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UMass Football Recruiting 2016: Minutemen's commitment list grows as National Signing Day approaches

The Massachusetts Minutemen hosted their top targets over the past two weekends in Amherst and have come away with a bevy of verbal commitments that have made an already impressive recruiting class even better.

While the Massachusetts Minutemen are leaving the MAC after four unspectacular seasons in the conference, we are still covering their recruiting exploits here on Hustle Belt through National Signing Day. UMass has put together a very impressive recruiting class so far, and over the past two weekends it has improved a great deal.

The Minutemen have added nine commitments over the past two weeks, ranging from 3-start athletes to under-the-radar gems, but they have identified and targeted quality players that they feel will help them immediately on the field as soon as next year, their first as an independent.

The Minutemen may not be done either as there could be a surprise or two in store for National Signing Day tomorrow.

Below is the list of commitments UMass has secured over the past two weeks, with some analysis of a select few future Minutemen following. All links to recruit highlights are courtesy of our friends at Hudl, and player links direct to their 247Sports profiles:

Charly Timite, 3-star DE, Simon Gratz HS, Philadelphia, PA (Hudl)

Sadiq Palmer, 3-star WR, Red Bank Regional HS, Little Silver, NJ (Hudl)

Taylor Riggins, 3-star OLB, Aquinas Institute, Rochester, NY (Hudl)

Bakhari Goodson, unranked CB, Wekiva HS, Apopka, FL (Hudl)

Martin Mangram, 3-star ATH, Buford HS, Buford, GA (Hudl)

Bilal Ally, 3-star ATH, Clay HS, Green Cove Springs, FL (Hudl)

TJ Rayam, unranked DT, Thompson HS, Alabaster, AL (Hudl)

Cody Banks, 3-star TE/DE, Freeman HS, Richmond, VA (Hudl)

Andrew Ford, 3-star QB, Cedar Cliff HS/Lackawanna CC, Camp Hill, PA/Lackawanna, PA (Hudl)

As you can see, the Minutemen were very busy targeting and landing some very talented players. The promise of potentially very early playing time combined with a challenging national schedule as an independent has been quite appealing to many of the players the Minutemen have offered.

Both Sadiq Palmer and Taylor Riggins were committed to the Syracuse Orange until right before their official visits to UMass. The new staff at Syracuse, led by former BGSU head coach Dino Babers, advised them both that they no longer saw a need for them in Syracuse's plans. The Orange's loss is the Minutemen's gain as both Palmer and Riggins are extremely talented athletes. Palmer can certainly challenge to play early on the outside as a WR and Riggins will be in the mix at OLB where UMass is going to slot him in.

Martin Mangram is the brother of current Minuteman Brandon Mangram and while listed as an ATH he is going to be coming in and playing CB for UMass. He's got a very good chance to see the field right away next season, and his commitment is a big one for the Minutemen staff as he is an exceptional talent. Having he and his brother on the field next season is going to be a boon to the UMass secondary (Brandon redshirted last year).

This article from Gwinnett Prep Sports has some quotes from Mangram about his decision to attend UMass, notably the chance to play with his brother and UMass' excellent engineering program.

Andrew Ford is a big get for the Minutemen at QB. Ford originally signed with Virginia Tech in the class of 2014 cycle and redshirted his lone season in Blacksburg. He transferred out to Lackawanna CC and graduated from there in December of 2015, which gives him three years of eligibility remaining for the Minutemen. He's a big, strong-armed kid that had some serious interest coming out of high school, and he may fit the more traditional pocket passer role in head coach Mark Whipple's offense. He'll be in competition right away with Ross Comis, who many believed to be the heir apparent to the starting job once Blake Frohnapfel graduated. One thing is for sure, the QB competition in the fall in Amherst is going to be fierce.

Of note: Cody Banks was originally a class of 2015 recruit who committed to the University of Central Florida during that cycle. However he never officially signed with UCF last year and thus is eligible to play right away for UMass. He'll be coming in as a TE. Also, the Minutemen got a pledge from big two-way lineman Zuriel Davis out of Andrew Jackson HS in Jacksonville, FL (Hudl) over the past weekend as well, but as first reported by the Maroon Musket, his commitment was not yet accepted by the Minutemen staff due to some pending academic concerns. The staff like Davis and we may see him sign on Wednesday anyway if they feel he can do enough to qualify for next year. He's an extremely talented and disruptive force that UMass would love to have in Amherst.

The Minutemen's class as currently constituted ranks #78 nationally per the 'Team Rankings' over on 247Sports. This is by far the highest-ranked class UMass has ever assembled, and it will likely go down as the best in school history up to this point in time as well. UMass' ranking also puts them 2nd among MAC schools, trailing only Western Michigan (#65 nationally) and well ahead of the next closest team the Miami RedHawks (#93 nationally).

There was a concern that UMass might have difficulty recruiting as they began the journey into the unknown as an independent, however this year's class has proven those concerns to be unfounded, at least for now. The Minutemen will look to continue their strong recruiting year tomorrow on National Signing Day and perhaps even add more players to this already impressive group. We'll have all the coverage for you here on the Belt, make sure to check it out.