While Signing Day isn’t a national holiday, it’s treated like one in regions like the South and the Midwest that view college football as a religion. Most of the attention is given to the high school seniors, and junior college gems often fall through the cracks.
Bobby Hauck announced his fifth UNLV recruiting class Wednesday. The 2014 class features 16 players, six of which are junior college transfers and four of which were local talent. Keeping the talent in Las Vegas has been a goal for Hauck since taking over at UNLV.
“There were 11 players in the Las Vegas area that signed National Letters of intent with Division I institutions,” Hauck said. “We offered nine of those 11 and signed four of them.”
On the heels of a seven-win season, UNLV was only able to pull in the 115th ranked class in the nation according to Rivals.com, and the 11th-best class in the Mountain West, only in front of Utah State.
Despite the numbers, Hauck and his staff feel good with the few players they landed.
“Though this class is not large in number, I think it’s high in quality,” Hauck said. “If we weren’t excited about this class, something would be drastically wrong.”
Although the Rebels only signed 16 players, it was for good reason. With such a small senior class this past season, there were fewer players to replace.
One of the few positions that needs replacing is defensive tackle. The top three defensive tackles — Mark Garrick, Tyler Gaston and Alex Klorman — graduated.
With such an immediate need at the position, Hauck felt he needed to go to the junior college ranks to fill the void.
“In football, it’s different than other sports, whether it’s basketball or whatever. You don’t replace seniors with freshmen,” Hauck said. “If you are going to replace one of them with an incoming player, it needs to be a transfer player just in terms of strength, ability and skill level.”
The junior college transfers that could be manning the trenches for UNLV in 2014 are Tui Maloata from American Samoa and Billy Tanuvasa from Santa Ana Junior College in Corona, Calif.
Maloata is the smaller of the two, and is more of a pass-rushing threat. He recorded a team-high 6.5 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss last season. Tanuvasa weighs in at a massive 290 pounds, and will be a run stopper in the middle.
But the junior college transfer with the potential to make the biggest impact is quarterback Blake Decker.
Decker dominated in junior college, and was named to the Second Team Junior College All-American Team. He threw for 4,241 yards for Scottsdale Community College while tossing 47 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.
“Obviously we’re going to have a great quarterback competition with he and Nick Sherry and our young guys as well,” Hauck said
With the possibility of three immediate starters, it’s apparent that while the high school seniors receive most of the attention, UNLV hit the jackpot with its junior college recruiting class this year.