UMass signs 15 players during early signing period

13 incoming freshmen, two transfers

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Parker Peters

Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

By Joseph Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts football team signed 15 new players during the December early signing period, 13 of which are high school and junior college recruits while the other two players are college transfers.

Last year’s recruiting class primarily focused on the offensive and defensive lines. Now, Bell and his staff have shifted towards a more balanced focus of both skill players and linemen in this year’s recruiting class.

Bell brought in a quarterback, two wide receivers, two tight ends and a tackle on the offensive side of the ball in the early period, while another wide receiver and running back are expected to sign in February.

The defensive side of the ball added nine total players, including four defensive backs, three interior linemen and two linebackers.

With quarterback being a position where UMass has struggled to find consistency, Milford High School recruit Brady Olson will be someone that the UMass football community should keep a close eye on.

Bell and offensive assistant Angelo Mirando watched Olson play his junior year, where he stood around 6-feet tall and 165 pounds. Going into his senior season in the spring Olson will be standing close to 6-feet-4 and 195 pounds. Do not be surprised to see Olson in contention for the starting job next fall.

“[Olson] can really spin the football,” Bell said. “…His continued development over this entire period has been really incredible.”

The defensive side of the ball’s most notable signee is Bryson Richardson, a player Bell initially started recruiting before he was coaching the Minutemen. Bell scouted Richardson while he was coaching at Maryland before Richardson had committed to North Carolina.

Even though he started multiple games as a true freshman, Richardson did not make much noise for the Tar Heels, totaling three tackles and an interception in his freshman year in 2018. After missing the entire 2019 season due to injury, Richardson will come to UMass as a redshirt-sophomore.

“He’s a guy that started at nickel [cornerback], but has the body of a safety,” Bell said. “…He’s a guy that will definitely help us in the fact that he’s an early enrollee and will be eligible to play immediately.”

Early playing time is something Bell envisions for players such as Jamir Roberts and Tray Pettway. Wide receiver is a position that will need some support next year after a shortened season that saw only two players top four catches at the position.

Roberts is a 5-foot-9, 185-pound track star that will add more speed and quickness to the outside while Pettway is a 6-foot-3 190 JUCO transfer. In Pettway’s one season across eight games, he caught eight passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns.

“We’re very fortunate to get Tray,” Bell said. “I could see Tray and Jamir both playing big roles as they move forward in their career.”

Along with the signings of the two receivers and tight ends Ryan Mosesso and Eni Falayi, Minutemen commit Michael Fitzgerald will help this class become a pivotal piece in the success of Bell’s offense in the years to come. Fitzgerald stands 6-foot-5 200-pounds and finished his senior year with 27 receptions for 520 yards and eight touchdowns.

Due to a lack of recent film and face-to-face connections with players, the 2021 recruiting class presents a challenge unlike any other year.

“There will be ramifications in college football over the next four years because of this recruiting class,” Bell said. “There will be huge hits, there will be big misses. Simply because you didn’t have that typical run of camps, of clinics, of going out in the spring and seeing these guys in the weight room and on the practice field and seeing them again in the summertime.”

“There will be big-term ramifications from this recruiting class, probably more so than before just based on hits and misses from evaluation.”

If all six committed recruits sign in February, UMass will have filled 21 of 25 spots for this year’s recruiting class, leaving four spots for the near 1000 players that are expected to be in the transfer portal over the next several months.

Bell and his staff purposely left those slots open in order to try and grab any players that they didn’t have the opportunity to grab when those players were coming out of high school, similar to Bryson Richardson or Devin Baldwin.

“There’s going to be strength and there’s going to be an advantage of having spots available,” Bell said. “As a program, it’s just going to be: Where do [we] fit on that spectrum?”

Joey Aliberti can be reached via email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JosephAliberti1