National Signing Day: Three Power 5 transfers help complete UMass football’s 2021 class

  • The UMass football team finished its 2021 recruiting class by signing seven players on National Signing Day on Wednesday. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/3/2021 6:17:08 PM

The finishing touches of the UMass football team’s 2021 recruiting class fell into place early Wednesday.

There wasn’t much work to do on National Signing Day after the Minutemen inked 15 players during December’s early signing period.

“We’re exactly where we want to be. The second signing day in college football is becoming a bit more anticlimactic every year,” UMass head coach Walt Bell said. “The early signing period takes a big dent out of it.”

The Minutemen added seven players before 8 a.m., including three transfers from Power 5 programs, to round out the 22-player class. Five are skill-players, including two running backs and two defensive backs. The NCAA approved a one-time immediate transfer rule in December, allowing all transfers to play immediately rather than sitting out a year.

Eleven players will enroll early, Bell said. UMass has three scholarships open. Two are spoken for by players who have verbally committed, but Bell couldn’t comment on them because their haven’t signed National Letters of Intent yet.

“In this year’s class we’ve been able to add a good mix,” Bell said. “We’ve been so young, now we get to add a bit of a veteran presence.”

Sophomore running back Kay’Ron Adams played two seasons at Rutgers, compiling 320 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in 18 games. Jonathan White (Quitman, Ga.) is joining the backfield from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. The redshirt junior gained 544 yards with six touchdowns in 16 games.

Defensive back Bryce Watts sat out the 2019 season at North Carolina due to NCAA transfer rules. The redshirt sophomore from Toms River, N.J., appeared in 25 games at Virginia Tech between 2017 and 2018. He had 29 tackles, seven pass breakups and an interception.

“I remember recruiting him when I was at North Carolina. There had to be a pre-existing relationship,” UMass defensive backs coach Jason Tudryn said. “We knew what we were getting in terms of work ethic.”

Before arriving in Blacksburg, Va., he was the top cornerback in the state of New Jersey and the fifth-ranked corner in the East region by scout.com.

Kenny Dudley is a three-star defensive back from Washington D.C. and the 13th-ranked prospect from the District, according to 247sports. He had interest from Baylor, Wake Forest and West Virginia before deciding on UMass.

“He is fast, he can really go. Got a track background,” Tudryn said. “He’s got a ton of courage. He brings a confidence that I think you need to play at his position.”

Tyler Lytle will join a crowded UMass quarterback room after three seasons at Colorado. The redshirt junior appeared in seven games, three last season. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 55 yards. Lytle enrolled early and will participate in the spring season.

“Any time you get a chance to add an experienced player, one that’s played in big football games to elevate your roster, you’ve got to do it,” Bell said.

The Minutemen had seven quarterbacks on last season’s roster. Five of them threw passes. Mike Fallon entered the transfer portal Monday, and UMass signed Brady Olson, a 6-foot-4 signal caller from Bellingham, during the early signing period. Competition will begin over the next seven weeks until spring practice begins among the quarterbacks already on campus, and the staff will whittle the group down throughout the spring to one or two players.

“The second Brady Olson gets here, he’s going to compete with whoever those guys are,” Bell said.

Michael Fitzgerald will provide some size to the Minutemen’s receiving corps. The 6-foot-5, three-star receiver from Roswell, Ga., scored eight touchdowns last season, catching 27 passes for 520 yards.

“Once you see him do some things on the basketball court, he shows the ability to go up and over the top on someone,” UMass recruiting coordinator Jon Bills said. “You see his coordination, his ball skills, his athleticism.”

Louce Julien is a 6-foot-3 defensive end from Orange, N.J. The three-star recruit had 33 tackles, 12 sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an interception through eight games as a senior.

“Dynamic guy that’s very physical, hard-nosed guy from Jersey. He can play inside, play on the edge,” UMass outside linebackers coach Cato June said. “Guys that can get after the quarterback, guys that can take the ball away, that’s what you’re looking for.”

UMass begins spring practice March 23, and the spring game is scheduled for April 24. The 2021 season kicks off Sept. 4 at Pittsburgh. The Minutemen will host Boston College on Sept. 11 for their home opener, the Eagles’ first visit to Amherst since 1982. UMass also has home games against Eastern Michigan (Sept. 18), Toldeo (Oct. 2), UConn (Oct. 9), Rhode Island (Nov. 6) and Maine (Nov. 13). The Minutemen will travel to Coastal Carolina (Sept. 25), Florida State (Oct. 23), Liberty (Oct. 30), Army (Nov. 20) and New Mexico State (Nov. 27).

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.


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