Jay Norvell had less than 60 days between the day he accepted the Nevada Football head coaching position and signing his first recruiting class—a class that saw only three holdovers from the recruiting class that former head coach Brian Polian put together.
“I’m really excited,” Norvell said. “I really think that this group is a real reflection of our coaches. When you have a short time to recruit, you really rely on your relationships and the communities that you have deep roots in.”
One of the traits athletic director Doug Knuth was looking for in his coaching search was an ability to recruit and re-establish the pipeline in California. When all was said and done, Norvell was able to put together a respectable class that ranks 7 out of 12 in the Mountain West Conference according to 247Sports. There were 13 prospects out of the 20-man recruiting class from California, three from Texas, two from Alabama and one from Utah.
With the Wolf Pack switching to two completely different systems on both the sides of the ball, with the Air Raid Offense and the 3-3-5 base defense, Norvell signed a good balance of players—11 on offense and nine on defense—to fit both systems accordingly.
Let’s take a position-by-position look at the 2017 Nevada recruiting class.
The headliner of the 2017 recruiting class is a graduate transfer from Alabama, David Cornwell, who was a former four-star recruit coming out of high school. He has been riddled by injury in his early years and fell behind in the depth chart due to schematic changes that came with new coaches replacing the ones that recruited him.
“I just felt like we have a system that fits his skills,” Norvell said. “He committed to Alabama when Doug Nussmeier was the offensive coordinator there. And Nussmeier was more of a drop-back guy and when Lane Kiffin took over, they asked their quarterback to do a lot more as far as mobility.”
Cornwell is a pro-style quarter back who has prototypical size, good vision and a huge arm. On paper Cornwell looks to be a perfect match to lead OC Matt Mumme’s “Pack Attack” Offense. The former 4th ranked pocket passer by ESPN will look to immediately compete for the starting job alongside returning quarterback Ty Gangi.
In addition to Cornwell, who only has two years of eligibility left, Norvell added a freshman three-star dual-threat quarterback in Kaymen Cureton. Cureton was the only player in the class who had hats left on the table on signing day, with New Mexico being the other option. He was offered by LSU and Alabama as an athlete but wanted the chance to play quarterback at the next level.
“We signed a young quarterback, Kaymen Cureton—KC,” Norvell said. “He possesses all the leadership skills that we look for in that position. Led that program to two city championships. And just a perfect young guy to come up in our program.”
Receivers are Norvell’s specialty. He has coached a lot of great receivers during his coaching career including Marvin Harrison, Ryan Broyles, and Sterling Shephard. Clearly, he has an eye for recognizing talent at this position. The trend for this year’s wide receiver class is speed.
“We really felt like we wanted to add explosiveness, speed and agility to the position,” Norvell said. “We’ve signed five wide receivers. Of those five receivers that we signed, we have three who are sub-10.5 100-m [dash] guys that can score on one play.”
Mclane Mannix, who was previously committed to Vanderbilt comes in as the highest touted of the group. Mannix is a shifty receiver who has good hands, excellent speed, and according to Norvell, is a “perfect air-raid slot receiver”.
Elijah Cooks (6’5”) and Theo Goodwin (6’1”) come into the program as the taller receivers in this class. Rounding out the class are Ian Zamudio and Tyson Williams.
Polian was putting together one of the more impressive offensive line recruiting classes in the Group of Five. Since the coaching change, two of the former commits have gone on to Power 5 schools. Despite this, Norvell was able to put together a nice mix of JC transfers and freshmen to the team.
Marshall Levins (6’5”, 305 lbs), a transfer from Fullerton College, was formerly a three-star recruit by Rivals and had offers from Texas State and Toledo. He is a big body who has decent lateral speed and can come in and be a plug-and-play player right off the bat.
Anthony Palomares (6’4”, 290 lbs) had an offer from Purdue as a transfer. He could also see immediate playing time coming in.
Gray Davis and Chase Windham are the freshman signees in this class and could use a few years redshirting and gaining more experience.
In a few years, Windham could be the impact player of this linemen class. He has great fundamentals and already possesses elite strength. In a video posted on YouTube, he was able to bench press 225 pounds for 46 reps. For reference, the top performer in last year’s NFL Combine was able to complete 33 reps.
According to Norvell, the defensive line was not a position of need this recruiting cycle. However, he could not resist bringing in two guys who possessed huge potential, great size, speed, and talent.
Chris Green (6-2, 320 lbs) is a humongous specimen who Norvell refers to as a “monster” and a “walking door”. He also had an offer from Arizona.
“He’s a full grown man and with our need to stop the run in this conference, I felt like we really needed to take him” Norvell said.
Dominic Peterson (6-0, 265 lbs) comes from Narbonne High School, one of the most talented teams in Southern California. A three-star defensive tackle, Peterson is undersized but his lack of height gives him extra leverage in the trenches. He has a nose for the ball-carrier and is great in stopping the run.
Nevada added four two-star defensive backs to their young defensive backfield. Vosean Crumbie and Brandon Brooks are two JC transfers that possess good size and speed and can see the field in the near future. Nephi Sewell, the younger brother of LB Gabe Sewell, continues the Sewell pipeline to the Pack. He is the second of four Sewell sons. Berdale Robins, is an undersized cornerback who brings good speed and coverage skills.
Austin Arnold, who comes from national powerhouse Bishop Gorman, is the only player out of Nevada. He is ranked as a three-star wide receiver. However, Norvell said that he will play in the defensive backfield.
Linebackers were a weakness for the Wolf Pack this past season. In defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 system, the linebackers are the playmakers of the defense and serve as a hybrid linebacker/safety. Lamin Touray and Trevor Price are two Polian holdovers and the only two linebackers signed in this year’s class. Both are playmakers and could shine in Casteel’s defense.
Touray is a three-star recruit who is currently recovering from a leg injury from his senior year. He is a very explosive athlete that is a heat-seeking missile for the ball. As a junior he had 103 tackles and four interceptions.
Price is more of a fit for Casteel’s defense. While undersized, he possesses great track speed and has Texas high school football pedigree. He is a two-star recruit and fits the hybrid linebacker model that Casteel is looking for.