Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football announces 30 members to its 2016 recruiting class

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Throughout his two seasons as coach of the Massachusetts football team, Mark Whipple has repeatedly said UMass didn’t have enough players that could play at the level he wanted.

After ending the 2015 season with a disappointing 3-9 record that failed to meet the Minutemen’s internal expectations of a bowl game, UMass knew it needed to add much needed depth across the board on offense, defense and special teams.

At Wednesday afternoon’s national signing day, the Minutemen announced 30 recruits that will join the program in 2016 with a mix of players committing out of high school, as well as transferring from other Division I schools and junior colleges.

Following a ceremony in the Football Performance Center, both Whipple and assistant coaches talked about the Minutemen’s recruiting class and the impact they expect to see when players arrive for summer camp.

“We thought we needed a couple big tackles and we got that. The defensive line there are always guys there because just looking back I just didn’t think we had enough players that could play. I think we got warn down in the second half of both side of the balls,” Mark Whipple said following the live show.

“It’s very exciting and I think it’s a testament to a lot of the guys on the staff who have put in the work to get to this point with all the players we have signed now. It’s a credit to them, not just in the last six months, but over the year since the day after last signing,” said assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Spencer Whipple.

UMass’ recruiting class was ranked 79th overall nationally, just four spots behind in-state rival Boston College, according to 247sports.com. The Minutemen received 15 total 3-star recruits.

“You just don’t have enough players. We just try to get as good players as we can that will fit and I think we did a good job. Time will tell, like I said, you don’t know,” Mark Whipple said.

He added: “This group has got some guys and the young tight end can play and the other guy can catch so, we’ll have a really good spring and we’ll be excited when these guys come here in the summer.”

Although the Minutemen are no longer a part of the Mid-American Conference and will be an independent for the foreseeable futures, Mark Whipple believed that not having a conference wasn’t a factor in recruiting.

Had UMass stayed in the MAC, it would have had the second-best recruiting class only behind Western Michigan.

“We never said we are in the MAC. We never went into somewhere and wore anything (MAC related). We say we’re from UMass and we have a plan place to play major college football and a university that supports this. That’s really what we sold,” Whipple said.

At the top of the list of recruits for the Minutemen was JUCO quarterback Andrew Ford, wide receivers Brennon Dingle and Sadiq Palmer and athlete Cycoby Burch. All four players were expected to accept offers from Power 5 schools before eventually joining UMass.

“I think those guys really help our UMass brand,” said assistant and offensive line coach Shane Waldron.

“The first year out on the road, there was a lot of time spent explaining where we were. Now when you’re on the road, there’s none of that. The schedule, honestly, this year was the best tool we had on the road.”

Comis, Ford set up for quarterback battle

With quarterback Blake Frohnapfel graduating, the biggest – and most important – position battle in spring practices and summer camp will be at quarterback.

Ross Comis, a redshirt sophomore served as Frohnapfel backup last season and played snaps against Colorado, Notre Dame, Bowling Green, Kent State and Eastern Michigan. Comis, who’s more of a dual-threat quarterback than Frohnapfel was, completed 15-of-21 passes for 171 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

When a fan in attendance at Wednesday’s event asked Whipple about who will get the nod at starting quarterback next season, he said that there wasn’t a definite starter yet but Comis will get first team reps during spring practices.

Ford is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound, pro-style quarterback that was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school and spent a season at Virginia Tech before transferring to Lackawanna Community College before the start of last season.

“I think there’s different elements in every quarterback and obviously we got a chance to see Ross in front of our eyes last year do some really good things and the leadership he’s demonstrated so far,” Spencer Whipple said.

He added: “With Andrew coming in it’s going to be exciting to see those guys battle it out and all the quarterbacks in that room competing in spring and summer. I think that this offense can tailor to whoever is under center. So that’s always a good thing. Each guy has his own unique qualities and things that will make the offense click.”

Waldron echoed his statements and believes both candidates provide good options for Mark Whipple’s offense.

“The one thing that kind of gets left out is that coach Whipple’s offense, which is really a pro-style system if you want to call it that, gives you the flexibility to play with whatever you have and to mold your offense around the abilities of the players,” Waldron said.

“The quarterback position is no different than the battle we’re going to have to find a new starting center. It’s a competition. The best thing that we’ve done with this class is now there’s legitimate competition at every position.”

The Minutemen open their 2016 season Sept. 3 when they travel to Gainesville, Florida to take on the Gators at “The Swamp.”

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

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