Morris adds 19 players to UMass football roster on National Signing Day

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Courtesy UMass Media Relations

Despite having the job for only a little over two weeks, Massachusetts head football coach Kevin Morris still found plenty of time for some major roster additions.

Nineteen players were added to the UMass roster for the 2009 season on national signing day, headlined by junior college quarterback transfer Kyle Havens ‘- who will compete with four other quarterbacks to be the replacement for graduated star quarterback Liam Coen.

Morris’ class has six other offensive players ‘- most notably record-setting running back Jamar Smith from Binghampton, N.Y. ‘- and 11 defensive players, including linebackers and identical twins Tim and Tom Brandt from Natick, Mass. The group also consists of Jeff Strait, who will likely start at punter as a freshman.

Havens, who will be a junior with two years of eligibility remaining, is the only transfer on the list. The other 18 players will be freshman, and many of them will likely be redshirted.

Morris was pleased with the group that committed to play at UMass, especially considering the program got off to a bit of a late start.

‘Being that it’s my first class, and it came right in the middle of the [coaching] change and right during the peak of recruiting when kids are on the fence to where they’re going to go, I am really pleased with everyone of these kids that we have on board,’ Morris said.

The announcement comes on the first day of signing, meaning that Morris’ work is far from over.

‘People forget that signing day is just the first day, not the last. Recruiting is a long process,’ Morris said. ‘There are a few more spots to fill. It’s always going to be the best available on the board, we’re going to stick to that philosophy ‘- position comes second. We’re trying to get the highest value first.’

Havens (Concord, Calif.), is a 6-foot-3, 217-pound QB transfer from Diablo Valley College, where he averaged over 300 yards passing per game last season. Diablo Valley ranked second in the state in passing, and Havens was ranked as the 18th best signal caller by

Havens will battle against senior Scott Woodward and sophomores Scott Wallace, Spencer Whipple and Octavious Hawkins for the starting job.

‘We had a void at the top with Liam Coen leaving and there wasn’t a lot of playing time beyond that ‘- Scott Woodward had gotten some snaps, but we felt a need to bring in some competition at the top of the depth chart,’ Morris said. ‘We’re hoping Kyle can do that and give us a chance to continue at to play at a high level by creating internal competition.’

Morris, who had eight kids from Massachusetts commit to play for him, talked about the type of student-athletes he was searching for to join the roster.

‘I really wanted kids that were UMass-tough and that can play football at a very high level and that are willing to take on the challenges that UMass offers in the classroom, as well,’ Morris said.

In addition to Havens and Smith, who ran for a single-season Section 4 record 2,729 yards and scored 36 touchdowns, Morris also added some talent on offense. At the skill positions he signed running back Sean Unterkoefler (Reading, Pa.) and tight end Rob Blanchflower (Leominster, Mass.), and he added Adham Talaat (Springfield, Va.) and Vincent Westcarr (Miramar, Fla.) at offensive line.

Morris was busy signing defensive players, including three linebackers (Devin Lindsey, Perry McIntyre and Royce Terrell) in addition to the Brandt twins. Four defensive backs (Christian Birt, Ryan Carter, Mike Lee and Thad Cummings) were added to help the loss of graduated seniors Courtney Robinson and Sean Smalls. At the defensive line position where UMass struggled last season, Morris added Bill Nesselt, Kevin Byrne and Brandon Potvin (Worcester).

Morris will get a further look at his new recruits on April 3, when the Minutemen open up their spring football practice.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]