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Nevada Football: Head coach Ken Wilson’s comments for each player in 2022 recruiting class

Syndication: Reno Gazette Journal Jim Krajewski/RGJ / USA TODAY NETWORK

Wednesday marked the National Signing Day for the 2022 recruiting classes across college football. Nevada’s first-year head coach Ken Wilson has inked 22 student athletes, though there‘s still four remaining scholarships — with one presumably going to four-star Oklahoma State transfer Shane Illingworth, who hasn’t officially signed yet.

“Our goal with this recruiting class was to fill our needs as a football program with talented student-athletes who wanted to play with great effort-habit, the Nevada Way,” said Wilson, via press release. “This class begins to lay the groundwork for a tough-minded and hard-working program that that is built on respect, discipline, and fierce competition.

“Considering our condensed time frame of filling out a coaching staff and then getting out on the road to recruit. I am very happy with how hard this staff worked to build relationships with and subsequently sign student-athletes who will contribute to the Nevada football team right away ... These additions to the Pack Family will give us added talent and depth that will help be the catalyst and foundation for championship football going forward. We could not be more excited for the future!”

Among the 22 athletes signed, 16 were transfers — nine from Division-I programs, including those from Oregon, where Wilson previously coached as the co-defensive coordinator, Michigan and UCLA, among others. The other seven from Junior College or Non-Division-I programs, while six additional recruits signed on scholarship out of high school.

We can dive into their bios in a later story — and of course Mountain West Connection’s recruiting guru and site manager Michael Wittmann will keep everyone posted on the latest player movement, plus his thoughts with film on each program’s recruits — but for now, let’s look at Wilson’s comments on each of the 22 recruits from Wednesday’s 35-plus minute press conference (which you can view here).

Let’s dive into it!

Jonathan Thomas, LB

6’3” | 240 lbs. | Jr. | West Hills, Calif. | Previously: College of the Canyons

“Thomas is a four position linebacker. He was at College of the Canyons coming out; he is a powerful, explosive 6-3, 240-pound linebacker from Southern California. He can play inside and play outside. He’s got a great knack for pass rushing from the linebacker position which is an off the ball position — it’s not easy to do that. The guys that have that ability are really valuable guys. So we’re really excited. He’s a very good student — a business management major on this campus. He’s already in the business school. And we’re really excited about the production that he can give us from several different positions throughout our defense.”

Darion Green-Warren, DB

6’0” | 175 lbs. | Rs. Fr. | Lake Elsinore, Calif. | Previously: University of Michigan

“Green-Warren was a corner that we was in the transfer portal from the University of Michigan. He has four years of eligibility left. [Green-Warren] was a guy that I had recruited, some of our staff had recruited out of high school. We were excited he was in the portal when we got here. We jumped on him, we got him and he’s on campus right now. It should give us an immediate piece in the defense and depth and a competitor. He’s originally from Southern California: Torrance, California. Part of his time of Mater Dai and some of those programs down there. He knows how to compete against some of the best in the country. He’s been in Michigan for two falls. The COVID Season gave him an extra year and we’re excited to have him for four seasons.”

Jacob Munro, TE

6’5” | 250 lbs. | Rs. Jr. | Anaheim Hills, Calif. | Previously: Orange Coast College

“Monro was a high school quarterback down in Southern California. He went to West Coast College where they made him a tight end. He’s now a 6-5, 255-pound tight end. He is a blocking specialist. He did have some catches down there, but he is a monster blocker. He is already here on campus doing great things for us.”

Marcel Walker, OLB

6’3” | 210 lbs. | So. | Paterson, N.J. | Previously: Southern Connecticut State University

“[Walker]’s an inside outside linebacker from Piscataway, New Jersey. He is a 6-2, 220-pound guy — highly explosive, really good pass rusher. He, in our testing the other day, broad jumped 10 feet, two inches. So he’s a highly explosive kid. This is a guy that’s still got three years of college eligibility left, as he goes, so he’s coming in here to play multiple positions for us in the defense.”

Cooper Shults, TE

6’6” | 240 lbs. | So. | Sacramento, Calif. | Previously: University of Oregon

“He’s 6-6, 240-pound tight end. He’s got three years of eligibility left. He came down from the University of Oregon. He’s playing games, a really good special teams player — he’s also a really good blocker, great hands for receiver.”

B.J. Casteel, WR

6’0” | 190 lbs. | Rs. Sr. | Pasadena, Calif. | Previously: University of Arizona

“[Casteel]’s a graduate transfer wide receiver that came here when we got here. He’s already in school. He was a player that we recruited out of high school. We ended up not getting when I was a Washington State, but we’re happy to get him back now. He’s a slot receiver, outside receiver, kick returner. He’s also played running back at Arizona. He is a Swiss Army knife of a wide receiver, slot, special teams player that has big time reps, big time games in his career. He’s got 90 catches for 880 yards in his career as well as four touchdowns at the University of Arizona.”

