UMass football coach Don Brown hoping transfer portal has gems


UMass coach Don Brown needs the Minutemen to get older before they get younger.

That was Brown’s reasoning for the signing of only six incoming freshmen and, to this point, nine veteran players from the NCAA transfer portal. Brown said he plans to be a buyer at the conclusion of spring ball.

“We were a very young football team a year ago, maybe one of the five youngest teams in college football itself,” said Brown. “We did not have a host of upperclassmen at any position and five seniors in terms of the entire group.

“That is a young football team. The reason why we attacked the portal is just to get older and get veteran players that provide us with leadership in strength and development. Guys that have been in the weight rooms and working hard on college campuses.”

Brown still believes the best way to build a college football program is by recruiting and developing young talent and not through a revolving door of hired guns.

Brown has been forced by difficult circumstances, like going 1-11 last season, to go heavy on the portal for the upcoming season and then gradually revert back to larger recruitment classes. Top tier high school players want to go where they have a chance to win so Brown is under pressure to develop a winning culture in his second year.

“The transition is going to be back to normalcy we feel after this particular recruiting class,” said Brown. “There will be situations where we’re recruiting from high schools for the most part and then filling holes with the transfer portal. I would not be shocked it they end up adjusting some of the rules of the transfer portal as we look short term.”

Brown was very satisfied with his half dozen recruits, a few of whom could be eligible for early enrollment and participate in spring ball.

The prize catch is Ahmad Haston, a dual threat quarterback from Palm Beach Central High School in Palm Beach, Fla. The quarterback position was a carousal that became the source of the Minutemen’s problems on offense last season.

Ahmad Haston (24/7 photo)

Brown was constantly rotating Chris Campiotti, a runner who struggled throwing, Brady Olson, a pocket passer who struggled running, and Zamar Wise, who could do a little bit of both but not as well as the other two.

Haston led Palm Beach to a 12-2 record and the program’s first regional championship as a senior captain in 2020. He threw for 2,150 yards and 38 touchdowns while rushing for 12 more.

If the 6-3, 195-pound Haston can make the transformation from Florida high school football to FBS as a true freshman, the Minutemen might finally realize stability at the most important position on the field.

“The number that jumps out at me is the 50 touchdowns and that’s a lot,” said Brown. “He scored 14 touchdowns in the playoffs and that shows how clutch he is as a player.

“The thing that I think is really an important quality is his ability to reason and learn. He carried a 4.7 grade point average with him through high school so he is kind of the complete package.

“I am very excited about having him join our class and really lead our offense in the future.”



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