On June 13th, Nevada like many other teams, was still searching for its first commit of their 2019 class.
Fast forward not even two weeks later to June 26th, and the Wolf Pack suddenly have eight verbal commitments, which is tops in quantity in the MWC and good for second in the recent MWCConnection Recruiting Rankings (They picked up a 9th and a 10th in the past few days as well). For those who frequent social media, seeing this GIF has been commonplace the past few weeks:
MWCConnection got the opportunity to to speak with Nevada Recruiting Coordinator Alex Collins about their impressive run, and how everything came to be, including all the early official visits and what lies ahead in Nevada recruiting.
“First and foremost, the credit goes to the coaches.” Collins states. “It has been a great job by Coach Norvell and our staff in identifying and getting to know top recruits.”
For those paying attention to the visit lists, Nevada had five visitors one weekend and an eye-popping eleven the next. How did they get 16 official visitors over two weekends when other schools had just a few or none at all? Collins explains how Nevada has been able to take advantage of the new early official visit rule better than most.
“This year is interesting because you have all the visits from ‘18 plus spring ‘19 because they are tracked on a September to July calendar (as opposed to following the recruiting cycle and restarting in February). So the spring still counts towards the 56 yearly limit of official visits.”
This means that this year, the first year of the rule, every team is at a different number depending on how many visits they used on the 2018 class. Many only had a handful of visits left, or possibly none at all. Nevada didn’t use all 56, and took the opportunity to use it to their benefit with the 2019 class.
“It’s really something that came about late in May. I mentioned to Coach Norvell that we had a couple of free weekends in June without any summer camp plans. I said ‘we could always use these weekends if some kids wanted to take an official visit’ and he took it from there.”
The next step was finding the players who wanted to visit. It is important to remember the recruiting process is different for every player. Some want to commit before their season, some want to “when it feels right”. Certain recruits take all five official visits, and some view the visit as the final step before committing. Also, timing for visits is a big deal. Sometimes schedules just don’t match up. The Nevada staff seems to understand this and it sounds like it factored in to how they conducted things with their June visits.
“Every recruit is at a different stage in their recruiting process. Some know which school they want to go to and commit, while others are just trying to wrap their heads around the whole recruiting process. I think that most kids are enjoying the early visits because it allows them to alleviate some of the pressure of trying to handle recruiting while also enjoying their senior season of HS football. Especially with the December signing period being so popular, this eliminates January for many kids as an opportunity to official visit. The opportunity to find the school that fits you and then just focus on enjoying your senior season is something that I think appeals to many kids.”
It’s appealing to the the program and coaching staff as well.
“On our end, it benefits us because we are able to show kids who we are as a staff and what we are about. It’s one thing to talk to a kid on social media and on the phone and tell him how special our school and program are, but it’s a totally different thing to show him and his family in person.”
It certainly appealed to many of the recruits brought on visits over the two weekends Nevada hosted players. Breaking it down, there were sixteen recruits who visited and 10 of them have ended up committing on or following their visit. A small sample size to be sure, but a 62% success rate on visit weekends is exceptional no matter how one looks at it. For the Nevada staff, it starts with identifying the right type of players.
“I think our staff has done an excellent job of identifying the players that are difference makers and are kids that we are positive we want to be a part of our program.” Collins states. “They have done a great job of building relationships with kids and their families. I also think Coach Norvell and our staff have set a very strong and bright vision for our program, and kids are seeing that vision and buying into what we are doing here at Nevada.
The early visits are certainly missing one seemingly key aspect of an official visit: the experience of a college game. Official visits center around actual games during the season. Many recruits cite the energy of the fans, the look of the stadium, and seeing a college game live as some of their main highlights when taking a visit. However, Collins offers some thoughts of how these visits had just as much to offer compared to in-season visits.
“To be honest, game day visits can be difficult. When recruits come during the season, they usually fly out Friday night after their game or early Saturday morning. By the time they get here, the coaching staff is focused on the upcoming game and is not able to spend as much time with the recruit. By doing these visits in the spring, we are able to dedicate a full weekend to nothing but showing recruits and their families what makes Nevada so special. I feel like these families are able to leave with a strong grasp of who we are as a football staff. They get to meet more people within the program and the university, which is very important.”
And what exactly do they showcase and discuss to recruits on the officials?
“Official visits are always a mixture between informing the families about all the different things that make Nevada special, while also mixing in time for them to get to know who we are as people. Being in such a great spot like Reno allows us to showcase everything that makes this city so special. This isn’t just a football program, this is a place where our recruits will be living the next 4-5 years. We need to make sure that they get to see everything that will be available to them as student-athletes here. Putting together our visits involves making sure they get all the info about what we offer our athletes (weight room, academics, personal life, coaching, etc.) while also not exhausting them with meeting after meeting. Our coaches are more than coaches, they will become mentors and role models for our players, and it is important for families to get to know them as people as much as they do as a coach.”
With many recruiting battles coming down to the strength of the relationship between a recruit and the coaching staff, having the player and their feel get to know the coaches is vital. How have the staff been doing with this? Some comments made by recent commits lend an answer about how recruits are feelings about their relationships with the coaches and being newly committed members of the Wolf Pack.
- “I committed because of how awesome the coaches are and they believe in me and my abilities so I felt like they were the school for me.” - QB Austin Kirksey
- “The host players were really easy to get along with and it definitely felt like a brotherhood.” - OL Blake Baughman
- “As far as the coaching staff, it was just how they acted. They made me feel at home.” - OL Zac Welch
- “Coach Viney and I communicate regularly not only about football but about life, my family, my future beyond being a football player.” - CB Kacee Williams
Based on the sentiments expressed by the players, it’s easy to see they feel wanted and excited to join the Wolf Pack. That’s definitely by design.
“Whether its 15 or 25 scholarships, we always value every spot that we have to hand out.” Collins explains. “Our coaches are always trying to make sure that we are getting the best players at every position. If teams in our conference are getting better players than us, we are losing the recruiting battle. Our coaches here do a really good job of letting recruits know that they are wanted here at Nevada. When we offer a kid a scholarship, we offer him because we want him to be a member of our program, and I’m not sure that’s the case with every team. We don’t offer a kid to get him to camp, we don’t offer a kid just in case we need him in Dec/Jan, we offer him because we know right now we want him to be a member of our team. I think our staff and how we conduct our recruiting is one of honesty with the families and I think that families can see that when they are around us.”
With ten players already making their verbal pledge, and the Wolf Pack only taking 15 players in this class, it may seem like the heavy lifting is done. However, this is recruiting and nothing should ever be taken for granted until the names are signed on the dotted line. Keeping the class together until December or possibly February won’t be easy. Collins seems to echo those statements, as well as outlines what the months ahead will look like for him and the coaching staff.
“When a kid commits to our program, it only intensifies his importance to us. Our staff is continuing to build bonds and prepare for these recruits transition to being members of our program. We have done a great job so far of adding recruits to our program that are high character kids with excellent football ability. Our coaches are continuing to identify recruits that can add to that profile of “high character, high athletic ability” that we want to add to our program. Moving forward, we will continue to recruit and identify prospects that we want to bring into our program and help us have success on and off the field. 2019, 2020, doesn’t matter.”
That philosophy led to a good amount of talent in their 2018 class, especially at the skill positions. The 2019 class seems to be continuing the trend, not only getting talented athletes, but just as importantly getting players who believe in the culture Coach Norvell has established in his short time at Nevada. If June and July are any indication, players are buying in to that culture and excited to be future members of the Wolf Pack.