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Whipple, UMass football announce 2014 signees

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Massachusetts football coach Mark Whipple put the finishing touches on a late recruiting push on Wednesday, officially announcing the 2014 class on National Signing Day.

In total, 18 players signed National Letters of Intent to play for UMass next season. Four more players—offensive lineman Anthony Fernandez, tight end Jordan Fiske, wide receiver Jalen Williams and quarterback Andrew Verboys—enrolled this semester at the University to begin taking spring classes. The Minutemen also announced that quarterback Blake Frohnapfel and wide receiver Alex Kenney are eligible to play immediately after transferring from other institutions.

Whipple preached the luxury of creating competition at multiple positions, something the entire coaching staff plans to create in Whipple’s first year at the helm. Despite having limited time to put a complete recruiting class together—Whipple was hired on Jan. 14—the 56-year-old coach was pleased with the outcome.

“We had a good day, we had a really good day,” he said. “As a tribute to the guys that are on staff and how hard we pushed and traveled, I would say (we) salvaged, but I think we got a bunch of good guys and good people that’ll really help us.”

Whipple specifically named both Frohnapfel and Kenney as notable players who could potentially impact the program. Frohnapfel, who has two years of eligibility remaining as a redshirt sophomore, will transfer from Marshall University, where he spent two seasons as a backup. He plans to graduate from there this spring with a degree in finance and economics.

Kenney has one season of eligibility remaining and will pursue his graduate degree from UMass once he earns his undergraduate from Pennsylvania State University this spring. The wide receiver caught 24 passes for 197 yards during his Nittany Lions career and was a teammate of quarterback Austin Whipple, Mark Whipple’s son.

“I think that headline guys that’ll help us right away are the two transfers,” Whipple said.

In total, four quarterbacks were added to the roster. In addition to Frohnapfel and Verboys, both Ross Comis and Randall West also signed letters of intent. The Minutemen also added 10 linemen in total. Dimitri Angelas, Dan DiNicola, Ryan Johnson, Liam Porter and Anthony Fernandez highlighted the offensive side while Chris Carter, Da’Sean Downey, Jake Largay, Josh Smiley and Jack Wynne will play on the defensive line.

“We thought we needed to add competition at every position,” Whipple said. “We need guys to compete. I’ve been happy with our guys that are here now, the little that I’ve seen of them. But you’ve got to fill the class, and as I said all along, it’s always been my philosophy that the best players play. I don’t care how old they are or where they’re from.”

Multiple players were holdovers from the Charley Molnar era. Of note, both West and running back J.T. Blyden were high-profile recruits for Molnar and remained committed to UMass, much Whipple’s delight.

“I thought the people that were here before I got here had done a good job,” he said. “There were a lot of good players that were committed and we’re happy to have here.”

UMass will also add defensive backs Jarrell Addo and Charan Singh, tight ends Jon Denton and Jean Sifrin and linebacker Ezekiel Edmonds into the mix for next season.

Whipple praised the role of current players on the team in the recruiting process, especially in the final weekend before signing day. Whipple and his staff crisscrossed the country in an attempt to visit with as many recruits as possible. But ultimately, the final selling point was the University itself and the upgraded facilities at McGuirk Stadium.

“There’s no question (the facilities) were the last thing they walked through,” Whipple said. “I think (the recruits) could see where the program’s headed, where administration has made an impact, and it certainly made an impact on those kids.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at mchiarel@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli

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