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Nevada lands three-star athlete from Inglewood in Justus Ross-Simmons

Nevada football
We will track the Nevada football team's 2022 recruiting class here. (NSN file)

The Nevada football team is in the process of buildings its 2022 recruiting class. We will track all of the Wolf Pack's verbal commitments here until national signing day in December. Verbal commitments aren't binding until athletes sign an official letter of intent. On Sunday, the Wolf Pack received its ninth known verbal commitment when Justus Ross-Simmons pledged to the program. Here is more on Ross-Simmons and the rest of Nevada's 2022 class of verbal commitments.

Justus Ross-Simmons

Committed: Sept. 12

Position: Wide receiver

Height/weight: 6-3/215

Hometown: Inglewood, Calif.

High school: Inglewood

In short: Ross-Simmons is listed as a three-star athlete by 247Sports, which projects him as a wide receiver at the next level. Rivals lists Ross-Simmons as a two-star athlete. His only scholarship offer came from Nevada in late August, and he committed to the school two weeks later. Ross-Simmons is from New York and played at East High in Rochester until transferring to a school in Southern California with his mom for his senior season. He was an elite high school football and basketball player in New York and opted to pursue football in college, which prompted the move to California, which is more heavily recruiting by football coaches than New York. The Inglewood High football team, which is ranked among the top 15 in the state, has more than half-dozen Division I recruits. Ross-Simmons has a big frame and reportedly runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, so Nevada will try and mold his pure athleticism into a high-level receiver in its pass-happy offense.

Jacob Newell

Committed: Aug. 25

Position: Tight end

Height/weight: 6-5/220

Hometown: Springfield, Ore.

High school: Thurston

In short: Upon his verbal commitment, Newell was the highest-rated player in the Wolf Pack's 2022 class. A three-star prospect, he is rated by 247Sports as the No. 999 overall national recruit and the 56th-best tight end in the class. Newell hails from Thurston High in Springfield, Ore., a school the Wolf Pack has plucked in recent years with the additions of OL Grant Starck and RB Wesley Kommer, who both joined Nevada for the 2020 season. Newell is a big-framed tight end who has been a varsity player since his freshman season. During his sophomore and junior campaigns, he caught 36 passes for 453 yards and 10 touchdowns in 18 contests. Newell also held offers from Arizona, Colorado State, Fresno State, UNLV, Army, Hawaii, New Mexico and Sac State. He took official visits to Nevada and Arizona before pledging to the Wolf Pack. With all-conference tight end Cole Turner likely to depart for a pro career after this season, Newell could see early playing time with the Wolf Pack.

Ike Nnakenyi

Committed: Aug. 6

Position: Defensive end

Height/weight: 6-3/220

Hometown: Las Vegas

High school: Coronado

In short: Despite being a three-star recruit, Nnakenyi could end up being an under-the-radar prospect because he didn't play football his junior season as Clark County was never cleared to play at the high school level last season due to the pandemic (Northern Nevada played a truncated season). As a sophomore on the varsity team, Nnakenyi had 42 tackles, three sacks, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in 11 games. At 6-foot-3, Nnakenyi has a nice frame for a defensive end and should grow well beyond his current 220 pounds in the Wolf Pack strength program. Nevada will lose a number of talented defensive linemen after this season (all four starters are seniors) and need to stock this position in the 2022 class. Nnakenyi also held offers from Colorado State and UNLV, so the Wolf Pack nabbed a talented prospect from Rebel territory. Nnakenyi took two officials visits, to Nevada and Colorado State, and was offered a scholarship by the Wolf Pack last April (his official visit was in early June).

Eric Butler II

Committed: July 1

Position: Cornerback

Height/weight: 6-1/175

Hometown: Corona, Calif.

High school: Centennial

In short: Butler is an unrated prospect by 247Sports and Rivals who held scholarship offers from Kansas, Fresno State, New Mexico, Utah State and Yale. He's the third cornerback among Nevada's first seven verbal commitments in the 2022 class, so that's been a clear area of focus early on for the Wolf Pack. Butler is the biggest of the three, checking in at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds (and could very well end up at safety). He's a Southern California native who was offered by Nevada on June 16, took an official visit to campus a week later and committed a week after that. In four games as a junior, Butler had one tackle, per He also caught nine passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver. He's excelled in the recruiting camp circuit, which has led to a number of recent offers. As a sophomore in 2019, Butler was the starting quarterback at Roosevelt High, so he's a good athlete who could fill a number of roles at Nevada, but he'll start in the defensive backfield.

Stone Combs

Committed: June 30

Position: Linebacker

Height/weight: 6-2/190

Hometown: Park City, Utah

High school: Park City

In short: Combs is a deep cut as he doesn't have a recruiting profile on 247Sports, Rivals or ESPN. Combs also had offers from Air Force and Army before committing to Nevada, where he'll play linebacker (most likely inside linebacker). Combs has a good frame and also plays lacrosse and wrestles. In fact, he was a high school All-American in wrestling, so there's no doubt about his toughness and physicality. During his junior season, Combs had 103 tackles, including 10 for loss, with three sacks and two fumble recoveries. During his two varsity seasons, Combs has 176 tackles in 24 games. Nevada will hope it found a diamond in the rough in Combs, who wasn't highly recruited but has been productive and has had success in multiple contact sports.

