UMass football locks up 18 signees in early signing period

Walt Bell bulking up Minutemen with his first full recruiting cycle

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UMass football locks up 18 signees in early signing period

Nina Walat

Nina Walat

Nina Walat

By Amin Touri, Editor in Chief

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As he works through his first full recruiting cycle as a head coach, Walt Bell had one thing on his mind: bulking up in the trenches.

The Massachusetts football team picked up 18 signees during the early signing period this week, nine of whom are expected to line up on either side of the line of scrimmage where the Minutemen struggled so heavily in 2019.

“We’re incredibly excited,” Bell said Wednesday. “Feel great about the class. Addressed some big needs in our program, especially on the offensive and defensive line of scrimmage, the DB position, at linebacker, so we feel great about our class and we’re excited to get them here.”

Bell likes to simplify the game as a battle to “run the ball, stop the run,” a big problem for UMass this season. Opponents more than doubled UMass’ output in the run game in 2019, as the Minutemen were outgained by a staggering 3589 yards to 1495 on the ground— the 299.1 rushing yards allowed per game were comfortably the most in college football last season, and the 124.6 rushing yards gained per game fell in the bottom 20.

It was obvious all season that the Minutemen were constantly overrun up front by teams with bigger bodies, and the early signing period was a chance to rectify that.

“We’re like Arby’s new brother, we’ve got the meat,” Bell said. “We’ve got some big kids. We’re unbelievably excited about especially on the defensive line — there’s one more signee that’s a rather large young man that will hopefully be announced here soon — but between [Josh] Atwood and Taishan [Holmes] and Aaron Beckwith as a strong-side end, it’s going to be a complete reconstruction of the D-line.”

That “rather large young man” likely refers to Pennsylvania defensive tackle Sammy Solomon, a 6-foot-3-inch, 295-pound recruit who signed with the Minutemen later on Wednesday over offers from Boston College and Rutgers. Solomon made his official visit on Dec. 13, and made it official after Bell made his comments.

Also joining the defensive line corps is German recruit Hugo Klages, a high-motor defensive end that made his commitment to the program in July.

“Specific to Hugo, obviously the first time you see the tape of him playing overseas, he was an incredibly dominant player,” said Bell. “The second thing you knew about him right away is that everything he does, he overdoes. He’s a maniac in the weight room, he’s a maniac with how he eats and lifts, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone more invested in themselves and continuous improvement. The third piece is when we saw him in camps, PPI and his group came from overseas in the camp circuit, just how he competed.

“Tenacious, aggressive, chip on his shoulder, really had something to prove — you got to see him go against high level competition and do an unbelievable job.”

On the offensive line, Ethan Mottinger, Joe Horn, Dominik Behrens and Reggie Marks are each listed close to or north of 300 pounds, a continued effort to get bigger.

UMass locked up two quarterbacks on Wednesday, with two-star recruits Will Koch and Kyle Lindquist joining a troubled group of signal-callers that never got the offense rolling in 2019. Lindquist threw for 2552 yards and 26 touchdowns for Butte College last season, while dual-threat Florida native Koch made for UMass’ closest call, with Bell suggesting UMass was 10 minutes from losing Koch to Central Florida.

“Kyle Lindquist is a kid that really lit it up in Butte, and thank goodness that kind of stayed quiet there,” Bell said. “He’s a 4.0 student, a kid that bet on himself, went to Butte, had an unbelievable season in his first year as a starter there. [6-foot-4.5], 215 pounds, big giant hands — we went out and saw him throw a couple times, a guy that really hit the spots, did a great job getting the ball out of his hands and can run.”

One surprising omission was Lawrence Academy (MA) quarterback Brady Martin, a three-star recruit that committed in March and was expected by some to compete for a starting job fairly soon after landing in Amherst. Martin announced Tuesday night that he’d be signing in February rather than December, though he took some steps via Twitter to quell concerns that he may flip on his commitment.

Wideout Onuma Dieke, cornerback Cody Jones, running backs Ellis Merriweather and Jared Cole, linebackers Nahji Logan and Gerrell Johnson and safety Tristan Armstrong rounded up the early group for Bell’s first real shot at piecing together the roster he wants.

“For us, what we’ve been selling the entire time in recruiting is the vision of what could be,” Bell said. “I think the young people, they’re smarter than sometimes people give them credit for. They understand what this place can be, they understand that we have excellent academics, they understand the accelerated growth on this campus — at the same time, they also want to have a chance to play early and be a contributor in what can be here, and doing something that’s never been done here and going to the first bowl game in the history of this school.

“That’s what we’ve been selling the whole time, and we’ve had a lot of kids buying into that.”

Bell and co. will wrap up their first recruiting cycle with the traditional signing period in February.

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Amin_Touri.