Even in times of uncertainty, Kailua quarterback Cameron Friel was ready to make a leap of faith.
Friel, who has one season left of high school football left with the Surfriders this fall, committed to UNLV on Monday night. The Rebels enter the 2020 season with a brand new coaching staff, led by head coach Marcus Arroyo.
The 2020 season is set to be Arroyo’s first as a head coach at any school. He was previously the offensive coordinator at Oregon from 2017 to 2019 and has previous stints on the staffs of Oklahoma State, California and the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Additionally, UNLV’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Glenn Thomas was with the Atlanta Falcons from 2008 to 2014 and was their QB coach from 2012 to 2014.
“I probably have to say the biggest thing would be their whole new coaching staff,” said Friel of his early commitment to the Rebels. “Once they started recruiting me, I could tell that they were different compared to the other schools. They were hungry, they really wanted me to get out there. They promised me that I would be the guy to come in there and make the change for their program.
“I’m just a firm believer in what they have to offer me and what UNLV’s gonna be looking like in a few years.”
During his time with the Falcons, Thomas worked closely with Matt Ryan, who was named the NFL’s MVP for the 2016 season. Arroyo has worked with Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, during his time at Cal. His most recent quarterback was Justin Herbert, who was picked sixth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Both Thomas and Arroyo see pro potential in Friel, who already has ideal measurables at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds.
“Just to see how experienced they are with taking guys to the next level and having success with them, I really want to be a part of that,” Friel said. “They told me they’re committed to helping me achieve my dreams of being in the league so I feel that UNLV, especially with their new coaches, they have the best chance of taking me there.”
UNLV is also set to play at Allegiant Stadium, the pristine new home of the Las Vegas Raiders. As Friel ventures to the mainland, he’ll do so knowing that Vegas is already a home away from home in some ways. The Rebels also play in the Mountain West conference and are in the same division as Hawaii, meaning he’ll play his hometown team annually.
“UNLV is a place not too far from home so that’s kind of a big pro. Family’s gonna be there,” Friel said. “Playing against UH is something that I’m gonna be looking forward to because it’s the hometown and nothing but respect for the school that’s always caught my eye as a kid. But in life, you gotta make your own decisions and you gotta ride with that.”
A year ago at this time, Friel had transferred from Saint Louis to Kailua and didn’t have an offer to his name. This fall, he’ll look to build upon the 1,694 yards and 19 touchdowns he threw for Kailua in 2019.
It wasn’t until former Hawaii receiver and current Navy assistant coach Billy Ray Stutzmann offered a spot on the Midshipmen last October that Friel’s recruitment jumpstarted. Friel chose UNLV over scholarship offers from Navy, San Diego State, Nevada and Fresno State. He wasn’t offered by UNLV until last Friday, but by the time Monday rolled around, he knew he was ready to make his choice.
“Most definitely, I’m still fired up,” he said. “The coaches, the whole staff actually is blowing up my phone so they’re fired up as well. It’s a dream come true. I’m excited for what he future has in store for me.”