weather icon Clear

UNLV’s Marcus Arroyo winning football recruiting war

It’s built into UNLV football coach Marcus Arroyo’s calendar. Every single day.

Recruit, recruit, recruit.

“There’s a set time,” Arroyo said. “I’ve been at places that say they do it. We do it, and it’s a proven process for us.”

Arroyo and his coaching staff have done it despite the constraints of the coronavirus pandemic.

They have continued pursuing top talent and are producing a formidable recruiting class amid the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season. Fifteen of the 16 players committed to UNLV’s 2021 class have a three-star rating, per 247 Sports, and the class currently ranks first in the Mountain West and 56th nationally.

The NCAA imposed a dead period as the virus began to surge, meaning coaches could not host prospective recruits on campus or attend satellite events like camps or showcases. So the Rebels instead have focused on cultivating organic, personable connections via Zoom, FaceTime, social media, telephone or text message.

Every single day.

“It felt amazing to see that there’s an actual staff like that out there,” said offensive lineman Anthony Rosas, who hails from Baldwin Park, California, and picked UNLV over a collection of powerhouse programs like Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Penn State.

“I thought it was going to be more like (they) talk to you here and there, see how you’re doing, check in with your family and that’s about it,” he added. “But nah, they’re talking to me on a personal level. They know what’s going on with me on a day-to-day basis.”

Working around the challenges

Senior quarterback Cameron Friel had hoped to travel from his home state of Hawaii during the spring and summer to tour some of the schools that’d been recruiting him. The coronavirus stymied any travel plans — and his recruitment to some degree.

But the Rebels recruited Friel before the pandemic started and maintained contact with him throughout the course of the spring, culminating in multiple conversations with Arroyo and offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas. And the elusive scholarship offer.

“(We’d have) long conversations mostly about football and life on the islands, how the pandemic is going for us, my family and things like that,” said Friel, who attends Kailua High School and was recruited by Power Five programs Arizona and Colorado. “There was a lot of contact, so I knew they were very interested in me. They were talking (like I wasn’t) just another recruit.”

Friel in May became the second recruit to commit to UNLV’s 2021 class. He is secure in his decision without having visited the campus. He hasn’t taken his official virtual visit yet, either, but has seen the campus and Fertitta Football Complex during informal FaceTime calls with coaches.

Arroyo and his staff are working against the same constraints that face every other program in the country. With that in mind, Arroyo said,“we just try to be creative” in showcasing the program. Touchpoints with potential recruits are frequent and collaborative, ranging from more personal conversation with a single coach to group conversations with families.

“You’ve got (coaches) at spots around the community,” Arroyo said. “We’re walking around doing tours and virtual tours. We’re talking about the stadium. We’re on Google Earth and zooming down.”

Rebels coaches are also adept and active on social media, using platforms like Twitter to display the program — and their personalities. Friel, for one, took note of how Arroyo used Twitter to speak out against racial injustice in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

“You can tell it’s just not about the school. It’s about life and everything that’s going on in the world. It’s definitely a good thing,” Friel said. “Not only are they pushing out the message about UNLV and what’s going on, they’re pushing out life.”

Friel and his future UNLV teammates have already begun to bond and are developing relationships with one another as the recruiting class continues to grow. They have a group chat, Rebel Commits, through which they keep in contact, and are also working to recruit other players on their own as extensions of their future coaches.

“Other recruits are hitting me up. ‘Put me on with their coach. Put me on with them. Let me get an offer,’” Rosas said. “They see the changes that are coming and they want to be a part of it. A lot of people want to be a part of it. That’s why I feel like UNLV is going to be an amazing place.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.