July 8 MVP: MassVarsity Pre-and-Post

We saw and retweeted a tweet from Maxpreps.com the other day that reported that Massachusetts had four top 500-ranked players in the 2020 class, according to 247sports.com.

The tweet showed a map of the U.S. with the number of players in that ranking window for each state.

The four Bay Staters represented are Milton Academy's Kalel Mullings, Milford's Kevin Pyne, BB&N's Zak Zinter, and St. John's of Shrewsbury's Eamonn Dennis. Mullings, an outside linebacker/running back committed to Michigan, is ranked the No. 147 overall prospect in the class. Pyne, an offensive tackle committed to Boston College, checks in at No. 225. Zinter, an offensive lineman committed to Michigan, is at No. 272. Finally, Dennis, a wide receiver/cornerback/athlete committed to Michigan as well, is at 493.

These numbers put Massachusetts tied with or ahead of 27 other states. It is notable that a football hotbed like Pennsylvania, for instance, only has two, while the Bay State is also ahead of Hawaii (3), Indiana (3), New York (3), and Arkansas (2), and tied with Oklahoma.

Even further, though, is how close Massachusetts is to posting an even bigger number. BC High's Ozzy Trapilo, an offensive tackle committed to BC, is ranked at No. 502 overall, with Nobles tight end/defensive end Cam Large at No. 569.

Bishop Feehan tight end Caleb Fauria, a Colorado commit, and St. John's of Shrewsbury wide receiver Jay Brunelle, a Notre Dame commit, check in at Nos. 778 and 798, respectively.

That's not to even mention all the other players behind them who could be moved up or down over the course of the rankings cycle who have offers or have already made verbal commitments to schools.

Of course, one can always say that these rankings don't mean all that much, and that once a player gets to campus, everyone starts at zero again. We understand that line of thinking, and know that all of this is very subjective.

Still, that's not necessarily the entire point. Really what it comes down to is a level of respect for Massachusetts players that has not always been there when it comes to these matters.

Although there have been times in Massachusetts recruiting where the state had a fair amount of respect, it took a significant dip in the age of websites like Rivals.com, Scout.com, and 247. Essentially, Massachusetts and New England in general suffered from the same regional bias as you see in other parts of the country where those websites do not dedicate as many resources.

It makes a certain amount of sense. In places like the Southeast, Midwest, Southwest and West Coast, those websites will put more employees in places where there are larger hotbeds of talent. It just makes more financial sense to do so.

Also, a lot of those services to most of their evaluations off their own camps and combines, and not many Massachusetts players always participate in events like that.

But that has started to change, and the players here are earning the respect they deserve not just in those arenas, but by doing well once they hit college campuses. We will soon delve a little more into why this is happening, but the fact of the matter is that players here are willing themselves into the national spotlight.

That is not something that happens overnight, and the players and coaches who guide them both during the fall and in the offseason deserve a ton of credit for turning the tide.

Ringing the Bell

It is still early, but if you're a UMass fan, you cannot be any happier with what first-year coach Walt Bell and his staff are putting together with this 2020 recruiting class.

Look, we loved what Bell was able to do in such a short amount of time with his 2019 class, particularly with local products, keeping Mashpee defensive lineman Xavier Gonsalves in the fold and grabbing Everett defensive lineman Wilson Frederic at the last minute.

But what Bell has been able to do so far has been even better. Start with the fact that he jumped all over the local recruits with a bevy of offers to not just 2020 players, but 2021s. It resulted in four verbal commits from players who are either from Massachusetts or play their prep ball here.

As with every class, you want to build up the lines and nab your quarterback. Bell has done both, with three linemen and strong-armed quarterback Brady Martin, a Leominster native who plays at Lawrence Academy.

This week alone, Bell secured verbals from cornerback Osei Dixon (St. Vincent Pallotti/Laurel, Md.) and athlete Freddie Brock (East/Rochester, N.Y.).

Dixon marks the fifth player from the Maryland/D.C./Virginia area to join the class. The DMV is one of the best spots to draw from for talent on the East Coast, and as we've mentioned before in this space, Bell and Co. have been extremely successful there.

Also, the rankings are sure to fluctuate over the next few months, but right now the Minutemen check in at 80th in the nation on 247's composite list.

Keep in mind, Brock has yet to be rated by the service, so that number for the current class could tick up.

For perspective, in the last six cycles, the Minutemen have finished in the top 100 just once, and that 2016 class right now has a lower rating than the 2020 one.

Long story short, Bell's doing great things on the trail, and regardless of what happens on the field this year, UMass fans have reason to be optimistic.

Big fella

Speaking of UMass, the Minutemen just extended a 2021 offer to Holyoke two-way lineman Kevin Jourdain last week.

We've been able to see Jourdain a fair amount this offseason, and we believe his recruitment will pick up even more after this first domino has fallen.

At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Jourdain moves well and has a future at the Football Bowl Subdivision at either defensive end or on the offensive line, depending on how he develops.

This is just another example of the amount of talent in Western Mass. starting to burst at the seams, and colleges are noticing it more and more.

Tucker passes

Former Nashoba Regional coach Ken Tucker passed away this past week. The legendary Chieftains coach compiled a career record of 189-94-1, with 10 league titles and three Super Bowl crowns.

Although we only had limited interactions with him over the years, Tucker was always a class act, and helped lay the foundation for one of the top programs in the state.

His son, Jamie, is now the head man at Nashoba, and both on and off the field continues to carry on his father's legacy with grace.

Our thoughts are with both him and the rest of the Tucker family.

New leader at Feehan

As the Boston Herald's Dan Ventura reported this past week, Bryan Pinabell is stepping down from his coaching position at Malden Catholic to take over at Bishop Feehan.

Pinabell steps into a good situation at the Attleboro school. Feehan not only returns Fauria, but what should be a solid offensive line and a decent amount of overall experience.

Look for Feehan to be in the mix among the contenders in the always-loaded Division 3 South bracket this fall.

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