UMass football lands 12 on first day of early signing period

  • UMass football coach Mark Whipple runs onto the field with his team prior to a game against Appalachian State at McGuirk Stadium, Oct. 28. Whipple signed 10 players on the first day of the early signing period. GAZETTE STAFF/Caroline O’Connor

  • Jaret Pallotta, a senior quarterback from Canton, Ohio, poses with family and friends after signing with UMass Wednesday. COURTESY JARET PALLOTTA

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

AMHERST — The UMass football program added 12 players Wednesday, the first day of the first early signing period.

UMass is expecting/hoping to add more players before 11:59 p.m. Friday, when the signing period ends. Coach Mark Whipple, who is recovering from knee surgery, isn’t discussing his recruiting class publicly until Thursday.

The class included eight defensive and four offensive players. Nine of the 13 players 247Sports had listed as verbal commitments to UMass, signed. Three Canadian players — wide receiver Samuel Emilus (6-feet-1, 200 pounds), linebacker Darren Kyeremeh (6-0, 230) and defensive end Arnold Mbembe (6-6, 240) — who hadn’t been previously announced, signed. All three came from Vanier College in Montreal, the same high school program that produced freshman defensive back Tyrus Lebeau.

UMass signed two quarterbacks. Josiah Johnson (6-5, 197) was the first player to sign. The Floridian’s letter of intent became official shortly after the starting gun went off for the first early signing day at 7 a.m. Jaret Pallotta (6-5, 205), an Ohio quarterback who was the first player to commit to the class in June, joined him later in the morning. If every QB stays, the Minutemen will have six on scholarship for the 2018 season.

Parker Ogle (6-3, 290), an offensive lineman from Palm Gardens, Florida, was the other new addition on offense.

East Longmeadow’s Elijah Johnson (5-11, 194) won’t have to go far to continue his football career as he’ll join the Minutemen’s defensive backfield.

UMass added four linebackers. In addition to Kyeremeh, the Minutemen signed two Floridians — Da’Shon Ross (5-11, 210) of Moore Haven and Michael Nesmith (5-10, 190) of Hallandale — and Los Angeles product Darian Green (5-11, 217).

Philadelphia native Timothy Moulton (6-3, 240) and Texas native Dennis Osagiede (6-1, 290) will help offset UMass considerable losses on the defensive line.

Four players who had verbally committed to UMass — receiver Uchenna Ezewike, athlete Trey Jones, offensive lineman Patrick Walsh and running back Rashard Jackson — haven’t signed yet. It’s unclear whether they intend to sign during the early period. There can be a variety of reasons for delayed signing. In some cases, players who are under 18 need to wait for a parent to sign their letter, which causes a delay in faxing the letter. That’s happened many times in basketball.

In other cases, not signing marks a change of heart.

Jones’ Twitter bio still lists him as a “UMASS FOOTBALL COMMIT” but he didn’t tweet anything one way or the other about signing Wednesday.

Jackson, who tweeted a picture of himself with UMass running backs coach Darrius Smith last week from a home visit, had no mention of his status on Twitter.

Ezewike’s Twitter avatar is a picture of him in a UMass uniform. There is also a week-old pinned tweet atop his account showing the same picture announcing his commitment. But while he retweeted signing day tweets Wednesday, there’s no reference to his own signing status.

Patrick Walsh, an offensive lineman from Holden who previous had tweeted a picture of himself in a UMass uniform, now has “Harvard Football ‘22” listed in his Twitter bio. He didn’t tweet an announcement of committing to the Crimson.

Whether verbally committed player would sign during the early period was a source of curiosity throughout the sport as several questions will be answered during the next two days.

What percentage of players would formalize their commitment in December?

UMass, which signed 22 players in February and 30 in 2016, signed 12 so far.

For teams outside the Power Five conferences, would the early period be beneficial? Bigger schools were less likely to make a late offer to a recruit who was committed to a Group of Five school before the December date than they were in February.

By that logic, there might be less poaching of committed players.

Would recruits who have given verbal commitments to Group of Five schools not sign early in hopes that a Power Five school might offer later? Would the bigger schools attempt to convince some players not to sign with lesser programs to keep them as possible backup plans? The answers to those are still playing themselves out.

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