Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
- UNLV lands verbal commitments from five locals (01-10-2010)
- UNLV may have hit recruiting jackpot with Hawaiian transplant (01-10-2010)
New UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck knew he had to make up some ground on the recruiting trail.
Still, Hauck didn't seem bothered by the fact that it was two days before Christmas and he had yet to start the process for his initial signing class.
Addressing media, supporters of the program and current players, Hauck said during his introductory press conference that he would be aggressive on the trail. His plan was to take advantage of each recruiting weekend in January by finding players who could help transform the program into his vision of success.
"We won't come up for air until the first Wednesday in February on national signing day," Hauck told the group.
Following his first weekend with recruits, it appears Hauck has made good on his claim.
He received verbal commitments from five of the seven locals who visited last weekend, including Bishop Gorman defensive end Ian Bobak switching his commitment from in-state rival UNR to UNLV. Another Gorman prospect, senior running back Victor Belen, also visited and will commit once a scholarship is made available.
All five players raved about Hauck's energy and determination to turn UNLV into a winner. The Rebels have played in only three bowl games in their 41-year history and haven't had a winning season since 2000 when they went 8-5 and beat Arkansas in the Las Vegas Bowl.
"Hauck was very positive," said Kohorst, whose father, Keith, played center for the Rebels in the early 1980s and is the team's optometrist. "He knows what he is doing and what he is talking about. I really liked the emphasis on changing everything around. One of the big things for me was how much support was going toward the new staff."
Hauck, a former recruiting coordinator under Rick Neuheisel at Colorado and Washington, is credited with being an excellent recruiter.
Everyone who has been in contact with Hauck, a 45-year old who was the head coach at Montana the last seven years, has verified the claim.
He spent nearly half the school day at state champion Bishop Gorman last week, and two Gorman players — Bobak and defensive Taylor Spencer — were part of the contingent who committed.
"He had a suit on, but you could tell he wanted to roll up his sleeves and get to work," Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. "It was obvious to me that he is a good football coach. He is on a mission to be successful. He wants to be part of the community and that shows with everyone he meets."
Just three high school players had committed to UNLV when Hauck was hired and two of those wound up de-committing because of the uncertainty in the transition.
However, there was no uncertainty during the first recruiting weekend.
The recruits arrived Friday afternoon and ate lunch at the Hard Rock with several of the coaches. They ate dinner Friday at Sam Boyd Stadium, where they got a tour of the Rebels' facility and watched a highlight package on the stadium's big screen.
When the talk could have easily shifted to how outdated Sam Boyd is or how the facility isn't on campus, the recruits say Hauck was positive from start to finish.
He sold UNLV as if it where a brand new Cadillac.
"When coach Hauck says we are going to win, it's not a suggestion. It's a guarantee," said Desmond Tautofi, a defensive tackle from Calvary Chapel, who committed following the trip.
Hauck's upbeat attitude was shared by the players already in the program. Returners like wide receiver Phillip Payne and quarterback Omar Clayton sold recruits on the differences since Hauck took over.
"I was talking with Channing Trotter (UNLV's running back) and he was positive about the whole thing," Kohorst said. "I've lived here my entire life and he was telling my things about UNLV I didn't know."
The players stayed Friday and Saturday nights at the Luxor and ate dinner Saturday at ESPN Zone inside New York-New York. The also spent several hours on campus, visiting the practice facility, academic buildings and talking with officials.
Each of the recruits who committed had energy in their voice when talking about the trip. It appeared Hauck's enthusiasm was contagious.
Only time will tell if Hauck's success of producing winning teams — he was 80-17 at Montana and lead the Grizzlies to three appearances in the Football Championship Series title game — will carryover to UNLV.
Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].