing each part of the roster and will focus on more specific areas for the late signing period.
“We want to continue to add guys to the secondary,” Sanchez said. “We want to add some guys up front. I think we’re done at the linebacker spot. You never know, you could find a great guy there. We’ll add one at the receiving corps most likely and maybe bring in a tight end. There are a couple (scholarships) we’re going to keep in our back pocket we may use now or we may use later.
“We want to make sure we’re strategic in how we use those.”
247Sports Mountain West recruiting rankings
1. Boise State
3. Colorado State
4. Fresno State
5. Utah State
6. New Mexico
8. Air Force
9. San Diego State
10. San Jose State
UNLV in past 247Sports rankings
Coach: Tony Sanchez
2018 — Eighth
2017 — 11th
2016 — Third
2015 — Seventh
Coach: Bobby Hauck
2014 — 11th
2013 — Eighth
2012 — Seventh
2011 — 10th
2010 — Ninth
Coach: Mike Sanford
2009 — Third
2008 — Ninth
2007 — Seventh
2006 — Eighth
2005 — Fourth
Coach: John Robinson
2004 — Seventh
2003 — Second
2002 — Seventh
2001 — Second
2000 — Second
1999 — First
UNLV early signees
Kyle Beaudry, LB, 6-1, 230, Liberty
Leif Fautanu, OL, 6-2, 315, University Laboratory School (Honolulu)
Austin Fiaseu, DB, 6-0, 205, Liberty
Steve Jenkins, WR, 5-11, 165, Narbonne (Harbor City, Calif.)
Travis Mumphrey Jr., QB, 6-1, 190, John Ehret (Marrero, La.)
Courtney Reese, RB, 5-8, 160, Miami Southridge
Seth Robinson, DL, 6-2, 210, Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Malik Wesley, WR, 6-2, 215, Spring Valley (Columbia, S.C.)
Jacoby Windmon, LB, 6-2, 210, John Ehret (Marrero, La.)
Eliel Ehimare, DL, 6-2, 280, Cabrillo Collge (Aptos, Calif.)
Aaron Lewis, DB, 5-9, 175, Chaffey College (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.)
Ryan Tantum, OL, 6-4, 305, Sierra College (Rocklin, Calif.)
Tavai Tuitasi, DL, 6-2, 245, City College of San Francisco
Vic Viramontes, LB, 6-2, 230, Riverside (Calif.) College
Jackson McCullough, OL, 6-6, 305, Humboldt State