UMass football adds experience, talent with 13 transfers
The youngsters didn’t serve the UMass football team last season, so head coach Don Brown has added experience.
The Minutemen announced that 13 transfers joined the program on Wednesday as part of National Signing Day. Three are graduate transfers with one year of eligibility remaining while two others have played at least two seasons of college football.
“If you look at us a year ago, the one thing I don’t think I did a great job of in terms of recruiting is that we were probably one of the youngest teams in America. When you start looking for vets and guys who have experience and can take on leadership roles, that’s a pretty slim crop,” Brown said. “We’ve made it our business to get older, to have guys that went through varsity practices, went through varsity seasons that was really something that was close to our hearts, to age a bit to bring some experience and veterans who could show some leadership and show guys how things should be done.
Four are from Massachusetts with imports from New Hampshire and Connecticut highlighting its New England ties. Five were at Brown’s old school in Arizona (two of whom are children from Massachusetts).
Add those transfers with the six-man high school class announced in December, and the Minutemen’s recruiting cycle is about to end. Additional transfers could still leak out over the next few days. Brown said they are working on two other players, but most of the class is signed and focuses on the relationships Brown has built over his career.
“They know they’re going to get an honest day’s work from me. I’m a great relationship guy. That’s all there is to me,” Brown said.
Tyler Martin, an Acton linebacker, Jermaine Wiggins Jr., a Boxford defensive lineman, receiver Anthony Simpson (Pawling, NY) and running back Jalen John (Lake Oswego, Ore.) all committed to Brown for the second time after being transferred from Arizona. Martin had actually enlisted in Michigan when Brown was there and followed him into the desert and back home.
“When you are sincere with the players and tell them the truth, these things can happen. Guys will tend to follow you because they think you can help them get to where they need to go, and that’s a good thing,” Brown said. “At the same time there are demands, there are all these things about being a player, and obviously we also provide a great education. All of these things matter.
Simpson played 11 games primarily as a kick returner. He ran twice for eight yards and caught four passes for 56 yards. The other three did not see the field for the Wildcats.
Quarterbacks Carlos Davis joined West Carolina and Taisun Phommachanh transferred from Georgia Tech after initially committing to Clemson.
Davis, a 6-foot-3 graduate from Baltimore, led the Catamounts to a 6-5 record last season throwing for 1,837 yards and 16 touchdowns in seven games. He ran for 221 more yards.
“He’s a much more experienced guy who can show leadership in the room. A veteran who has played a lot of football,” Brown said.
Phommachanh, whose brother Tyler plays at UConn, spent three seasons as a reserve at Clemson before joining Georgia Tech. He was a four-star prospect and consensus top-10 quarterback out of high school. Phommachanh appeared in two games for the Yellow Jackets last season, rushing 15 times for 56 yards and two touchdowns while completing two passes for 13 yards.
They will compete with freshman Ahmad “the problem” Haston, a freshman who signed in December from Florida, and outgoing starter Brady Olson for the job.
“We feel like we approached the quarterback position the way it was meant to be approached. We feel like this room is completely redone,” Brown said. “We feel like we’ve solved the problem and we’ve created competition for this place.”
Brown also leveraged Florida State to add former four-star talent. Safety Jalen Harrell is from Miami, defensive lineman Shambre Jackson is en route from Florida State and Mark Pope is a Miami native who started his career at the U before spending last season with Deion Sanders. at Jackson State.
Pope caught 52 passes for 680 yards and four touchdowns for the Hurricanes, but didn’t play as big of a role with the Tigers.
DaShaun Jerkins will be an Ole Miss graduate transfer security who also spent time at Vanderbilt. He played five games with the Rebels after starting in 27 with the Commodores.
Former Minnesota safety Steven Ortiz is an Arizona native who was a four-star freshman out of high school. He didn’t play as a freshman and made his debut for the Gophers as a sophomore.
Lakeville offensive lineman Brandon MacKinnon spent a year at Northern Illinois and will have three years playing for the Minutemen. He’s one of three offensive linemen in this year’s class after the Minutemen added two new players in December.
“The most sought-after group of positions in the alumni sector, the guys who come into the portal are the offensive line,” Brown said. “We walked a lot of young men through the door and out the door. And the guys who are Division II players, (FCS) players, Ivy League players… they go to Power Fives, they go to Division I and we’ve seen that now. We’re still involved with other guys, and we’ll continue to be involved on the offensive line. We’d like to have more offensive linemen, and then we think we’d be fully loaded, ready to go.
New Hampshire native Jackson Paradis joined Buffalo after not playing for the Bulls last year.
CHANGING TIMES – Brown has seen just about everything in his four decades of coaching college football to some extent. The impact of social media has changed the most in recent years.
“Our athletes have a lot more to overcome than in the past when it comes to this piece. Social media can be a real downside for gamers, especially if they let it attack their positive mindset. Crazy things are said on Twitter and all these other operations available, and they are not true. They are not significant. They’re right over there,” Brown said. “Some guys let this stuff really attack their positive mindset and positive self-talk, and that’s a concern. That’s the number one area where as a coach you need to educate your guys on this. topic and try to get them to cut down on screen time and stay away from what John Smith thinks of you If I did that I wouldn’t be coaching anymore for yelling out loud You can’t do everything just don’t let these things affect you.
Brown also said he did not use name, image and likeness rights in his sales pitch. It’s something he can’t get involved in, and he’s grateful for that.
“You sell yourself as a coach and as an athlete advocate. It’s really important. The good thing is that academically, we are the 26th public research university in the country. We sell the academics. You are in a big college town, not a college town. You can’t please everyone. You are really selling the strengths of the school and not the NIL,” Brown said. “The NIL is part of the process once you’re here, but it’s really not meant to be part of the recruitment, the reason you come. It’s important, I think, because the most important thing you do is develop players, develop young men. This is the next level, when it should be all about dollars and cents, not college level. I think the NCAA is right to keep this out of the coach’s hands.
LOCALS — Northampton native Maximus Lockett, who played football at Springfield Central this fall, has signed with Youngstown State. He will play the offensive line for the FCS school.
South Hadley’s Adam Campbell has signed to play Division II football with Caldwell University, a small private school in New Jersey.
Kyle Grabowski can be contacted at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.