Miller: Minutemen add foundational pieces on early signing day

One of the realities of the rapidly shifting college football landscape is that the early signing period does not carry the weight that it once did.   

The Transfer Portal brings a concept of a team getting instant contributions instead of waiting (and hoping) for a kid to develop. High School recruiting has undoubtedly taken a step back in the eyes of every program across the country. 

Early Signing day used to be one of the best days on the calendar for College Football fans. Teams could get bragging rights over rivals for flipping a recruit, struggling teams can be given a beacon of hope by a big-time signing. Most importantly, it saw hundreds of kids see years of hard work pay off and finally reach the next level. Some of the best news stories of the year were when a kid would fake out his hat and make a shocking choice of school, and the reaction of the parents was priceless.

Yes, Signing Day isn’t what it once was, but it still creates building blocks for a program, and when you’re a team coming off a 3-9 season like the Minutemen, building blocks are crucial. Let’s take a look at Early Signing Day and the 10 names that will now call Amherst their home. 

RB DA’MARION ALBERIC

Alberic comes from West Palm Beach, Florida, and joins UMass as a 247Sports 3-star recruit, choosing the Minutemen over Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Tennessee State. Alberic played for Atlantic High School,  where in 2 seasons he racked up over 1,450 rushing yards in his two-year Varsity career, averaging 7.3 yards per career. Playing in Palm Beach County, one of the top divisions in Florida, Alberic led Atlantic to a 9-4 record, including a trip to the regional Quarterfinals. Running track as well, Speed is going to be the name of the game for Alberic, who has the potential to play a versatile role with the Minutemen.

UMass HC Don Brown on Alberic: “He’s a lightning in-a-bottle player”

OL TANNER BURLINGAME

Tanner Burlingame hails from Endwell NY, and comes in not only as a 3 Star recruit, but 247 Sports ranked him as the 13th best player in the State of NY. A 4 year varsity player on both sides of the ball, the 6’5 270 Pound OT had interest from Syracuse and Pitt before signing on with the Minutemen. Burlingame is used to a winning culture as well, winning back-to-back NYSPHSAA championships in 2021-22, and losing in the championship game last year. 

Brown on Burlingame: “Comes from an outstanding program, we’re excited to get him to play tackle for Alex Miller”

WR Kezion Dia-Johnson 

Kezion Dia-Johnson is traveling cross country to join the Minutemen. From Arizona, the 3-star recruit held offers from Oregon, Oregon State, and Arizona among other Power 5 schools. In his HS career, the 6’0 receiver caught 112 passes for 1,855 yards and 24 TDs. In a somewhat surprising decision, Johnson had multiple teammates commit to Kansas but chose to forge his own path and sign with UMass. Ranking as the 3rd highest-rated player to ever commit for the Minutemen, this could be argued as the crown jewel of Early Signing Day for Don Brown and company.

Brown on Dia-Johnson: “I saw some Twitter feed today where they ranked him as the 3rd highest HS commit from UMass, obviously a very very very good player”

Viper JADRIAN GIBBS

Gibbs is a JUCO signing out of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, where the Hugo, OK native was ranked as a 3-star JUCO recruit. Playing one season for Oklahoma A&M, Gibbs recorded 20 tackles, with 9 of them coming in the final game of the year. Showing his versatility, Gibbs also recorded a sack and blocked a kick last season for the Rockets.

Brown on Gibbs: “This is a guy that we’ll expect a lot from, his versatility is his strength”

QB AJ HAIRSTON

Another Florida commit, AJ Hairston comes to Amherst as a 3-star recruit, choosing UMas over offers from Miami, Western Carolina, and Western Michigan. Playing for Monarch HS, Hairston racked up the accolades, being selected to the all-county team three times and the All-State team twice. He capped off his HS career by being named the Sun Sentinel Broward County player of the year, throwing for 2,571 yards and 22 TDs as a Senior. A ground threat as well, his style is the exact type of QB that Offensive Coordinator Steve Casula is looking for. With Carlos Davis and Brady Olsen at Towson and Central Connecticut State next season, Hairston could end up fighting with Ahmad Haston for the backup QB job.

Brown on Hairston: “Dual Threat guy, a guy that can really run as well. We try to sign a Freshman each year and I think we got a good one”

TE LUDOVIC MARTIN  

In the rare case of heading south to Play for UMass, Ludovic Martin is originally from Montreal before playing at Clearwater Academy International in Florida. A 3-star recruit, Martin had offers from Arkansas State, FAU, and Maryland on the table. In his senior season, Martin had 28 receptions for 351 yards and 3 touchdowns on the year. With the departure of Gino Campiotti, Martin could be in line for a chance at some real snaps next season.

Brown on Martin: “We’re excited on what this guy can bring to our offense, a good pass catcher from the TE position, those guys are hard to find 

WR KENYON MASSEY

From Newark, NJ, Kenyon Massey is a 3-star recruit out of Paramus Catholic. A top 50 recruit in the state, Massey totaled 2,006 receiving yards and 21 TDs in his career.  Most recently, Massey made the All-Bergen County team in his senior season. Having held offers from Syracuse, Marshall, and Akron. The New Jersey to UMass pipeline is strong, with NFL players Victor Cruz and Tajae Sharpe making their way from Jersey to Amherst to the next level.

Brown on Massey: “A really polished receiver…no stranger to the ball, he’s a guy you want to get the ball in his hand”

DB KEITH SARKODIEH

The only signing from Massachusetts, Keith Sarkodieh is from Worcester and played at Worcester Academy. Sarkodieh played on both sides of the field for Worcester Academy as both a DB and a WR. On the defensive side of the ball, he had 31 total tackles and an INT in both his junior and senior seasons. On the offensive side of the ball, he was a deep threat, averaging 20.7 yards per catch and averaging around 62 yards per game. 

Brown on Sarkodieh: “Right down the road, he’s about 10 minutes from where I was born…he has outstanding coverage ability, could play corner, could play safety”

OL BROCK TAYLOR

Brock Taylor comes out of Atlee High School in Hanover, Virginia, and is rated as a 3-star recruit. The OG chose the Minutemen over UConn, Army, and Buffalo, showing that UMass is growing as a recruitment option in the Northeast region. Taylor was also a Track and Field Star, making the state championships as a Junior in both Discus and Shotput. If you’re on X as well, be sure to check out his account, as he’s a great follow if you’re a fan of the Minutemen.

Brown on Taylor: “Thick, Strong, great leverage, loves to finish. Those guys are hard to find so we’re excited we got one”

DE BRAHIM WYNN

Rounding out early signing day is Brahim Wynn, another New Jersey native who played at Timber Creek. Wynn was the number 38 overall recruit in New Jersey and chose the Minutemen over offers from Toledo, UConn, and Maryland. Wynn had 11 sacks as a senior, including 5 in a single game, to go with 47 solo tackles and 5 forced fumbles. 

Brown on Wynn: “You know I’m gonna lean to this guy, and I’m excited about what he brings to the table from his pass rush ability”

Kyle Miller is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts (‘23) and co-host of the Outside Amherst Podcast. Kyle recently joined Draftkings, working out of their HQ in Boston. 

Follow Kyle: @kylemiller_pxp

Follow the Outside Amherst Podcast: @OutsideAmherst

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