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2018 Recruiting Breakdown: UNLV

Who are the key players in the Rebels class?

NCAA Football: UNLV at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

As the back-half of the recruiting rankings starts to be discussed, it’s important to recognize a few things. First, this was a great recruiting year by the Mountain West Conference. So a class that ranked 8th this year would be a few spots higher other years in general. Next, for as much as people discuss rankings, starts, and other aspects of recruiting, it is far from an exact science. Each year players outplay or underplay their recruiting rankings once they actually get on the field. Some players are late-bloomers or the coaches do a fantastic job developing them.

The Skinny:

  • 23 recruits signed
  • 9 offensive, 14 defense
  • 11 players in this class were listed at 3-stars by either Rivals or 247.
  • Breakdown by state: 8 California, 3 Texas, 3 Nevada, 3 Georgia, 2 Arizona, 1 Utah, 1 Louisiana, 1 Oregon, 1 Hawaii, 1 Maryland

QB Kenyon Oblad

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  • To start, Oblad has an incredibly strong arm. It is not too far of a stretch to see him becoming their QB of the future as he continues to develop. He can make a number of different types of throws and puts nice zip on the ball without sacrificing accuracy. Oblad has nice touch on the deep ball puts the ball where it needs to be for his receivers.

JUCO QB Max Gilliam

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  • The Rebels brought in a number of JUCO players, and Gilliam might be the best of the bunch. The former Cal QB has a strong arm and has gained experience being at the college level. He can throw well on the run and can tuck and run when plays are dead as well. Able to go through reads quickly, Gilliam is the QB of the present for the Rebels.

RB Chad Magyar

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  • Magyar is quite a talented running back and the Rebels did a good job landing him. He is able to blow through holes with ease, reaching top speed quickly and his long strides put distance between himself and others quickly. Magyar also blocks well in the backfield, which will help him see the field early. Another thing that will set him apart from other backs coming out of high school is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield.

WR Patrick Ballard

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  • Ballard will be more of a versatile, jack of all trades type receiver. He works the sidelines well and displays nice hands to secure the ball. His tape also shows he has the ability to run on jet sweep type of plays and can also be a good option as a deep threat at times. Ballard will add a lot of value to the receiving corps as a dependable pass catcher.

WR Tyleek Collins

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  • Collins will be a great weapon for the Rebels on the offensive end. He can be equally effective as a scat-back or a slot-receiver. He’s also going to be a major factor as a returner on special teams. He has the talent to make an impact immediately. Collins can somehow find space in the smallest of holes to break through a pack and once he gets a step on defenders, it’s rare that they will catch up to him.

TE Shelton Zeon III

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  • Zeon is even more athletic than Redding, showing great length and speed. Lining up both on the line and in the slot, he does a great job finding open space in the field to make a catch. However, Zeon can also make difficult catches in traffic thanks to his large and dependable hands. He will be a dynamic pass-catcher and should transform any offense down the line.

OL Bryan Catchings

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  • Catchings works well as a tackle on the line. He taps into his strength well and has good length where he can add to his frame in college. He sticks to his blocks until the whistle and doesn’t let defensive linemen get away easily. Catching has pretty good form and should develop into a nice tackle down the line.

OL Amani Trigg-Wright

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  • Wright is a very physical player on the offensive line. He is big, strong, and athletic. Excelling at blocking, Wright is pretty mobile, displaying an ability to move out on the sidelines ahead of the runners or else into the second level to block linebackers. Wright will help to create big holes for the running backs down the line.

JUCO OL Keenen King

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  • Another PAC12 bounce back, King was originally a Washington State commit, but will be returning to his home state to play for the Rebels. He was highly recruited out of high school and for good reason. King is a huge player, uses his strength very well to make key blocks on plays. He should become a multiple year starter on the offensive line and an important part of the run game going forward.

DL Chris Manoa

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  • Manoa is a massive force along the interior of the defensive line. He can take on multiple blockers, which is a key part of being a nose tackle. He moves well for his size and doesn't give up on plays when they move away from him. Manoa gets off blocks well and is an imposing tackler for unsuspecting running backs.

DL Tim Mosley

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  • Mosley will do his work on the outside part of the d-line as a pass-rusher. Although he is slender and long, he also displays nice strength as he can use his momentum to push back blockers. Mosley beats offensive linemen without much issue and will be a prime threat to MWC quarterbacks down the line.

DL Moa Heimuli

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  • Athletic enough to play on both sides of the ball, Heimuli will be at home as a defensive tackle for UNLV. He displays great strength and moves well around blockers, getting in the backfield with ease on a regular basis. Once in the backfield, Heimuli is athletic enough to contain the ball carrier and make a play.

