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2022 Recruiting Breakdown: Nevada

A class built after the first signing period

NCAA Football: Nevada at Colorado State Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the tenth post in our twelve-part recruiting breakdown series. Today will look at the #10 team in our rankings, Nevada.

Nevada started off this recruiting cycle as they usually do, putting the bulk of this class together early in the year. However, due to the coaching change, most of those players ended up not signing with the Wolf Pack in December. They signed a handful of players but then set their sights on finding players by February. Nevada did just that, hitting the transfer portal hard and scouring the high school ranks for leftover talent to complete their class. Most of the class is made up of solid but not spectacular talent and balanced by transfers, and considering all the factors that went into building this class, that is a success. To read more about all of their signees, continue scrolling.

The Skinny:

  • 23 players signed.
  • 9 high school players, 4 JUCO players, 10 transfers
  • 14 offensive, 9 defensive
  • 7 3-stars per 247 Composite rankings.
  • Players with a composite rating over 85: 0
  • Players with a composite rating over 82: 5
  • Breakdown by state: 6 California, 2 Nevada, 2 Utah, 1 Hawaii, 1 Oregon, 1 Washington
  • 247 Composite Rankings

- Overall: 122nd

- Recruiting: 116th

- Transfer: 107th

The Players:

QB AJ Bianco

AJ was once a Hawaii commit but the new Nevada staff was able to convince him to flip once the previous Rainbow Warrior staff was let go. He is a gamer with a huge arm and no fear when he attempts a pass. Bianco keeps his eyes downfield consistently and displays steady accuracy. He is mobile in the pocket and is able to throw well on the run. AJ is a talented quarterback and is seen by many as the QB of the future for the Wolf Pack.

Transfer QB Shane Illingworth

Shane comes in as a transfer from Oklahoma State. He appeared in a number of games for the Cowboys last season, which helped him develop. Illingworth is patient in the pocket as he waits for routes to develop and he can air out a deep pass as well as anyone. He is enough of a running threat to be able to lead the run-pass option game effectively. Shane will compete for the starting spot right away and has a good chance of winning it.

Transfer RB Cross Patton

Cross is one of many players transferring in from Oregon. He is a small, compact running back who is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball. Patton is a shifty runner who is constantly keeping his feet moving and is difficult to bring down once he gets going. He is also an effective receiver and challenging for linebackers to cover out of the backfield. Cross should see snaps immediately next season and be a diverse weapon for the Wolf Pack.

WR Keenan Speer-Johnson

Keenan is a tall, long receiver coming to the Wolf Pack. He changes directions on cuts with ease and his long strides help him separate from defenders on his routes and after the catch. Speer-Johnson can out jump receivers and high-points the ball well on jump balls, which can be especially effective in the red zone. He runs precise routes and has solid hands. Keenan has the potential to be a future building block for the rebuilding Nevada program.

WR Elijah Barclay

Elijah is a very talented wide receiver who was thankfully still available for the Wolf Pack to sign. He gets downfield in a hurry and has big potential as a deep-play receiver thanks to his speed. Barclay excels at tracking the ball in the air and does a nice job adjusting his routes and steps to ensure he comes down under the ball. He is also active in screens and passes to the flat and is dangerous with the ball in space. Elijah has the potential to be a dynamic receiver if he can put it all together.

Transfer WR Spencer Curtis

Spencer is another transfer wide receiver in this class. He gets downfield in a hurry, thanks to some noticeable speed and effective route-running. Curtis fights hard to get open and gains separation with both his speed and physical nature. He is especially effective on short routes and he can gain extra yards in space with his elusiveness. Spencer looks like he can slide in as a slot receiver for Nevada.

Transfer WR BJ Casteel

BJ is transferring from Arizona to Nevada in this class. He has great hands and a knack for coming down with the ball when he goes up against defensive backs. Casteel has great size and once he gets going, would-be tacklers bounce off of him while he is moving in the open field. He can be used in the short and deep passing game and has even taken some carries out of the backfield, where his straight-line speed is on display. BJ will be able to step right into some playing time for the Wolf Pack next fall.

JUCO TE Jacob Munro

Jacob comes in to play tight end for the Wolf Pack. He is a former high school quarterback who made the transition to tight end. Munro understands how an offense runs and knows every aspect of what it takes to have a successful play. He has great size and moves well. Jacob has made the transition to a new position over the past two years and Nevada should be getting a polished product.

