California dominates Wolf Pack class
For the Appeal
RENO — Jay Norvell had a distinct method to his recruiting madness the past two months.
“We had a very specific system in mind,” said Norvell, who was named the Nevada Wolf Pack’s head coach on Dec. 9. “We wanted talent that reflected those systems. I said a few weeks ago that we needed more playmakers and we wanted more speed. And we were able to fill some of those needs.”
Norvell announced his first Wolf Pack recruiting class on Wednesday, the first day players could sign a National Letter of Intent. His 20-player class includes 11 players on offense, nine on defense with 13 coming from the state of California. Bishop Gorman High (Las Vegas) defensive back Austin Arnold is the lone player signed from the state of Nevada.
“This group is a real reflection of our coaches,” Norvell said.
A dozen of the Pack’s California recruits come from southern California. Wolf Pack outside wide receivers coach Eric Scott played and coached at UCLA and coached at Los Angeles High last year. Pack safeties coach Matt Kirk has extensive coaching experience at southern California junior colleges.
“We leaned on our relationships that we’ve established in the recruiting areas that we know best,” Norvell said.
The 11 new Wolf Pack offensive players consist of two quarterbacks, five wide receivers and four offensive linemen. The Wolf Pack’s new “Air Raid” offense, which will be designed by offensive coordinator Matt Mumme, is a pass-heavy attack. “Our offense is run through the quarterback,” Norvell said. “We wanted to sign two quarterbacks in this class, one older one who will add depth and competition as well as maturity. And we wanted a young guy to come up in our program.”
The Pack added former Alabama quarterback David Cornwell, who will be a junior this fall, and Leuzinger High (Lawndale, Calif.) quarterback Kaymen Cureton.
Cornwell, who has graduated from Alabama, has already enrolled at Nevada and will be eligible to compete for the starting job this summer. He played in just two games for the Crimson Tide in two seasons and never threw a pass. Cornwell was one of the top high school quarterbacks in the nation in 2013 for Norman (Okla.) North High School when Norvell was the Oklahoma Sooners offensive coordinator. Cornwell (6-foot-5, 228 pounds) was ranked as the No. 57 prospect in the nation by ESPN when he was a senior in high school.
“He (Cornwell) just felt that we had a system that fit his skills,” Norvell said.
The 6-2, 205 Cureton passed for 3,150 yards and 32 touchdowns this past season at Leuzinger High, the same school that produced former Wolf Pack basketball player Jerry Evans. Cureton, according to rivals.com, also had offers from LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Boston College and New Mexico and was the last of the 20 players to sign a letter of intent.
“He is a tremendous passer but also an excellent athlete,” Norvell said.
Norvell, who has spent the majority of his coaching career the past three decades tutoring wide receivers, added five more to the Pack roster on Wednesday who combined to catch 48 touchdowns last year. “We wanted to add explosiveness, speed and agility at that position,” Norvell said.
Elijah Cooks (6-5, 215) caught 56 passes for 966 yards and 15 touchdowns last year at Atascadero (Calif.) High. Theo Goodwin (6-1, 182) caught 60 passes for 1,140 yards and 13 scores at Christian High in El Cajon, Calif. McLane Mannix (5-10, 178) caught 46 passes for 941 yards and a dozen scores for Midland (Texas) High. Ian Zamudio (5-9, 155) caught 24 passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns at Notre Dame High (Riverside, Calif,) and Tyson Williams (5-10, 190) caught 46 passes for 626 yard and four touchdowns at Dothan (Alabama) High, the same school that produced current Wolf Pack defensive lineman Malik Reed.
Williams, though, told the Dothan Eagle newspaper on Wednesday the Pack will move him to running back his sophomore year. The Wolf Pack didn’t sign a running back on Wednesday.
“The first year they want me to run in the slot (receiver) because they have a nice running back (senior James Butler) who should be in the NFL draft,” Williams told the Dothan Eagle. “After that I will be going straight to running back.”
Norvell says his new wide receivers could contribute right away. “I feel like a lot of these guys can come in and compete for us,” he said. “We are going to use a lot of receivers.”
