UMass football adds 10 recruits on first day

For The Recorder
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

AMHERST — The UMass football program added 10 players Wednesday, the first day of the first early signing period.

UMass is expecting/hoping to add more players before 11:59 p.m. Friday, when the signing period ends. Coach Mark Whipple, who is recovering from knee surgery, isn’t discussing his recruiting class publicly until Thursday.

The class included seven defensive and three offensive players. Eight of the 13 players 247Sports had listed as verbal commitments to UMass, signed. Two Canadian players — linebacker Darren Kyeremeh (6-feet, 230 pounds) and defensive end Arnold Mbembe (6-6, 240) — who hadn’t been previously announced, signed. Both came from Vanier College in Montreal, the same high school program that produced freshman defensive back Tyrus Lebeau.

UMass signed two quarterbacks. Josiah Johnson (6-5, 197) was the first player to sign. The Floridian’s letter of intent became official shortly after the starting gun went off for the first early signing day at 7 a.m. Jaret Pallotta (6-5, 205), an Ohio quarterback who was the first player to commit to the class in June, joined him later in the morning. If every QB stays, the Minutemen will have six on scholarship for the 2018 season.

Parker Ogle (6-3, 290), an offensive lineman from Palm Gardens, Florida, was the other new addition on offense.

East Longmeadow’s Elijah Johnson (5-11, 194) won’t have to go far to continue his football career as he’ll join the Minutemen’s defensive backfield.

UMass added four linebackers. In addition to Kyeremeh, the Minutemen signed two Floridians — Da’Shon Ross (5-11, 210) of Moore Haven and Michael Nesmith (5-10, 190) of Hallandale — and Los Angeles product Darian Green (5-11, 217).

Timothy Moulton (6-3, 240) joins fellow Philadelphian Charley Timitie, who was a redshirt freshman in 2017, on UMass defensive line.

Five players who had verbally committed to UMass — receiver Uchenna Ezewike, defensive tackle Dennis Osagiede, athlete Trey Jones, offensive lineman Patrick Walsh and running back Rashard Jackson — haven’t signed yet.

Osagiede (6-1, 272), who is from Missouri City, Texas, is expected to sign soon, according to his high school’s Twitter account. Ridge Point Football tweeted “One to go tonight! @DennisOsagiede7 will sign with @UMassFootball.”

Whether or not he signed, his National Letter of Intent likely wouldn’t be certified by UMass until Thursday morning.

It’s unclear whether the other four intend to sign during the early period. There can be a variety of reasons for delayed signing. In some cases, players who are under 18 need to wait for a parent to sign their letter, which causes a delay in faxing the letter. That’s happened many times in basketball.

In other cases, not signing marks a change of heart.

Jones’ Twitter bio still lists him as a “UMASS FOOTBALL COMMIT” but he didn’t tweet anything one way or the other about signing Wednesday.

Jackson, who tweeted a picture of himself with UMass running backs coach Darrius Smith last week from a home visit, had no mention of his status on Twitter.

Ezewike’s Twitter avatar is a picture of him in a UMass uniform. There is also a week-old pinned tweet atop his account showing the same picture announcing his commitment. But while he retweeted signing day tweets Wednesday, there’s no reference to his own signing status.

Patrick Walsh, an offensive lineman from Holden who previous had tweeted a picture of himself in a UMass uniform, now has “Harvard Football ‘22” listed in his Twitter bio. He didn’t tweet an announcement of committing to the Crimson.

Whether verbally committed player would sign during the early period was a source of curiosity throughout the sport as several questions will be answered during the next two days.

What percentage of players would formalize their commitment in December?

UMass, which signed 22 players in February and 30 in 2016, signed 10 so far.

For teams outside the Power Five conferences, would the early period be beneficial? Bigger schools were less likely to make a late offer to a recruit who was committed to a Group of Five school before the December date than they were in February.

By that logic, there might be less poaching of committed players.

Would recruits who have given verbal commitments to Group of Five schools not sign early in hopes that a Power Five school might offer later? The answer to that is still playing itself out.