UMass Minutemen

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UMass the landing spot for Ex-Syracuse RB Jordan Fredericks

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After leaving one Northeast football program, Jordan Fredericks will continue his collegiate playing career at another.

On his social media accounts Saturday, Fredericks announced he has decided to enroll at UMass and play for the Minutemen.  The running back will have to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Beginning in 2018, he’d have two seasons of eligibility to use.

As a true freshman in 2015, Fredericks led Syracuse in rushing with 607 yards. Under new head coach Dino Babers, Fredericks saw his rush attempts plummet from 107 to 28 in 2016. He ran for 139 yards in what turned out to be his last season with the Orange.

In December, Fredericks announced his decision to transfer.

UMass hires Ed Pinkham as defensive coordinator

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After floundering on defense the past three years, UMass’ change at the top on that side of the ball is official.

The football program, via a press release, announced Saturday that Mark Whipple has signed off on Ed Pinkham as his new defensive coordinator.  Pinkham replaces Tom Masella, who was ousted last month after three years on the job.

Whipple and Pinkham have a previous working relationship, serving on the same staff at New Hampshire in the late eighties.

“I’ve known Ed since we worked together at UNH,” Whipple said in a statement. “I have tremendous respect for his approach and how his defenses have always played. He brings a wealth of knowledge at the FBS level. He’s an outstanding recruiter and great leader of young men. I couldn’t be more excited about the future of our program as we head into winter conditioning and spring practice.”

Pinkham had spent the past three seasons as the coordinator at Western Michigan.  Last season, the Broncos finished 16th nationally in scoring defense at 19.5 points per game.

The Minutemen in 2016 were 108th in the same category at 35.5 points per game.  The previous two seasons, they were 93rd (31.4) and 105th (33.0).

“I’m extremely excited to be back in New England and renewing relationships with coaches I’ve worked with in the past at previous stops,” Pinkham said. “I coached against UMass so I’m aware of the strong football tradition that exists here. I’m excited to play a role in achieving the goals that we set as a staff and as a program.”

Pinkham has also served as the coordinator at Rutgers (2009-10) and as secondary coach at Minnesota (1989-91) during a coaching career that began in 1975.

FCS player granted sixth, seventh seasons, will transfer to UMass

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For decades, stories of this nature were unheard of. The last couple of years, however, they’re popping up more and more.

Bryton Barr began his college football playing career at FCS Towson in 2012, starting 11 games as a true freshman. He started the first two games the following season, then missed the remainder of that year with a pectoral injury. A similar injury cost him the entire 2014 season, while a torn ACL kept him out for all of the 2015 season.

The linebacker was healthy for all of 2016, but his eligibility clock was set to expire even as, in his own mind, he wasn’t finished with the collegiate level. After filing an appeal with the NCAA, Barr was not only granted a sixth season of eligibility last month but a seventh one as well.

Barr has since decided to transfer to UMass for his final two years of eligibility in 2017 and 2018. And after that latter season, he still maintains some hope that his career won’t be over despite all of the injury obstacles.

“My dream is still to play in the NFL,” the player told pennlive.com. “Even though I’ve had those injuries, I know that if I come up here and play like I can, I believe I can get a shot. I think I can get someone to, at least, let me get in camp. This wasn’t the plan, but I definitely think it’s going to work out good.”

In November of last year, Texas Tech offensive lineman Tony Morales, who missed every season from 2011-14 because of various injuries, was granted a seventh season of eligibility that he will use in 2017. After knee injuries cost him the 2010-12 seasons, Deontae Cooper earned a seventh year that he used in 2016.

Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

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Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

New Mexico State putting together FBS independent schedule for 2018

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The Sun Belt is giving Idaho and New Mexico State the old heave ho after next season, and college football’s newest orphans are going about their futures in separate ways. Idaho has announced it will join the Big Sky Conference beginning in 2018, while New Mexico State is going to go it alone as an FBS independent.

Which means, obviously, New Mexico State will have to build its own schedule, each and every year.

The Aggies have begun doing so for 2018. On Monday they announced a home-and-home with Wyoming that will see the Cowboys visit Las Cruces on Aug. 25, 2018 — New Mexico State’s first game as an independent — while the Aggies will make a return visit to Laramie on Sept. 21, 2024.

It will be the two programs’ first meetings since 1953 — the only time New Mexico State and Wyoming have met on the field.

“Deputy AD Braun Cartwright and I have put in an enormous amount of time on football scheduling with the focus on securing games with regional Group of 5 opponents,” New Mexico State AD Mario Moccia said earlier this week. “Unlike in 2013 when we played four Power 5 conference programs, which had ripple effects on future year’s schedules, we have really focused on the home-and-home model.”

On Thursday, New Mexico State another home-and-home with current Sun Belt bunkmate Louisiana-Lafayette. New Mexico State will visit Lafayette on either Sept. 8 or Oct. 6, 2018, while the Ragin’ Cajuns will return the favor on Nov. 16, 2019.

New Mexico State also has a previously scheduled game at Minnesota on Aug. 30, leaving nine games still to be filled. The Aggies could seemingly find dance partners in fellow FBS independents BYU, Army and Massachusetts (Notre Dame is a different story), but even then New Mexico State still has to fill seven more games with the 2018 season only 20 months away.