Joey Capra, OL

6’4” | 300 lbs. | Rs. So. | Auburn, Calif. | Previously: San Diego State

“[Capra] got three years of eligibility left. He’s already graduated from San Diego State University, so he already has one degree in hand. When I originally went to Oregon, he was committed to the University of Oregon, so we’ve known him for a while. He’s from right up the mountain here at Auburn (California), and we’re very excited. He can play all five offensive line positions as well as he was even used as one of their H-back tight ends, at times, down in San Diego State. So really good athlete there. Joey’s on campus. He’s training at center, guard and tackle for us right now.”

KeeKee McQueen, DB

5’10” | 170 lbs. | Spanaway, Wash. | Previously: Spanaway Lake HS

“McQueen’s the fastest student athlete in state of Washington right now in high school track up there. He’s a corner, nickel; He’s almost 5-10 now. He’s 185 pounds. He’s a workout machine. He’s very fast. He runs the 100, the 200. We think Keekee’s a guy that could come in here and challenge to play right away. He’s got the mentality. He’s a very serious student of the game. He’s constantly working out. He’s a leader in that area. Have a lot of players that are very valuable to a lot of football programs across the country. And he is an infectious leader. We can’t wait to get Keekee on campus.”

Zac Welch, OL

6’4” | 300 lbs. | Rs. So. | El Dorado Hills, Calif. | Previously: American River College

“Welch is a player that, actually, when you watch his film, he has game reps at the University of Nevada. He had left the program and gone to American River College. And when I got hired, he was one of the first guys that contacted me and said he wanted to come back. He could not wait to get back to the University in Nevada. He is a finisher; he’s got the little bit of the baby face but he will he will block you ‘till you’re through the turf and we’re really excited to get Zach back. He’s already here. He’s working out like the other linemen that are here. And he’s gonna be a valuable piece in the depth for us and spring competing for a guard spot in this offense.”

Jonathan Maldonado, DE

6’6” | 210 lbs. | Monrovia, Calif. | Previously: Arcadia HS

“We had a guy that we was on our radar in some of the previous places we were; he’s a 6-6, 210-pound quarterback, actually, from Arcadia, California named Jonathan Maldonado that we saw at a few camps this summer as an outside linebacker. So he hadn’t done that much (as a linebacker) but he’s an explosive guy. He’s on one of the best basketball teams in Southern California right now down in his area. And we got a chance to work with him at camps and we’ve been on Jonathan for quite a while now. And we were happy that we got him to come up here. He has a size 17 shoe as a senior in high school, so this is going to be a big man by the time he fills out and we’re really excited about his pass rush potential the second he gets on campus.”

Elijah Barclay, WR

6’2” | 175 lbs. | Santa Ana, Calif. | Previously: San Juan Hills HS

“[Barclay]’s 6-2, 175 pounds — one of the fastest wide receivers in Southern California. He’s got a specific skill for us. He can run faster than I would daresay any wide receiver in this program right now. He’s going to be a guy that can take guys deep. He runs great routes. He’s got great hands, family down there that has helped us with him and school that we’ve had success with in my past and we’re excited to have Elijah here running deep routes for us and getting the middle of the field deepen up in our in the pass game.”

Kai Arneson, OL

6’7” | 305 lbs. | Rs. Fr. | Monument, Colo. | Previously: University of Oregon

“Arneson is a offensive lineman from Monument, Colorado. He was at the University of Oregon. He has four years of eligibility left; he’s 6-7, 305 pounds. He’s also a five position guy: He played center, guard and tackle at Oregon and gives us great depth and versatility all across the front there. So Kai is a big man and we’re excited to have him.”

Cole Feinauer, OL

6’6” | 300 lbs. | Rs. Fr. | Cheshire, Conn. | Previously: Colorado State

“[Feinauer] has four years of eligibility. He’s 6-6, 310-pound offensive tackle. He’s originally from Cheshire, Connecticut, where Louis Addazio — our offensive line coach — is from. He was most recently at Colorado State University. He was a high school defensive end; when you watch his high school highlight tape, he was a defensive end-tight end. At that time, he’s actually got interceptions and touchdowns on his highlight tape, but he’s going to be a really big, athletic offensive tackle for us in this scheme.”

William Green Jr., DT

6’6” | 310 lbs. | Rs. Sr. | Albany, Ga. | Previously: Liberty University

“[Green] gives us a size and a demeanor that we that we needed. He’s coming in as graduate transfer. He’s already got his college degree, he’s getting into grad school. He’s in working right now. He is a big body that can that can take up a lot of blocks and make a lot of plays for us on the inside.”

Cross Patton, RB

5’6” | 165 lbs. | Rs. So. | Atlanta, Ga. | Previously: University of Oregon

“Cross is a 5-6, 170-pound running back that came from the University of Oregon. He’s from Atlanta, Georgia. He’s a special teams guy. He’s a punt returner, kick returner; he’s got exceptional feet; he runs all the jet sweeps; he can do he can do anything on special teams. He’s pound-for-pound or the toughest football players I’ve ever been around as a coach. He wore my linebackers out at Oregon. So when we came here, we’re very excited when he decided to transfer down here to play for us. He will be a changeup back for the two very good backs that we have here right now and the rest of the backs in this program. He gives us something that we did not have with the exceptional speed, quick feet and a really good receiver out of the backfield. So he’s a good complement to the backs that we have here right now.”

