(Photo via masslive.com)
Ever since their switch to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (1-A) in 2012, The UMass Minutemen’s football team has struggled mightily to earn any sort of credibility, or even many wins during this 4-year stretch. Over the past 4 years in the MAC conference, the Minutemen have a combined 8-40 record, and Coach Mark Whipple has struggled to find any sort of consistency with his team. However, perhaps looking for a new and fresh start, the football team has announced that it will play as an independent for the 2016 and 2017 seasons until they find a suitable conference. This in-between-conference period for the Minutemen could prove to be the catalyst for positive changes throughout the program as this past week’s national signing day is slated to become the best in the school’s football history. This is especially impressive for the program, considering they had to compete with other schools who are in conferences where battling for the conference championships is extremely appealing to these college recruits.
This 2016 class is headed by a 3-star recruit, QB Andrew Ford, who began his career at Virginia Tech, and was a last-second commitment to the class that already had tons of talent. At 6’3” and 205 lbs., Ford is expected to compete with Ross Comis and James Sosinski for the starting job, although many indications would suggest that he would not have come here if he did not expect to start for the Minutemen. He got offers from other big-name schools like the California Golden Bears, along with Nebraska and West Virginia. If Ford gets the starting job, which I think he will, he will be able to play alongside another 2016 recruit, WR Brennon Dingle. This speedster on the outside is 5’10” and 170 lbs., and was even receiving offers from big-name football programs like Ohio State, Maryland, and Penn State. Like former UMass receiver standout Tajae Sharpe, Dingle will be able to contribute right away for the Minutemen and his presence should be felt very early on in the 2016 season. On the defensive side of the ball, UMass signed 6-foot-7, 250lb defensive linemen, Larnel Coleman. This sturdy, big man prospect from Malden, MA has the ability to play either defensive end or defensive tackle.
In all, the UMass football team managed to bring in 25 commitments, 15 of which were 3-star recruits, and they have rose up national recruiting rankings. According to 247Sports.com, which does extensive recruiting analysis for the NCAA, the UMass class is now ranked 80th in the nation. While 80th doesn’t seem too high for a college program, considering the tumultuous seasons that UMass has faced in recent years, this is a homerun for the school. With this strong class coming in next fall, Coach Whipple now has all of the pieces he needs to put together a strong 2016 campaign and hopefully propel UMass football onto the national stage for years to come.
– J. Yellin