JUCO TE Dyson Frank

Dyson is another junior college tight end in this class. He has huge size and seems like a natural target in the redzone and over the middle at the first down marker. Frank moves extremely well and has a wide catch radius as he runs down the hashes. He is open almost immediately thanks to his size and ability to move and is tough to bring down with just one player. Dyson is likely to see immediate action and is a good bet to make an impact.

Transfer TE Cooper Shults

Cooper is part of Nevada’s efforts both to emphasize tight ends and identify players from Oregon. He is long and athletic and is very effectively going vertical to secure a catch. Shults glides downfield and knows exactly when he is open to expect the ball. He has reliable hands and is a prime target when a team is near the goalline. Cooper will add instant depth in the tight end room and should see the field plenty during his career.

JUCO OL Zac Welch

Zac Welch is a lineman with great size, which will suit him best at a tackle position going forward. He can pack on weight to his frame and will need to in order to continue to dominate going forward. Welch is quick to move when the ball is snapped and has quick feet, enabling him to get in the correct position to make his blocks in pass protection. He delivers punishing blocks in run support and is mobile enough to be used to pull. Zac originally signed with Nevada in 2019, then went to a junior college and now is back with the Wolf Pack in hopes to find a spot to play on the line.

Transfer OL Joey Capra

Joey Capra is a transfer from San Diego State and isn’t short on talent by any means. He was an anchor on his high school line as an athletic guard who excels run blocking. Capra stays low after exploding out of his stance and hits his blockers lower as well, disrupting their center of gravity. He executes his assignment quickly and often keeps moving to make multiple blocks on a play. There is little doubt Joey can play impactful football in college, it’s just a matter of when.

Transfer OL Cole Feinauer

Cole transfers in from Colorado State, which is ironic considering all the Nevada players who went to CSU. He mostly played tight end and defensive end in high school, so he is still adding weight and learning the o-line position. Feinauer is quick off the snap and moves around athletically, both traits that will serve him well as an offensive lineman. He packs a lot of strength into his frame and still had a lot of room to grow. Cole is high on potential but is still developing.

Transfer OL Kai Arneson

Kai is another Oregon transfer entering the mix. He is capable in pass protection, moving backward with smooth football. Arneson is active and mobile in the run game, often being used to pull and break from the line as the lead blocker. He is sound in his technique and knows how to execute his assignment. Kai looks like he can play at tackle and do so effectively for the Wolf Pack.

Transfer DL William Green

William is a transfer from Liberty coming to play for Nevada. He is tenacious at the line of scrimmage, eating up double teams and pushing through them with his strength. Green resets the line easily and shuts down the run game, diagnosing where the ball is going and wrapping up the running back. He moves well and doesn’t give up on plays. William looks like a solid player on the interior of the defensive line and a good bet to see the field next fall.

DE Ike Nnakenyi

Ike is a pass-rusher with plenty of talent. He is extremely active after the ball is snapped, dedicated to getting after the quarterback. Nnakenyi is long and athletic, getting by blockers with his long strides and quickness. He plays through the whistle and has underrated strength, pushing back offensive tackles on a regular basis. Ike has the potential to be one of the better edge rushers in the Moutain West if he keeps developing.

DE Jonathan Maldonado

Jonathan is another defensive end for the Wolf Pack. He is a massive player coming off the edge and is simply too much for any one person to block. Maldonado bull-rushes through offensive linemen but also can sidestep them and get by with his speed. He played a little quarterback in high school so he knows their tendencies and takes them down with no trouble. Jonathan has plenty of skill and could see some snaps his first year with the program.

LB Christopher Smalley

Christopher is a versatile athlete coming in to play linebacker. He seemingly moves effortlessly on the field, both side to side and with his straight line speed. Smalley is a physical tackler and equally skilled in both pass-rushing and stopping the run. He covers ground quickly, and finishes plays well. Smalley can impact the field in variety of ways on either side of the ball but profiles best as an outsider linebacker.

LB Stone Combs

Stone is another linebacker coming to Nevada. He plays very comfortably in the box, diagnosing plays quickly and flocking to the ball. Combs is a sound tackler who wraps up ball-carriers and moves well laterally. He also holds his own in coverage and is especially skilled at keeping the ball in front of him and closing in to make a play. Stone projects best at the college level as a middle linebacker who can be a force in defending the run and short-yardage passes.

