UNLV makes strong push as early signing period begins

Updated December 18, 2018 - 5:12 pm

UNLV fifth-year coach Tony Sanchez has put together what could be his best recruiting class, one that he hopes translates into immediate success.

It’s no secret that 2019 is a make-or-break season for Sanchez and his staff, and they have recruited like everything was on the line.

He will announce the class from the early signing period on Wednesday. The full class will be announced Feb. 6.

Here are three takeaways from this class that 247Sports ranks third in the Mountain West behind Boise State and Utah State:

1. Momentum is contagious

In the early 1990s, Florida State was in the process of putting together easily the nation’s best class. Everyone wanted to join the party and one top recruit after another committed.

UNLV is experiencing a little bit of that on a much smaller level. Once the Rebels began to pick up three-star prospects, more were willing to jump aboard.

Of the 15 members of the class expected to sign Wednesday, 10 received that designation by 247Sports.

Among the more notable recent commitments were linebacker Vic Viramontes (6 feet 1 inch, 235 pounds) of Riverside (California) College, defensive lineman Tavai Tuitasi (6-2, 255) of City College of San Francisco and offensive lineman Leif Fautanu (6-2, 290) of University Laboratory School in Honolulu. All three are three-star recruits who committed this month.

The Rebels did take a step back when Rahmod Smith, a three-star tight end from Homestead (Florida) High School, pulled his commitment Monday. He could, however, still wind up choosing UNLV.

2. Urgency is notable

Five of the recruits are from junior colleges, with four of them on defense.

Sanchez knows his best path to ensuring a sixth season is by improving that side of the ball, which gave up 37.2 points per game. UNLV’s offense averaged 28.8 points in finishing 4-8, though the Rebels won two of their final three games and played half the season without quarterback Armani Rogers (toe).

The transition from junior college to a four-year program isn’t easy, but the Rebels will need those players to make an immediate impact.

Can it be done?

In the Mountain West, Fresno State went from 1-11 two years ago to 10-4 last season and 12-2 this year. Hawaii and UNR each answered 3-9 seasons in 2017 with bowl berths this year.

UNLV needs six victories to qualify for a bowl, but as this season showed, it’s better to get to at least seven. Wyoming was left out of the postseason at 6-6.

That only adds to the challenge UNLV faces next season.

3. Rebels cast a wide net

In addition to the usual recruiting spots Las Vegas and California — though not Houston as usual — UNLV added players from Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, Hawaii and South Carolina.

Arizona and Hawaii have been traditional recruiting grounds as well, but this shows the reach the Rebels were willing to make to put together this class.

More Rebels: Follow all of our UNLV coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

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

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