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UMass football adds five more recruits on national signing day

  • UMass football coach Mark Whipple talks about his incoming recruiting class at a signing day event on Wednesday. Thom Kendall Photography



@MattVautourDHG
Wednesday, February 07, 2018

AMHERST — As had been anticipated, the presence of the new December signing period made the traditional February signing day less impactful.

UMass announced five new members of the 2018 class Wednesday, joining the 14 who signed in December.

“We got a lot of talent. We got a little longer (taller),” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “The coaches did a really good job.”

UMass recruiting coordinator Charles Walker thought the two signing days benefited the Minutemen.

“There was more anxiety about the first signing day,” he said. “Today was more patchwork and filling in the holes. We signed a couple specialists. I feel good and confident about our guys. For us, a mid-major program, I think it’s a lot easier. After this first year with the early signing period, we’re already talking strategy for next year.”

UMass filled two glaring needs on special teams, adding a kicker/punter and a long snapper to fill graduation-created holes at those positions.

Cooper Garcia, who played last year at Ventura College, a JUCO in California, can kick and punt. The Ojai, California, native was 59-for-59 on extra points and 15-for-20 on field goals in 2017. He made a 49-yard field goal in the final game of the season. Whipple hoped to add preferred walk-ons at kicker and punter or another player who can do both.

Long snapper Evan Deckers played at Avon Old Farms and impressed college coaches at a handful of specialist showcases.

The Minutemen added two player from Maryland. Rashard Jackson, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound running back is from Upper Marlboro and was ranked as the No. 2 back in the state by 247Sports. He choose UMass over an offer from Memphis and interest from a handful of Power 5 schools.

Joshua Jefferson, a 6-3, 295-pound lineman who’ll likely play center, chose UMass over offers from Buffalo, UConn and Syracuse among others. He played at St. John’s College High School and is a classmate of Minuteman basketball recruit Tre Wood. Jefferson was rated as a three-star by 247Sports.

Texan Shannon Junior II (6-3, 210) is listed as a defensive lineman/athlete. Rated as a two-star by 247, he had interest from several FBS schools including Army, Baylor and Colorado State.

Whipple said he wasn’t counting on more scholarship signees, but didn’t rule it out.

“There are some guys we’re talking to,” Whipple said. “There are some things up in the air if something happens.”

Some preferred walk-ons announced their intention to attend UMass via Twitter Wednesday, but they’re not officially considered part of the signing class.

SCHEDULE ADDITIONS — UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford confirmed the addition of several games to future Minuteman schedules. The scheduling agreement with Army, which had previously been for four seasons, is now 10. The two independents will play every year from 2019-2028. The series with Liberty has gone from two years to eight years. UMass and the Flames will play each season from 2018 to 2025.

The Minutemen will also begin a home-and-home series with former MAC rival Akron. The Zips will come to Amherst in 2019 and UMass will go to Ohio in 2020. The deal also includes as home-and-home basketball series. Dates for all of those will be officially announced late.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage