Brian Polian’s recruiting class was ‘solid’ | NevadaAppeal.com

Brian Polian’s recruiting class was ‘solid’

Sports fodder for a Friday morning … There was quite a different vibe coming from the north and south ends of the state during National Letter of Intent signing day on Wednesday. The Rebels and head coach Tony Sanchez acted as if they dropped a dollar in a slot machine and won a million dollars. Sanchez talked about transforming UNLV football with his recruiting class. The southern Nevada media and, therefore, the community down south bought into the Rebel celebration like a 90-year-old grandma opening her front door and buying a bar of chocolate from a 6-year-old girl scout. Wolf Pack coach Brian Polian talked about how tired his coaches were and how they missed their families. He admitted his recruiting class wasn’t the sexiest he’s ever had at Nevada and that it was “a rock solid group.” He sounded like a guy who put a dollar in a slot machine and won two free buffets. Tasty for a day but not filling and satisfying for the long haul. Sanchez seemed like a guy who bought his wife a diamond ring on Valentine’s Day and Polian acted like he just gave his wife a vacuum cleaner. Polian needs to learn recruiting doesn’t end after you are finished selling Nevada to the recruits. You then must sell your recruits to Nevada.

•••

Polian, it seems, still hasn’t totally made the adjustment from recruiting for Notre Dame, Stanford and Texas A&M to recruiting for Nevada. The players Polian is begging to come to Nevada wouldn’t have gotten a text message from him when he was at Notre Dame or Stanford. That’s why on signing day he always comes off as a guy who once shopped for BMWs and Porsches and now has to park a Ford in his garage. The Ford is rock solid and gets you the customary seven wins in the Mountain West but it’s not going to transform anything except the garage floor with all of its nasty oil stains. Signing day is all about smoke and mirrors. You don’t open the windows and let the smoke blow away and you don’t put away the mirrors. You add more smoke and mirrors and turn the place into a circus fun house. When you give your fans cubic zirconium on signing day you tell them its diamonds. We’ll believe because we want to believe.

•••

The Rebels believe they have secured the best recruiting class in school history. And they might be right, though that’s sort of like saying you just enjoyed the best buffet in Circus Circus history. The Rebels added a pair of impressive quarterbacks, one (Johnny Stanton) who used to sit on the bench for Nebraska and one (Armani Jones) who supposedly turned down offers from half of the Pac-12 schools. As expected Sanchez was able to secure a couple of his former Bishop Gorman recruits and also went into Fresno and stole three players from under the noses of the Bulldogs. It was a rock solid class, to be sure. But, according to Rivals.com, the Rebels only beat the Wolf Pack on three players and the Pack beat the Rebels on two. The difference in the two schools’ recruiting classes is certainly not the same as a million dollars and two buffets. The Rebels, in the time-tested, over-the-top Las Vegas tradition, just sold it better.

•••

The Wolf Pack, despite the less-than-exciting rock solid assessment, secured a strong class that might turn out to be a great class in a year or two. Wide receivers Trevion Armstrong, who was offered by Illinois and Pitt, and David Harvey could be game changers. Running backs Isaiah Hamilton and Jaxson Kincaide could be electric performers. Linebacker Lawson Hall might be another Brandon Marshall. The Pack also got at least two players — former Penn State running back Akeel Lynch and 23-year-old defensive tackle Nakita Lealao (who UNLV also offered, by the way) who will step in and contribute right away. UNLV also gave an offer to new Pack defensive back Daniel Brown. If UNLV wants you, you must be good, right? And don’t be surprised if quarterback Ty Gangi is starting on opening day for the Pack. It might be Polian’s best class yet.

•••

OK, yes, I admit it. I want Peyton Manning to toss three or four touchdown passes and go off into the sunset on Sunday as a Super Bowl champion. But if Manning’s Denver Broncos are going to beat Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers that’s not the way it’s going to happen. The Broncos only beat the Panthers in an ugly game (think Steelers over Seahawks 10 years ago) filled with Panther turnovers and mistakes. The Broncos will need amazing field position all day long and they will need to live on Newton’s back. It’s difficult to see that happening. Newton is not going to transform into Stan Humphries, Matt Hasselbeck or Kerry Collins on Sunday. Putting a pass rush on Newton is not the same as doing it to Tom Brady, like the Broncos did in the AFC title game. You can rush Brady with your eyes closed because you know where he’s going to be. You need a GPS tracking device to find Newton.

•••

This Super Bowl is not really about Manning. The best Manning can be on Sunday is a game manager who doesn’t turn the ball over. In other words, he’s become Trent Dilfer. That might be enough to win the game if the Broncos’ defense plays as well as Dilfer’s Baltimore Ravens’ defense did against the New York Giants 15 years ago. This game is all about whether or not the stage is too big for Newton. The guess here is it won’t be. When has the stage ever been too big for Newton? This is a guy who passed for 265 yards and ran for 64 more in the BCS title game for Auburn five years ago. He’s only lost one game this entire season. Newton, with his look-at-me dance moves and Hollywood smile, was born for this stage.

•••

Prediction: Carolina 31, Broncos 20. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will likely be able to introduce themselves to Newton’s spine a few times but Newton can take it. The Panthers play a smart game. Unlike the Patriots two weeks ago, they are not going to drop Newton back in the pocket all day long and wait for Ware and Miller to arrive on their front porch. Newton might drop the ball once or twice (he did it at a crucial moment against Oregon in the BCS title game) but its doubtful the Broncos offense would be able to take advantage of it anyway. The only way the Broncos win this game is with four field goals and touchdowns from their defense and special teams. And that might not be enough.

•••

The best thing about the Super Bowl — besides the food and commercials — is it finally signals the end of the never-ending football season. Starting Sunday night we can finally concentrate on the phenomenon known as Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are going to win a record 73-plus games this season. That’s not even debatable anymore. And Curry is the best and most entertaining athlete in all of professional sports right now. His 51-point show on Wednesday that included 11 3-pointers was staggering. Forget best-shooter-of-all-time. That is also not even debatable anymore. It’s time we put Curry in the best-player-ever conversation. He’s shooting 51 percent from the floor, 46 percent on threes, 91 percent on free throws to go along with 6.4 assists, 2.2 steals, 5.3 rebounds and 29.8 points a game this season. And he usually does all that in just three quarters. Start chiseling Curry’s likeness on the Bay Area’s Mount Rushmore right now, right between Joe Montana and Willie Mays.