Feb. 17 MVP: MassVarsity Pre-and-Post

Updated: Feb 18

National Signing Day has come and gone, and with maybe a few exceptions, each school has lined up its classes for the 2020 cycle.


We have been able to see either in film or in person just about all of the local recruits, so we thought we'd give a rundown of the ones who ended up at the area Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision programs.


So, here is a look at each in-state signee for either Boston College, UMass, Harvard, Holy Cross, and Merrimack.


Boston College

Kevin Pyne, OL, 6-7 275, Milford HS

Ozzy Trapilo, OL, 6-7, 275, BC High


Both of these prospects were rated as four stars on 247sports, so they come in as highly-touted. What is important to remember with both of these players is that you should buy stock early and be patient with their development. Pyne is a tall, athletic kid who projects as a left tackle. He has ideal size and length for the position. By the time he is finished developing, he has the physical tools to be everything you want as a blindside protector.


Trapilo is not too different in terms of what he can eventually be. Trapilo is similar size and length qualities, and is another good athlete. Trapilo plays basketball in the winter, and uses that same strong athleticism on the gridiron as he does on the court. Over time, the Eagles must feel like they can bookend their offensive line with these two. It's a strong bit of local recruiting to reel in both, and the Eagles never seem to have a problem with signing quality offensive linemen.


UMass

Josh Atwood, DL, 6-2, 345, Natick HS

Ethan Mottinger, OL, 6-5, 295, North Attleboro HS


There were a lot of needs all over the roster for the Minutemen, but one of the most glaring was size and the ability to stand up at the point of attack against big-time offensive lines. With Atwood, UMass has found not just a space-eater, but someone who can shoot gaps and defeat double teams. All throughout the course of his high school career, Atwood has been able to force his way into opposing backfields. He is a big, yet agile, defensive tackle who has considerable strength. As stated, the interior of the defensive line needs quality depth, and coach Walt Bell has found a player in Atwood who can see the field early.


Just as was the case on the defensive line, UMass needed to get bigger and more physical on the offensive line, too. Enter Mottinger, who is the type of player who thrives as a mauler in the run game. Mottinger is big, but has the frame where he can add more quality weight. He is athletic, and his best trait is his attitude and ability to get nasty as a run blocker. Mottinger's ideal position may be at right tackle. He could also slide in and play guard. No matter where you put him, though, Mottinger is your typical brawler who can mix it up against anyone for four quarters.


Harvard

Mitchell Gonser, ATH, 6-2, 210, Milton Academy


Milton Academy was the best team in the Independent School League this season, and Gonser was a big reason why. As implied with his listed position of athlete, there are a number of different positions Gonser could help Harvard at. At Milton, he did damage both in the secondary and as a wide receiver. Gonser also was an excellent special teams player, and you can see him making an early impact there for the Crimson. Simply put, Gonser is a playmaker. He is a player who thrives in the big moments, as evidenced in his touchdown catch against Governor's Academy this fall that clinched his team's overtime win in one of the best games of the season. Basically, wherever Harvard puts Gonser, he is sure to make a difference.


Holy Cross

Dante Bolden, LB, 6-2, 225, Springfield Central HS

Matthew Duchemin, DB, 6-0, 190, St. John's Prep

Martin Laham, DB, 6-2, 200, Williston Northampton

Hunter Lane, TE, 6-4, 230, Phillips Andover

Bryan Pacific, OL, 6-4, 285, Dexter

Joe Rivers, DB, 6-0, 215, Bishop Fenwick


A huge haul of Bay State players for the Crusaders, who look to build upon a season where they made the FCS Playoffs. Let's start with Bolden, who had a tremendous offseason last year and put himself on the radar of many FBS programs, including Syracuse. Bolden plays fast, and if you put him in the middle of your defense, he's a sideline to sideline tackler who won't let opposing ballcarriers turn the corner. Bolden is also strong defending the pass, and is one of the more complete linebackers in New England. Bolden brings the thunder when he hits you, too, and this is one of the best pickups of any local player.


A year ago, Duchemin was flying under the radar when it came to local recruits. However, Duchemin became one of the best examples of what can happen when you put together a great senior season. Over the course of 2019, Duchemin proved to be one of the most trusted playmakers for St. John's Prep. In a Div. 1 Super Bowl win over Catholic Memorial, Duchemin made two interceptions to help the Prep come away with the victory. Duchemin was as good of a defensive back as any in the state this past season, and Holy Cross coach Bob Chesney was smart enough to see his value and offer him.