JUCO DL Dominion Ezinwa

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  • Another nose tackle, but Ezinwa is from the JUCO ranks and will be counted on to play come next fall. Similar to Manoa, he can get into the backfield with relative ease. He’s strong enough to take on multiple blocks and sheds blockers without little issue. Ezinwa is a physical force along the D-line.

JUCO DL Montrice Johns

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  • Johns is another JUCO recruit coming in to play right away. And he has the talent to do so. He’s quick off the snap and splits blockers very nicely. He is mobile and gets after runners well to shut down the run game. Johns is strong enough to counter offensive linemen and will add another solid D-line player to the Rebels ranks.

JUCO DL Tavis Malakius

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  • Stop if this sounds familiar, but Malakius is a talented JUCO defensive lineman who should be able to play right away for UNLV. He does a great job keeping his body low, allowing him to unleash his strength on would-be blockers. He plugs up holes quickly and contributes to neutralizing the run game. Malakius will be of great value to the Rebels next season.

LB Malcolm Johnson

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  • A nice versatile player who lined up at both defensive end and outside linebacker in high school, Johnson will be a playmaker down the line for the Rebel defense. He does his best work in the backfield, neutralizing the opponents running attack or terrorizing the QB as a pass-rusher. Johnson tackles effectively and powerfully and should rack up a bunch of them in college.

LB Malakai Salu

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  • A linebacker who can play either in the middle or on the weak-side, Salu’s skills will go a long way towards stopping the run. He does a good job keeping the play in front of him and doesn’t get faked out by ball carriers. Fast and powerful, Salu ability will translate well to the college game as a run stopper.

DB Bryce Jackson

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  • Agressive and physical in coverage, Jackson neutralizes speedy receivers well. He presses them off their routes with contact and is also quick enough to keep up with them as they change direction. For his size, Jackson is also a strong and sure tackler who reads plays well.

DB Octavian Bell

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  • Bell has the look of a great ballhawk as he develops to the college game. He displays great instincts and gets tremendous jumps on plays to get in front of the pass. He is also fast and elusive once he gets the ball in his hands, making him a big play threat on defense. Bell reads the ball well in the air and puts his body in good position to make a play on the ball.

DB Phillip Hill

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  • Hill is a physical player, a hard-hitter who also plays well in coverage as a safety. He tackles and hits very well in motion and takes good angles to get after the running backs and wide receivers. Hill’s ability to play against both the pass and the run on defense will allow him to see the field early in his career and his physical play will no doubt make him a great special teams player.

JUCO DB Myles Plummer

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  • Plummer is another player from the JUCO ranks and he was a great get for the Rebels. Slated to come in as a cornerback, he is also talented enough to possibly find a spot on special teams. He displays good tackling skills, wrapping up well in space, which will be important as a cornerback. Plummer will be a physical player who should see the field right away.

JUCO DB Luca Vartic

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  • Vartic is another strong DB coming from the JUCO ranks. He is physical and active in coverage for a safety, making plays very difficult for wide receivers. He’s active in the run game and uses his speed on blitzes well to get in the backfield quickly. Vartic should find a role in the defense right away.

ATH Austin Ajiake

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  • Announced as an athlete, Ajiake is listed as being able to play on both sides of the ball, either as running back, wide receiver, or linebacker. He’s huge for a running back, powerful and strong, but that doesn’t seem to lack any speed. He’s extremely difficult to bring down. On the defensive side of the ball, Ajiake is a very athletic and mobile linebacker. He causing lots of havoc for the quarterback when in the backfield and moves well enough to be in coverage. He can make an impact on either side of the ball.

Headliner(s): Magyar, Gilliam, Plummer

Talented enough to play right away: Aside from the JUCO players, Hill, Mosley, Heimuli, Magyar, Collins

Sleeper Recruit(s): Zeon, Bell

Best unit: The Rebels reloaded extremely well on the Defensive Line, as well as Defensive Backs. We’ll go with D-Line here.


There is a great deal of talent in the Rebels class. Again, if one would ignore the rest of the conference and simply look at this group, it would be easy to see them as a potential top 5 class in the conference. However, it didn’t work out that way this year. Still, it’s easy to see how they JUCO players they brought in will make an impact right away next fall. It is also possible they can get contributions from at least two freshmen players on offense and defense next year. 2018 could be remembered as the class that turned the corner for the Rebels.

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Up tomorrow: Utah State