Minutemen add talent through Signing Day
National Signing Day is supposed to be a time for a team to build towards the future. For the Massachusetts football team, that is not necessarily the case.
The Minutemen signed six transfers to go along with 11 freshmen, who faxed in their letters of intent yesterday.
One of the transfers, defensive lineman Galen Clemons, was initially targeted by UMass, but decided on Central Michigan and sat for a year. Over the winter, he changed his mind and will join the Minutemen in 2010.
The five other transfers (three from Northeastern, two from Hofstra) come after the two Colonial Athletic Association rivals folded their football programs for financial reasons. UMass coach Kevin Morris said he is looking forward to adding players who are already familiar with college football.
“Whether they’re in the top or the bottom, it doesn’t matter,” Morris said. “These are polished college kids that have been around the block. These guys are real character kids that you know are going to have an impact not only on the field, but in the locker room as well.”
Morris praised linebacker Chad Hunte’s skills as someone who should contribute right away, after starting as a true freshman with the Huskies. The sophomore finished with 32 tackles, and an interception against the Minutemen on Nov. 7 that he carried for 51 yards.
He also has the potential to play on special teams because of his skill-set.
UMass also picked up wide receiver Anthony Nelson (520 yards, four touchdowns), who was the Pride’s second receiver.
The freshmen consist of five offensive players and six on defense. Morris commented that many of them were pursued by Division I-A schools and feels that all of them are capable of competing for playing time because of where they are athletically.
However, he knows that there will be an adjustment period with the freshmen.
“The big hurdle for freshmen is that there’s a reason they’re called freshmen,” Morris said. “I think this group’s got a chance at some spots to get into the mix, but then again, that’s a lot to put on a freshman to see if they can be ready that quickly.”
One of the players who will get that opportunity to compete for a starting job is quarterback Brandon Hill, who is 6’5 and received a three-star rating from Rivals.com.
Hill threw for 1,379 yards and 15 touchdowns as a recruit from New Jersey.
Wide receiver Dominic Wooten will be expected to use his 6’5 frame to create a size disadvantage for defenders. Morris said he hopes Wooten can thrive in his system, similar to the way UMass alums Brandon London and Rasheed Rancher did.
He finished his last two years at Norwell High School with 79 receptions, 1,255 yards and seven touchdowns. Wooten also played some tight end during his high school career.
On the defensive side of the ball, Morris signed three defensive backs and two linebackers. One aspect that Morris feels is unique about the newly signed defensive players is their ability to play multiple positions.
Defensive lineman Matt Heilig started at tight end for two years at his high school in Va. and totaled 226 yards on 10 catches. On the other side of the ball, he finished his senior season with 61 tackles and five sacks.
Defensive back Kirkland Nelms is another player capable of playing multiple positions, as he displays solid numbers in all three aspects of the game.
As a defensive player, he had 40 tackles and six interceptions, while returning two for touchdowns. On offense, he rushed for 436 yards with seven touchdowns and had 19 receptions for 320 yards. He also contributed on special teams.
All 17 newcomers will get a chance to prove themselves in Spring Football, which begins on May 30.
Adam Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.