Laham is a good example of a kid not giving up on himself and working the hardest he can to make an impact. Laham played at both Dedham High and Xaverian in his high school career, and prepped for a year at Williston Northampton. At Dedham and Xaverian, Laham played quarterback, defensive back and wide receiver. His future with the Crusaders is likely defensive back, and this is an athletic player who can hurt you in a number of different ways.


Lane is another player who benefitted from a post-graduate year. After a tremendous career in the Cape Ann League at Georgetown, Lane went to Phillips Andover. This is a long, athletic pass catcher who can line up in line, as an H-back, split out wide or in the slot and make plays wherever. Lane has good hands and will cause mismatches with his size against those trying to shadow him. Crusader fans will like what they're getting here.


With Pacific, the Crusaders are getting an athletic lineman who can run out and get to the second level and hit moving targets. This is an aggressive, forceful blocker who will be an asset when he steps on the field. Right now, it might be smartest to projects Pacific as a guard, but he could play tackle if you asked him to. This is the type of lineman who is always looking for work, and a smart, athletic blocker.


Unfortunately for Rivers, a blood clot in his calf cut short his senior season. However, it has not meant the end of his career. The Crusaders are happy to have this playmaker, who in the mold of some others in this class, can hurt you in a variety of ways. As a defensive player and safety, Rivers is comfortable dropping down into the box and playing more like a linebacker. He's an interesting chess piece to have, as he has the speed to play in the secondary, and the strength to defend the run. It will be interesting to see how Chesney and Co. use him.


Merrimack

Nolan Gunning, OL, 6-4, 280, King Philip HS

Jakobi Holiday, OL, 6-4, 310, Natick HS

Gilbert Kabamba, DL, 6-2, 290, Milford Academy

Sunny Okunlola, OL, 6-3, 275, East Coast Prep

Hunter Salmon, OL, 6-3, 305, Milford Academy

Matt Sokol, K, 5-11, 165, Catholic Memorial

Quinn Stott, RB, 5-9, 200, Boston College


It was a terrific local haul for Merrimack, which looks to continue its upward trend at the FCS level. Gunning was someone who gained a significant amount of attention as one of the best offensive linemen in the area. Although Gunning came down with a season-ending injury, that did not hurt his reputation. Like so many at his position, Gunning will be able to grow into his body a little more, and his best football is clearly ahead of him. This is a quality pickup for the Warriors.


Holiday is another player who suffered a season-ending injury at the end of 2019, but again, he is one of the top linemen in the area and will have a long career ahead of him. Holiday is a big, mauling lineman who has good feet. Natick had one of the best teams in the state this year, and Holiday was one of the many reasons why. He's a body-mover who should have a fine college career.


Kabamba did a post-grad year at Milford Academy and is already on campus in North Andover. He is an athletic player who can win a lot of fights with this hands when he's battling opposing linemen. Kabamba had a terrific high school career at Everett, and can play on either side of the ball. It appears that Merrimack wants him on defense, and he can make quite the impact there if he continues to develop at the rate he is going now.


One of the bigger pickups for coach Dan Curran and Co. was Okunlola, a Brockton native who prepped at East Coast Prep this past season. Again, Okunlola can play on either side of the ball. He is strong, and he runs well for someone his size. Merrimack will play him on offense, where Okunlola can shine really anywhere on the line. This is an athletic, powerful player who has his best days ahead of him.


Salmon is another payer who benefited from a prep year. He had a terrific career at Catholic Memorial, and this is another player who can make plays on either side of the ball. Merrimack will give him his first look on offense, where Salmon's long reach and quick feet give him an advantage. Salmon can find a home in several spots on the line, but once he settles into a spot he can really make a difference.


Sokol was one of the best kickers in the state in his career with the Knights. It is not out of the realm of his abilities to be kicking 50-yarders. A powerful kicker with good accuracy, Sokol has great range and will be an asset for Curran and Co.


Stott is technically a transfer from Boston College, and is a big pickup Curran and Co. A running back, Stott has explosive speed that can benefit Merrimack immediately. When at Governor's Academy, Stott made his mark as a home-run hitter. Once this player turns the corner, he is gone. Merrimack found an excellent back here who can do big things out of the backfield.

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