A.J. Bianco, QB

6’4” | 220 lbs. | Honolulu, Hawaii | Previously: Saint Louis HS

“[Bianco] was committed early to a different school (Hawai’i). (Nevada QBs coach) Acosta had him not sign the day that we took over, he was going to sign in the early period and asked him politely if he would not sign in the early period and please give us a chance to recruit him. He did that. He’s got family in Sacramento, his uncle, his grandmother are all in Sacramento. But he’s born and raised in Maui and Honolulu. So we’re very excited we brought him. The very first weekend we could bring him in, he committed two days after that visit and he has been bombarded with teams trying to get him to change his mind and he’s been rock solid. He signed with us as soon as he could sign — 9 a.m our time, 7 a.m. Hawai’i time — and we could not wait. He’s playing basketball right now. He’s very good basketball player, great athlete. He follows a long, long line of St. Louis high school quarterbacks to include Marcus Mariota that I had a chance to play against when I was (coaching) in the Pac-12 conference. So we’re really excited to to have him in the depth and being here in fall camp to work with the guys that we have in this program have a chance to compete.”

Ike Nnakenyi, DE

6’3” | 235 lbs. | Henderson, Nev. | Previously: Coronado HS

“[Nnakenyi]’s 6-3, 230-pound defensive end from Coronado High School in Las Vegas. We liked his versatility. He can stand up, he can put his hand on the ground. He’s a good edge pass rusher and we needed some edge pass rushers in the scheme that we’re going to be producing here.”

Christopher Smalley, LB

6’5” | 190 | Minden, Nev. | Previously: Douglas HS

“He hasn’t played a lot of football last two years — he had a couple freak injuries. He’s playing basketball right now. He’s got a family history. His father (Rod) was a very good football player. He’s got the frame, size, speed, effort. He’s really been a joy for us to recruit since we’ve been here. He’s right in the middle of basketball right now, so we’re trying to put a little weight on him — we’ve got him at 205 right now — which is hard to do during basketball season for him. But we’re excited to have him in with his athletic ability coming off the edge as an edge pass rusher.”

Keenan Speer-Johnson, WR

6’3” | 190 lbs. | Beaverton, Oregon | Previously: Mountainside HS

“Keenan was the guy that I have known since he was a baby. His uncle signed a scholarship to play football here when I was here quite some time ago — ended up going into major league baseball. His father was a recruiting coordinator at the University of Oregon with us; his grandfather is the defensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers and worked here with me for eight or nine years. So we have a strong family history with him. He was born and grew up a huge University of Nevada fan. And we’re really excited to have him — he can play H-back and wide receiver he had really good junior and senior seasons up there. So excited to have Kenan and the Johnson family back in (Reno).”

Dyson Frank, TE

6’7” | 245 lbs. | Rs. Fr. | Philadelphia, Penn. | Previously: Snow College

“Dyson signed with us today. Dyson’s now at Snow college. Dyson 6-7, when we weighed in this weekend was official visit and was 250 pounds — so he’s a 6-7, 250-pound tight end. He was a college basketball player at Pace University that decided to play (football) and went to Snow Junior College and (Nevada offensive coordinator) Derek Sage did a great job there of that relationship. He is big guy that’s going to be an unbelievable receiving tight end. He runs a 4.5 40; his dunk take on his highlight tape and college is impressive. He decided about a year and a half ago that he wanted to play college football and gave up a college scholarship to go to Snow JC and has worked his butt off. He went from being a 210-pound basketball player to a 250-pound tight end. And Derek and those guys knew he was up there. Got involved in that recruiting and we got him to come this last weekend to come in and sign with us today and we could not be more excited to have Dyson Frank come in. He’s a name you guys are gonna hear a lot here in the next few years.”

Spencer Curtis, WR

5’11” | 190 lbs. | Rs. So| Murray, Utah | Previously: University of Oregon

“He started at Weber State before going on a mission, then he was at the University of Oregon. And now he’s here with us. He’s the all-time leading yardage receiver in the state of Utah. His dad was a basketball player at UNLV. We didn’t hold that against him and was actually roommates with Eathan O’Bryant, one of our former Hall of Fame basketball players so he had a few ties to get Spencer here with us in the Wolf Pack blue.”

Stone Combs, LB

6’0” | 208 lbs. | Park City, Utah | Previously: Park City HS

“[Combs]’ a guy that is the number one 215-pound wrestler in the state of Utah. He’s having a great wrestling season. He’s got high effort on a team that has some really good linebackers. He was one of the top linebackers on the high school team that had three of them on that team. We’re really excited about what he can do. You can see there in his high school career, he had almost 350 tackles. He had a lot of production. And he is a monster wrestler and we’re really excited to have him as an inside linebacker coming in.”