RENO — This is the time of year that Brian Polian lives for.
“I love the recruiting process,” said Polian, who announced his second Nevada Wolf Pack recruiting class on Wednesday. “It’s fun. I had a blast last week. I was out on a shooting range in Overton, Nev., shooting a rifle for the first time in my life. I was in Hawaii and Alabama and Louisiana. Recruiting is the lifeblood of your program. That’s why I don’t get bothered when people say, ‘Oh, he’s just a recruiter.’”
The Wolf Pack announced the signing of 27 players from nine different states to National Letters of Intent. The class consists of 24 players who will be freshmen in the fall and three junior college transfers. Among the signings are Northern Nevada players Hunter Fralick, a quarterback from Spanish Springs High and defensive lineman Cliff Porter of Hug High.
“A year ago, we had 25 days to put together a recruiting class,” said Polian who succeeded former Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault last January. “This year we had a full calendar year and that makes a huge difference.”
The last Letter of Intent the Wolf Pack received, from Oakley, Calif., defensive end Patrick Choudja, arrived as Polian was announcing the class to the media on Wednesday afternoon.
“We know these guys,” said Polian, who coached the Wolf Pack to a 4-8 record last year in his first season in Reno. “We know their families. We were in a much better position this year as compared to last year as far as getting to know these guys as people because we had a whole year to recruit.”
Polian said 18 of the players who signed on Wednesday were offered scholarships as early as last spring.
“Despite going 4-8 last year these players believed in what we’re building here,” Polian said. “Their faith in us is a real big deal to us.”
Polian hinted that he is most proud of the collection of seven defensive linemen the Wolf Pack was able to sign. The seven defensive linemen are Choudja (6-foot-3, 225 pounds), Porter (6-5, 260), Kalei Meyer (6-1, 285 from Hawaii), Jeremy Miller (5-11, 300 from Tyler, Texas Junior College), Malik Reed (6-1, 220 from Dothan Ala.), Korey Rush (6-1, 260 from Salt Lake City) and Jordan Silva (6-4, 240 from Murrieta, Calif.).
Polian said Choudja, Porter, Rush and Reed are projected as pass rushers while Miller, Meyer and Silva will be run-stopping tackles.
Porter, Polian said, is a special talent.
“His ceiling is very high,” Polian said. “I can’t tell you where he’ll end up playing. We’ll start him on the defensive line and see what happens. But he has an incredible wingspan; it’s something like 80 inches.”
Rush originally gave a verbal commitment to Arizona State last summer but suffered a torn pectoral muscle injury last season and Arizona State withdrew its offer.
“We are fortunate to get him,” Polian said.
“This is better than Christmas for (defensive line coach) Billy Teerlinck. He couldn’t have gone through a drive-through and ordered a better group of defensive linemen. I didn’t count on recruiting that many defensive linemen but you don’t pass up good defensive linemen.”
The Wolf Pack also added a pair of tight ends in Matt Moen (6-3, 240 from Cibolo, Texas) and Brandon Scott (6-3, 225 from Yucaipa, Calif.). Moen, Polian said, is more of a blocking tight end while Scott is a “pass-receiving tight end.”
“Moen is very physical,” Polian said. “In our offense you have to have a blocking tight end and he is it.”
The Pack signed two running backs. James Butler (5-9, 200) comes from Bloomingdale, Ill., and Blake Wright (5-10, 200) comes from Edison High in Fresno.
Butler, Polian said, had to sit out his junior year in high school because of an Illinois transfer rule. He rushed for 1,185 yards and 19 touchdowns last year at St. Francis High in Wheaton, Ill. As a sophomore at Bartlett (Ill.) High he rushed for 933 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“Had he played as a junior, he would be a Big Ten back right now,” Polian said.
Fralick is one of four high school quarterbacks the Pack signed along with Cristian Solano of San Fernando, Calif., Kelton Moore of Arlington, Texas and Asauni Rufus of Bakersfield, Calif.
Fralick passed for 5,388 yards and 36 touchdowns combined his junior and senior seasons at Spanish Springs. He also rushed for 1,222 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“Hunter is the best player to come out of this area this year so that is big for us to get him,” Polian said. “But he not just the best player from our area. He is truly a Mountain West quarterback. That’s why we’re excited to have him with us.”
Solano (6-1, 170) passed for 4,162 yards and rushed for 1,427 yards in his high school career.
“He has a lot of upside,” Polian said. “He’s a dual threat guy who can run and throw. But he can use another 25 pounds. He’s a little skinny now.”
Moore and Rufus will not likely play quarterback in college, Polian said.
Rufus rushed for 1,857 yards and threw for 1,504 last year as a senior at Bakersfield High.
“Asauni is a dynamic athlete and we project him to play safety in college,” Polian said.
Moore passed for 1,620 yards and rushed for 2,135 yards last year in Texas.
“He’ll play somewhere,” Polian said. “I love quarterbacks. They are great athletes. They are smart and they are leaders.”
The Pack signed 13 offensive players and 14 on defense.
“We had needs across the board,” Polian said.
Two of the players — Reed from Dothan, Ala., and defensive back Kendall Johnson, from Lafayette, La., are from the South, an area of the country the Wolf Pack doesn’t normally recruit.
“We really were not players for those two guys until they stepped on campus,” Polian said. “But once they stepped on campus they fell in love with the place. Our university and our community really sells itself.”
Polian gave a lot of credit to his assistant coaches for their recruiting efforts.
“We’re a little bit more of a known quantity as a staff now, as opposed to last year,” Polian said. “And a lot of these recruits are here because of our assistant coaches. Our whole staff in general had a better year (in recruiting) just because we are all more comfortable with each other. And I’m more comfortable in my role as the closer.”
Polian added that “the goal is not to play the true freshman right away.” The three junior college transfers — defensive back Duran Workman (Saddleback College), Miller (Tyler J.C.) and offensive lineman Humberto Lopez (College of the Desert) could be needed to play a significant role in the fall.
“We won’t know how good this class is for three or four years,” Polian said.