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Wolf Pack using its bye week to strengthen 2019 recruiting class

Jay Norvell
Jay Norvell leads his team onto the field against Toledo. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

Nevada head football coach Jay Norvell said he'll use the Wolf Pack’s bye week to catch his breath and re-evaluate where his program is. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said he’ll catch up on some sleep. And offensive coordinator Matt Mumme said he’ll thankfully get to spend a little more time with his wife.

But Nevada is hardly taking the week off. In addition to some early-week practices, the Wolf Pack staff will hit the road Friday to take care of some recruiting as it looks to solidify its 2019 recruiting class, which has 12 known commitments for a class that will eventually number somewhere around 15 (see the 12 members of the Wolf Pack's 2019 recruiting class here).

“We’ll go out on the road and recruit,” Norvell said of his plan for this week. “We’ve put a really good class together. We’ve got some verbal commitments but nothing’s binding until December. We’ve got some really good players who have verbally committed to us, and we’ll have a lot of people coming after those guys trying to change their mind. It’s really important we go out this week and see some kids and watch them play on Friday night. I’ll be on the road as well.”

Nevada’s 2019 class includes one quarterback, two offensive linemen, two wide receivers, one tight end, four defensive backs, one defensive lineman and one athlete. Seven of the 12 commitments are listed by 247Sports as three-star recruits, and the class ranks 91st in the nation and second in the MW, per those rankings.

Norvell is barred from commenting on specific athletes until they sign a national letter of intent (there is one signing period in December and another in February). But, speaking generally on the 2019 prospects, Norvell said it would be a potpourri class after the Wolf Pack focused on trench players last year.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Norvell said. “We’ll probably sign a couple receivers, we’ll probably sign three to four offensive linemen, definitely a quarterback, possibly a running back. There are some guys we’re recruiting in that area. A couple of D-linemen, a couple of linebackers, a couple of safeties, a couple of cornerbacks. It’s really important for us to recruit length. We want kids who are long and athletic and can run, and we have a real profile of what we’re looking for at every position.

“We want to continue to get longer, more athletic and more physical as a football team. I can’t stress enough we’ve made a lot of progress in becoming the type of team that can line up and beat the best teams in our league physically. We’ve made progress the way we played Fresno, Boise, San Diego State. We’re playing them better physically. Now we have to make the type of plays we can make to win those games, but we want to continue to recruit so we can line up with those teams physically in the run game.”

Norvell took NCAA maximums of 25 players in each of his first two recruiting classes at Nevada, which has shrunk the projected size of this class. He's made Southern California the Wolf Pack’s main recruiting ground, a shift in philosophy from his predecessor, Brian Polian, and a return to the formula used by former Nevada head coach, Chris Ault. One of the reasons Norvell was hired by athletic director Doug Knuth was his ties to the Los Angeles area. Eight of Nevada’s 12 commitments this year are from California. Thirty-seven of Nevada’s commitments in Norvell’s first two classes were from California, the majority of those being SoCal kids.

Norvell said all 10 of the Wolf Pack’s assistants have an area of Southern California to recruit, which is abnormal for FBS schools. He said a lot of schools only put one or two coaches in Los Angeles, which means good players are slipping through the cracks, specifically players who go to public schools.

“We put our whole staff in there and our whole philosophy is to recruit smaller areas,” Norvell said. “You can spend most of your day on the freeway if you don’t know your way around. We have smaller areas, our guys have to recruit less distance and really covet the schools in their area. That has been beneficial for us. We find out a lot about the kids in the public schools that a lot of people don’t know about. The West Coast is still under-recruited in a lot of ways. A lot of kids still fall through the cracks. We’re trying to do the very best job of evaluating those kids so we don’t miss on them. That’s important we go back out this week and get a lot of coaches out.”

Nevada has recruited a stocked catalog of offensive play-makers under Norvell, with recruits like Toa Taua, McLane Mannix, Romeo Doubs, Devonte Lee and Kaleb Fossum, among others, making immediate impacts. Mumme said he’d like to add even more receivers as well as increasing numbers on the offensive line.

“Always bigger Union members, guys who are going to be up front and in the trenches for us, and then I talked to Coach Norvell a little bit about it, we need to get more depth at receiver,” Mumme said. “We do have some good receivers, but when you look at Mike Leach’s receiver group at Washington State, he’s got 15 scholarship guys (Nevada has nine scholarship receivers plus four scholarship tight ends).

“I’d like to see us get a couple more receivers to go along with the guys we have and that way in practice and in games we’re deeper in that spot and can put more guys in the game when we need to. With the receiving corps, it’s big because those guys are running so many routes, they can get tired and get worn down. If we have more of them, we can feed them into the game and they don’t get as tired.”

With the Wolf Pack one win away from a bowl berth with three games remaining, the team is focused on finishing the 2018 campaign strong. But Nevada also has its eye on the future this week as it uses its bye to try and add future members of the Wolf Pack.

“We just want to continue to recruit talented players,” Casteel said. “Those guys make us the best coaches. If you have really talented players, usually you’re a pretty good coach. We have some really good football players. We just have to continue to add throughout the lineup, whether it’s up front or the back-end, we just have to continue to recruit some talented kids.”

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.

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