Updated: Dec 22, 2018
Over the offseason, many of our conversations with high school coaches here centered around what a program like UMass could do to bring in the top local talent.
Overwhelmingly, the answer was to be the first school to offer a scholarship. In the case of the Minutemen, it makes the most sense.
Well, UMass has a few disadvantages built in compared to a place like Boston College. There are obvious examples, but UMass not playing in a major conference, or any conference at all, can be a hindrance. The Minutemen, to say the least, also don't have a stellar game day atmosphere at the moment.
However, being the program to get out in front and send the message of, "We wanted you when no one else did" can resonate with a prospect, and get you in a position where others might not.
That brings us to this past week, where UMass sent out first offers or re-affirmed already standing ones to players from Massachusetts who are still juniors, sophomores, or freshmen.
Coach Walt Bell and the Minutemen did so with the following (in alphabetical order): wide receiver Jay Brunelle of St. John's of Shrewsbury; his teammate and fellow receiver Eamonn Dennis; Cambridge native and Suffield Academy wide receiver Jaden Dottin; Hingham tight end Cole Finney; Noble and Greenough athlete and tight end Cam Large; Lawrence Academy quarterback Brady Martin; BB&N linebacker Tyler Martin; Milton Academy outside linebacker and running back Kalel Mullings; BC High offensive tackle Ozzy Trapilo; and BB&N offensive tackle Zak Zinter.
Some of these offers, as stated, were already on the table from the previous staff, and some of these players have offers from Power 5 programs that will be tough for UMass to beat out.
But in the cases of Brunelle, Finney, and Martin, to the best of our knowledge, these are the first Football Bowl Subdivision offers for each player.
That's significant, and each recruit remembers the initial one of that caliber.
It's a smart strategy by Bell, who stressed in his first meeting with local media the importance of winning the battles for players who are within a radius of Amherst that can make multiple visits to campus.
Another aspect of Bell's strategy we have picked up along the way is that he fully intends to make the walk-on program a major aspect of building the program. In other words, he knows that the Joey Coltons of the world can also emerge from this state to contribute in a big way.
Whether or not these pan out into eventual commitments is one thing, but the larger tone Bell has set of being aggressive early and often with in-state talent can only be a positive as he moves forward, and it is something coaches here want to see.
Since the publishing of this article, Bell made yet another offer to a Class of 2020 Massachusetts prospect in North Attleboro offensive lineman Ethan Mottinger. It is his first Division 1 offer, to the best of our knowledge.