Christopher Smalley

Committed: June 24

Position: Linebacker/defensive end

Height/weight: 6-5/190

Hometown: Minden

High school: Douglas

In short: Smalley is a high-potential defender from small-town Minden where he stars for Douglas High. He has excellent bloodlines as his father played football for UCLA and with the Jacksonville Jaguars and his sister is a Division I soccer player. Smalley has a projectable frame and could end up at outside linebacker, or more likely defensive end. He'll have to put on some weight and strength, but Smalley has a high ceiling and is one of the rare locals who has opted to stay home over other offers. A three-star recruit per 247Sports, Smalley also had scholarship offers from San Diego State, Fresno State, Air Force, Army and Yale. During his sophomore and junior seasons, Smalley tallied 102 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in 15 games. He scored five touchdowns on offense as a junior. He joins Drew Scolari as the only local high school player to commit to Nevada as a scholarship athlete out of high school under Jay Norvell.

Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi

Committed: June 13

Position: Quarterback

Height/weight: 6-3/200

Hometown: Aledo

High school: Aledo

In short: The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Fowler-Nicolosi is a three-star recruit, per, and is the 90th-ranked quarterback among 2022 prospects. Fowler-Nicolosi also held offers from Arizona, Oregon State, Pitt, Toledo, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee State. Originally from San Diego, Fowler-Nicolosi transferred to Aledo, Texas last October. He started the season on Aledo's JV team but was elevated to varsity after the team's starting quarterback, Ethan McBrayer (a future walk-on at Texas Tech), tore his ACL and his backup, Brant Hayden, was under COVID-19 quarantine protocols. Fowler-Nicolosi took advantage of the opportunity, guiding Aledo to a Class 5A Division 2 state championship. Aledo went 13-1 overall and 5-0 in district while winning its 10th state championship. The school was ranked as the eighth-best team in the state of Texas last season. Fowler-Nicolosi was called up to varsity for the championship run, leading Aledo past Timberview, 44-28, for the district title. In the state championship game against Crosby, he completed 15-of-19 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. In nine games (all wins), Fowler-Nicolosi completed 74 percent of his passes for 1,600 yards and 18 scores.

Kendall Williams

Committed: June 12

Position: Defensive tackle

Height/weight: 6-4/285

Hometown: San Diego

High school: Lincoln

In short: Williams is a two-star recruit, per, who also held offers from Idaho and Morgan State, two FCS programs, so Nevada is hoping it has found an under-recruited gem out of San Diego. He was offered a scholarship by Nevada on June 9, took an official visit that weekend and committed on the spot, so his process played out quickly. Williams has an excellent frame at 6-foot-4 with 285 pounds already on his body. He's been on his high school varsity team since his freshman season after starting his career at San Diego High (his MaxPreps stats page isn't full updated; he's listed as having 18 tackles and one sack in 11 games over three years). The Wolf Pack has eight seniors, including all four of its starters, on its defensive line for the 2021 season, so this is a big area of need in the 2022 recruiting class. Williams has played both ways in high school.

KeeKee McQueen

Committed: June 10

Position: Cornerback

Height/weight: 5-10/170

Hometown: Spanaway, Wash.

High school: Spanaway Lake

In short: McQueen is listed as a three-star recruit by who also had scholarship offers from Utah State, UNLV and Eastern Washington. McQueen took an official visit to Nevada the weekend of June 4 and committed to the Wolf Pack a few days later. McQueen, the No. 20 prospect in Washington, will be a four-year varsity player. As a freshman, he had 64 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. As a sophomore, he had 41 tackles. And during last year's COVID-19-shortened season, he had 25 tackles and one interception in six games. In his prep career, McQueen has 130 tackles, four tackles for loss, three interceptions and three forced fumbles on defense while adding 152 rushing yards (48 attempts) and 205 receiving yards (23 catches) while scoring four touchdowns, all coming last season. While not possessing big size, McQueen fits the mold of the kind of cornerback Nevada has recruited under Jay Norvell, which emphasizes speed and toughness over height. Also a track star, McQueen said he isn't planning on taking any more official visits and is locked in with Nevada.

"The biggest reason I picked Nevada is because I felt like it was a perfect fit for me and I got such a good feeling about everything there and could really picture myself playing ball for them," McQueen told 247Sports. "I was the top recruit there and I felt the most wanted by the coaches there and I think that plays a big role in making your decision. I knew it was the place for me when I met the rest of the coaches and felt that at-home type of feeling with every single one of them. The coaches were very honest with me about everything, and I talked to and met a lot of the players on the team and the main thing that they all mentioned is how everyone is treated like family and how it’s a brotherhood. I felt and witnessed that while being around everyone and hanging with the team, and that’s a big thing for me."

The Wolf Pack has recruited the Pacific Northwest more actively in recent seasons, with running backs coach Vai Taua focusing on that area. McQueen is the latest player the Wolf Pack has pulled out of Washington. One of his lead recruiters was first-year defensive backs coach Riccardo Stewart.


* CB Cameron Sampson (committed June 28; decommitted July 30)

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