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UMass football program welcomes 19 recruits on signing day

Head coach Charley Molnar and the University of Massachusetts football team welcomed 19 recruits on signing day Wednesday.

Head coach Charley Molnar and the University of Massachusetts football team welcomed 19 recruits on signing day Wednesday. Purchase photo reprints »

The University of Massachusetts football program officially added 19 players to its program Wednesday, including a rare recruit from Germany, but signing day drama will extend at least another day.

Lorenzo Woodley III, the highly regarded running back from Miami who has UMass among his finalists, tweeted at 10:47 a.m. that he wouldn’t be signing anywhere on Wednesday.

“We have saved some spots in our recruiting class if there’s another high school player available after the signing date,” said Molnar, who added that he’d be interested in adding a speed back, which would describe Woodley.

Ricardo Miller wasn’t officially added and under NCAA rules can’t be until this summer when he enrolls at UMass. The wide receiver follows Michael Cox as the second Michigan transfer to become a Minuteman under the NCAA’s fifth-year transfer rule.

“We have one fifth-year transfer and we have our targets set on one or two more,” Molnar said.

Miller didn’t have a catch in three seasons for the Wolverines.

Molnar used his signing day press conference to lash out at some members of the faculty senate who have publicly criticized UMass’ upgrade to the Bowl Subdivision.

“Of the difficulties we encountered this year in recruiting, the most obvious and most glaring was the faculty senate and their decision to put out in the media and in the general public a sense of indecision about the university’s decision to move to (FBS) football,” Molnar said. “Some of the after affects of that were dealt with very quickly and effectively by athletic director John McCutcheon, who got on the phone with several of our recruits to calm the storm. Also our chancellor (Kumble Subbaswamy) came and spoke to our staff and reiterated his commitment to move forward in I-A football.”

During the recruiting process, the Minutemen lost commitments to Connecticut and Temple.

“We want to battle (for recruits) with the BCS schools, but I don’t know if you consider Temple and UConn BCS schools after next season,” said Molnar in reference to the Big East’s diminished status under the new postseason rules beginning in 2014. “But we want to be fighting UConn, Temple, Rutgers, Syracuse and Boston College for every kid in the Northeast.”

Molnar said fortifying his offensive line was a priority during recruiting. In addition to Sam Zeff, Cameron Mock and Josh Bruns, who enrolled last month, the Minutemen added five offensive linemen.

Offensive recruits

e_STnSFabian Höller played for the Cologne Falcons in Germany. Originally committed to Wyoming, the 6-foot-3, 301-pound center committed to UMass after visiting last weekend. The two-time German national team captain plans to study molecular engineering.

He was the only recruit who hadn’t given a verbal commitment to UMass.

“We think he’s an outstanding football player,” said Molnar, who explained that they were originally alerted to Höller by another friend in coaching. “We think he can really help us at the center position.”

e_STnSTerrel Correia, who could potentially play defensive line, is a 6-7, 280-pound Nantucket High School product.

e_STnSTyshon Henderson, a 6-7, 315-pound Newark native, is one of five recruits from New Jersey. He attended St. George’s School in Rhode Island.

e_STnSJordan Page, a 6-5, 300-pound Ewing, N.J., product, was an all-state prep selection after playing on the Pennington School’s offensive line which didn’t allow a sack.

e_STnSRich Queen is from tradition-rich Bergen Catholic (N.J.). The 6-3, 275-pound Alendale native was the 2012 UnderClassmen New Jersey Best Lineman.

e_STnSQuarterback Todd Stafford is almost big enough to play on the offensive line. UMass lists the Riverside, Conn., native at 6-7, 250 pounds.

“We think he is a phenomenal prospect for us,” Molnar said. “He has a major league arm. This guy looks like an NFL quarterback walking into the room and carries himself with great confidence. He’s coming in thinking he’s going to compete for a job and I’m not going to dissuade him from that.”

e_STnSUMass added wide receivers E.J. Burston and Shaquille Harris from Palmetto High School in Bradenton, Fla.

The 6-3, 170-pound Burston caught 25 passes for 565 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. The 6-2, 260-pound Harris caught 41 passes for 586 yards and 10 scores. He was also a sprinter and high jumper.

e_STnSD.J. Woods gives the Minutemen a third receiver from Florida. The 5-9, 170-pound Coral Springs product caught 35 passes for 349 yards and three touchdowns.

e_STnSSharif Custis, a 6-3, 215-pound Philadelphia native, was named the top tight end at the 2012 Nike SPARQS Football Combine.

e_STnSAt 6-1, 247 pounds, Daquan Mack’s “Mack Truck” nickname is more than just a play on his name. The Levittown, Pa., native, who rushed for over 2,000 yards in his career, is a big back who can run between the tackles.

Defensive recruits

Molnar admitted he’d hoped to land more defensive linemen, but wasn’t willing to sacrifice quality to get them.

“We set a pretty high bar for what we look at on the defensive line,” Molnar said. “There were only a few guys that were gettable that were above that line. We got some and we lost some. We didn’t want to lower our standards and have a player you can’t play championship football with.”

e_STnSSilver Spring native Peter Angeh was named first-team All-Maryland as a senior. The 6-2, 245-pound lineman from the Bullis School had 71 tackles, including 211∕2 for a loss, and 91∕2 sacks en route to defensive MVP honors for his league. A black belt in Kung Fu, Angeh had offers from Cincinnati, Temple and a handful of Mid-American Conference schools.

 At 6-2, 260 pounds, Trenton, N.J., product Enock Asanteearned the Mercer County “Fuzzy” Falzone Award, which is presented to the area’s top lineman.

e_STnSElijah Wilkinson is the biggest defensive lineman in the class. The 6-4, 310-pound Downingtown, Pa., product was named to the Philadelphia Inquirer All-Southeastern Second-Team.

e_STnSSteve Casali was a standout two-way player at Sachem East High School in Farmingdale, N.Y. The 6-2, 225-pounder is expected to play linebacker at UMass after amassing 104 tackles as a senior. He earned All-Long Island honors and the Hansen Award for the best player in Suffolk County.

e_STnSBasking Ridge, N.J., linebacker Shane Huber briefly decommitted from UMass following the faculty senate’s attacks on the football program. He recommitted shortly after.

e_STnSPeter Ngobidi was a teammate of UMass freshman quarterback A.J. Doyle at Catholic Memorial. The 6-2, 260-pound Hyde Park native could potentially play defensive line, but is more likely to begin his career at linebacker. He had 68 tackles and 12 sacks as a senior.

e_STnSJackson Porter fills UMass’ desire for a tall and fast cornerback. The 6-1, 185-pound Ellicott City, Md., native had 100 tackles and four interceptions as a senior and runs the 100 and 200 meters on Mount Hebron High School’s track team.

 Defensive back Arthur Williams committed to UMass after visiting last weekend. The 6-2, 260-pound Sebring, Fla., native could play safety or corner. He had 45 tackles, six interceptions, a blocked punt and two touchdowns as senior.

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

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