Mannix’s father, Kevin Mannix, was a member of the Permian High football team of Odessa, Texas, in the late 1980s that was featured in the book and movie Friday Night Lights.
“He’s like Texas royalty,” Norvell said.
Mannix, who had three touchdown catches of 44, 57 and 49 yards this past season for Midland High in a 49-48 win over Permian, was committed to Vanderbilt before he chose the Wolf Pack.
“He was a great challenge for us,” Norvell said, “trying to lure him to Nevada after he committed to a SEC school. But, I think, our coaching staff just meshed well with his family.”
The offensive linemen the Pack added are Gray Davis (6-5, 302), of Parish Episcopal High in Dallas, Texas, Marshall Levins (6-6, 3-5), of Fullerton College, Anthony Palomares (6-4, 290), of Victor Valley (Calif.) High and Chase Windham (6-4, 260), of Vista Murrieta (Calif.) High.
“I just really felt at home there,” said Davis, who also had offers from Baylor, Bowling Green, New Mexico State and Texas State, among others. “I really meshed with the coaching staff and I think they are setting us up in a position to win. I think we can win the Mountain West very soon.”
The Wolf Pack, Norvell said, focused on adding athletic defensive backs. The five the Pack added on Wednesday are Arnold (6-1, 205) of Bishop Gorman, Brandon Brooks (6-3, 185) of Riverside (Calif.) College, Vosean Crumbie (6-1, 195), of Ventura (Calif.) College, Berdale Robins (5-9, 163), of Los Angeles High and Nephi Sewell (6-0, 190), of Desert Hills High in St. George, Utah.
Sewell is the brother of Wolf Pack linebacker Gabe Sewell, who will be a sophomore next season. “We’re trying to build a family atmosphere here,” Norvell said. “Adding a baby brother will only add to the closeness of our players.”
Norvell said junior college transfers Crumbie and Brooks should contribute immediately. “We wanted to bring in guys who could come in right away and help us with our coverage,” he said.
Norvell said his new wide receivers and defensive backs also bring versatility.
“All of those guys can also return kicks,” Norvell said. “We helped our special teams. All those guys have real good ball skills and can change the field when they get the ball in their hands.”
The Wolf Pack also helped themselves up front on defense by adding Chris Green, a 6-2, 285-pounder from Los Angeles High and Dominic Peterson, a 6-foot, 265-pounder from Narboone High in Harbor City, Calif. Peterson had 107 tackles (17 sacks) this season and turned down an offer from Syracuse to pick the Pack. Green had offers from Arizona and Connecticut.
“Green is a monster,” Norvell said. “He’s as wide as a door. Those are the types of bodies you need to stop the run.”
Linebackers Trevor Price (5-10, 210 from Cedar Ridge (Texas) High and Lamin Touray (6-1, 225), from Bishop Alemany High in Mission Hills, Calif., also chose the Wolf Pack. Both Price and Touray originally committed to the Wolf Pack last spring and summer when Brian Polian was head coach.
“Nevada was one of the first schools out of the 15 to offer me,” Touray said. “So they’ve had my attention from the start. I went on four unofficial visits to UNLV, Nevada, San Diego State and Colorado State just to see if I would be able to find a school that fits what I’m looking for and I fell in love with (Nevada) and the city.
“I broke my ankle the third game of my senior year so my recruiting went dead for a while and with the whole coaching change (from Polian to Norvell) I didn’t have too many options to flip to so I decided to stay locked in with Nevada. I am excited for the direction the program is headed.”
Norvell said the Wolf Pack still has two scholarships to give and would like to add graduate transfers this summer. “I believe we will have players on our roster in August that we don’t have now,” he said. “We’re not done.”
The Wolf Pack, Norvell said, will open their month-long spring practices on March 27 with the annual spring game on April 29.
“I think all these guys we signed are hungry and have something to prove,” Norvell said. “We wanted kids of character because kids of character have high ceilings. I think we did that. I feel we have excellent coaches and we just wanted to get the type of athletes that match the coaches.”