Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football leans heavily on transfer portal in Don Brown’s second recruiting class

Brown’s recruiting class includes three quarterbacks
Sophia-Zoe Schreyer
Sophie-Zoe Schreyer/Daily Collegian

Coming off a fourth straight season in which the Massachusetts football team finished with one or fewer wins, there’s plenty of different aspects of the program that are currently suffering. The main one Don Brown wanted to fix in his second recruiting class at UMass was age.

Of the 24 players that are committed or signed to the Minutemen, 18 of them are from the transfer portal.

“If you look at us a year ago, the one thing that I don’t think that I did a great job — in terms of the recruiting piece — we were probably one of the top five to 10 youngest teams in America,” Brown said. “So when you start searching for vets and guys that have experience, that can take leadership roles, it’s a pretty thin crop. We made it a point to get older, to get guys that have been through college practices, been through college seasons and have learned college football.”

Of the few seniors UMass had last season, many left big holes in the roster. Ellis Merriweather was the Minutemen’s leading rusher the past two seasons, linebacker Jalen Mackie led UMass in tackles last season, defensive lineman Marcus Cushnie was a captain and Cameron Sullivan-Brown was the Minutemen’s best receiver.

Even with all those holes, no problem was more obvious than the quarterback position, dating back to 2019. A revolving door of 11 QBs had a shot, none having any real success. Brown brought in three quarterbacks for his upcoming class: Former Clemson and Georgia Tech transfer Taisun Phommachanh, Western Carolina transfer Carlos Davis and high school recruit Ahmad Hatson.

“We think [Hatson is] the perfect guy for us in terms of fit at quarterback,” Brown said. “Long-term wise, we feel really good about him. Carlos Davis is a much more experienced guy, a guy that can provide leadership in the room … And then you got Taisun Phommachanh, who’s a New England guy, guy we love,”

“We feel like we’ve addressed the quarterback position the way it needed to be addressed. Coupled with Brady Olson as our fourth guy, we feel like that room is completely done over.”

Brown left out four of the five quarterbacks from this past seasons team, putting their role and futures in question. While we’ve seen Gino Campiotti, Garrett Dzuro and Lamar Wise in chunks, one quarterback that wasn’t acknowledged by Brown who hasn’t played yet is Chase Brewster. Brewster redshirted this season after coming in as a 3-star prospect (per 247 Sports), allowing the freshman time to grow into his lean 6-feet 5-inch frame. What Brown said about the quarterbacks on National Signing Day might not be verbatim, but definitely something worth paying attention to.

Six of Brown’s 18 transfers came from the University of Arizona, where Brown recruited most of those players when he was defensive coordinator during the 2021 season. For linebacker Tyler Martin, it’s his third time committing to a team Don Brown is coaching, but this upcoming season is his first time playing under him. Martin committed to Michigan in September of 2020 when Brown was the defensive coordinator. Martin then decommitted once Brown was fired before committing to Arizona a year after his first commitment. Martin signed with Arizona, but redshirted his freshman season and now finally gets his chance with Brown.

“When you’re genuine with players and tell them the truth, those things can happen,” Brown said of recruiting players multiple times. “Guys will tend to follow you because they think you can get them where they need to go.”

Aside from quarterback, when asked what position was most improved upon by the players he brought in, Brown mentioned wide receiver. Wideout Anthony Simpson was one of the Arizona transfers, specializing in kick returns while there. Mark Pope is the other officially signed receiver, who has one year of eligibility remaining after three years at Miami and one at Jackson State. He caught one pass last season, but as a junior for the Hurricanes Pope caught 33 for 403 yards and two touchdowns. Appalachian State transfer Christian Wells and Stony Brook transfer Shawn Harris round out the receiving core from this recruiting class.

Along with losing the aforementioned seniors, UMass also lost left tackle Max Longman, who was considered the Minutemen’s best offensive lineman. Longman transferred to Indiana under offensive coordinator and former UMass coach Walt Bell, who recruited him to Amherst. Brown has three lineman in this class so far but plans on signing two more lineman for next season.

Brown brought in an additional four Power-5 players, all of which are defensive players. Deshaun Jerkins (Ole Miss), Jalen Harrell (Miami) and Steven Ortiz are all listed as safeties. Shambre Jackson (Florida State) redshirted his freshman season after playing in two games, he was rated as a 4-star prospect (per 247 sports) coming out of high school.

Joey Aliberti can be reached via email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JosephAliberti1.

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