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UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo’s gamble pays off with top-rated class

The final hours leading up to and into signing day were a whirlwind for UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo and his staff.

They were up until 4 a.m. Wednesday trying to lock in their first recruiting class. The effort paid off with a group of 28 players ranked first in the Mountain West by Rivals and second in 247Sports’ composite ratings.

UNLV’s previous high by either site was in 2016 when both rated the Rebels third. The Rebels’ 22 three-star recruits, according to 247Sports, beat the school’s previous high of 12 in 2010.

Arroyo and his staff made the most of having new facilities in the Fertitta Football Complex and Allegiant Stadium to sell.

UNLV signed above the usual maximum of 25 because not all available spots were used last year, allowing a carryover.

It was quite a finish, especially considering Arroyo passed on signing anyone early even though 11 players had committed. He kept three of them.

“We rolled the dice,” Arroyo said. “We bet on ourselves on the first signing period. … To build something the right way, I wanted to sit down face-to-face with everyone that was going to come in here.”

The class includes 23 high school players, three junior college transfers and two four-year transfers from Texas Christian, including defensive lineman Adam Plant Jr. (6 feet 5 inches, 250 pounds), a Bishop Gorman High School graduate. Players were signed from 12 states and a foreign country. Australian punter Charlton Butt (6-2, 205) a late addition.

He was part of a sprint to the finish that included:

■ Linebacker LeShaun Bell (6-3, 220) of Calabasas (California) High reaffirmed his commitment with a tweet Tuesday night after Washington State made a late push.

■ Tight end Jake Ray (6-4, 245) of St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, flipped his commitment to Arizona State. Cornerback Edric Whitley (5-11, 160) of Weiss High in Pflugerville, Texas, reneged and chose Arizona.

■ UNLV made up for those losses by signing four late commits. In addition to Butt, the Rebels landed three-star defensive lineman Alven Johnson (6-4, 275) of Thrive Academy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; three-star tight end Alex Lines (6-5, 245) of Higley High in Gilbert, Arizona; and wide receiver Kyle Williams (6-0, 175) of St. Monica Catholic High in Santa Monica, California. Johnson chose the Rebels over Baylor and Louisiana Tech, Lines turned down Power Five conference scholarship offers, and Williams was courted by other Mountain West teams.

UNLV beat out Power Five schools for many of its recruits. It was a strategic decision to pursue those players rather than compete mostly against other Group of Five teams and seek overlooked but talented players.

“We didn’t shy away from anybody else’s offers,” Arroyo said. “I have a Power Five staff. I have an elite staff that will go up to bat with anybody. We feel we’ve identified guys that will fit us as a program. There were guys that maybe didn’t that had Power Five offers that many feel that you should take. But we weren’t going to compromise.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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