JUCO LB Jonathan Thomas

Jonathan is coming to Nevada after some time in junior college. He is a fierce linebacker who is at his best in the box stuffing the run game. Thomas has big size but he moves well laterally and reacts to plays quickly. He can hold his own in coverage and wraps up nicely on tackles. Jonathan checks off a lot of boxes at middle linebacker, where he will play for the Wolf Pack.

Transfer LB Marcel Walker

Marcel is another transfer, this one at linebacker. He played on both sides of the ball in high school, which will help him understand offenses while playing defense. Walker is a high motor player who is relentless in his pursuit of the ball and quick in his ability to react. He comes off the snap with force and is especially skilled in his ability to get into the backfield and stop the run. Marcel provides immediate depth and is a solid pick-up for Nevada.

DB Charles McQueen

Charles, or Keekee, and brings a good deal of talent into the secondary. He sees the field well with great vision playing deep and possesses great closing speed to make a play. McQueen can highpoint the ball as good or better than wide receivers and isn’t afraid to be physical when receivers come over the middle of the field. He positions himself well as a deep safety who can roam all over the field to go where the action is. Charles may be able to see some early playing time if he adjusts to the speed of the college game quickly enough.

DB Charles McQueen

Keekee is a two-way athlete coming in to play on the defensive side of the ball. He displays excellent speed which aids him in both man and zone coverages. McQueen tracks the ball well in the air and times his jumps well to make a play on the ball. He is also a physical tackler and isn’t afraid to make a hard hit in the open field. Keekee should slot in nicely as a cornerback who can play in multiple different defensive styles.

Transfer DB Darion Green-Warren

Darion is a transfer from Michigan who is coming to play cornerback. He plays tight coverage on receivers while also keeping his eyes on the quarterback so he can track the ball. Green-Warren reads plays well and displays a great burst when running to the line of scrimmage on run plays or passes in the flat. He is a physical tackler in the open field who doesn’t let ball carriers get away from him. Darion will boost the talent in the secondary and is likely to play right away.

Team Writer Thoughts:

First-year head coach Ken Wilson was put in a difficult position recruiting-wise, given multiple recruits (and players from last year) either followed Jay Norvell to Colorado State or headed elsewhere. And while the rankings might not reflect as such, I think Wilson made (almost) the best of the situation given to him. He really attacked the transfer portal — securing 15 transfers from programs such as Oregon, where Wilson formerly coached, San Diego State, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Colorado State, etc. — with several offering multiple years of eligibility. Wilson also made it a focal point to ink offensive linemen, tight ends, and wide receivers — with the latter two labeled as very dire needs entering the offseason and the former categorized as an area of weakness in 2021. He also did a good job acquiring linebackers — namely EDGE rushers — and a couple of promising quarterbacks in Bianco and Illingworth (transfer from OKSU). Yes, the recruiting class — comparatively to other programs — doesn’t stand out by any means. Still, in my opinion, Wilson secured some quality recruits/transfers at inherently valuable positions that he must develop in order to install a foundation for years to come. There’s plenty of youth and opportunity with this team, so I’m going to be very interested to see how this all pans out. You have to start somewhere!

Quick Hits:

Headliner(s):

Mike: Barclay, Smalley, Nnakenyi

Matt: Illingworth, Green-Warren, Barclay, Smalley, Nnakenyi, Casteel

Talented enough to play right away:

Mike: Barclay, Smalley, Nnakenyi, McQueen

Matt: Illingworth, Green-Warren, Nnakenyi, McQueen, Patton

Sleeper Recruit:

Mike: Maldonado, Speer-Johnson

Matt: Frank

Best unit:

Mike: Wide Reciever, Linebacker

Matt: Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Outside Linebackers/Defensive Ends (EDGE)

Summary:

Nevada had to recruit on the fly this year, and for the most part, they did well considering the circumstances. While they won’t be confused with the top of the conference, they were able to secure a few players with high upside who could become building blocks of the new era of the program. The transfer players in this class have the potential to bridge the gap for the next year or two and, if all goes well, will have the Wolf Pack playing competitively as they attempt to recover from the numerous departures that occurred this off-season. While this is not a game-changing class, it is an important one to help the new coaching staff.

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