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UMass football lands prized running back Lorenzo Woodley

Early last week, the University of Massachusetts wasn’t really even on Lorenzo Woodley’s radar. But some early offseason coaching shifts at BCS conference schools he was considering, led to some changes in those program’s recruiting priorities.

The UMass coaching staff pounced quickly, scheduling a visit last weekend with the Miami running back, who was rated a consensus three-star from all of the major recruiting services. Woodley liked the staff, the campus and the opportunity to play early. On Thursday he signed with UMass.

Just after 10 a.m., Woodley tweeted his decision: “With much thought and prayer I have decided to sign with the University of Massachusetts! #UMass, #Minutemen, #ZooMass”

UMass coach Charley Molnar said things came together fast.

“He was available and we had a need. He had a number of options on the table and some of them were pretty compelling to him. He was very highly recruited,” Molnar said. “We happened to catch him at a moment in time were some of the things he was most interested in didn’t seem so promising. We got him up on a visit and showed him that we had a definite plan for him for how he could help our football team and how we could help him in the classroom and on the field.”

Woodley was excited about his decision.

“The opportunity UMass had for me, the relationship with the coaches, their willingness to wait an extra day for me showed how much they wanted me and I appreciated that a lot,” he said. “I’m happy with the opportunity I have there to come in and contribute to the team early.”

Woodley, who also considered Cincinnati and South Florida, liked the idea of being part of an up-and-coming program.

“If I could be the person that helps change the program around, I’ll be extremely happy and feel like I accomplished something,” Woodley said.

Molnar thought Woodley had star potential.

“He has great leg drive, excellent vision. He runs with power and is also shifty. He’s 200 pounds and looks skinny,” Molnar said. “With some time in the weight room, he’ll be a 220-pound running back by the time his career is over. He has excellent feet and great contract balance. He has the makings of being a championship running back.”

Signing Woodley is a milestone occasion for the Minutemen from a fan interest standpoint. When the school was in the Championship Subdivision, the only recruits most UMass supporters paid any attention to were transfers from Bowl Subdivision schools. Even then fans were only interested after the player came on board.

Woodley was the first high school player, who UMass was recruiting, that fans in great numbers paid attention to during the process, the first one they monitored, hoping he’d sign.

On Tuesday night, UMass fans sent scores of tweets to Woodley encouraging him to choose the Minutemen. It showed the early stages in the evolution of UMass’ fan base and the growing role of social media in the recruiting process. Woodley said that influenced his decision.

“It showed how badly the school wanted me. It helped a lot. It showed me I’d be happy when I go up there,” Woodley said. “It made me feel like I’m what they needed.”

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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