UMass football notebook: Don Brown entrusting ‘lifeblood’ of program to recruiting coordinator Jeff Moore

  • UMass tight ends Josiah Johnson, left, and Jaret Palotta execute a blockingn drill at spring football practice Thursday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass tight ends coach Jeff Moore observes a drill during spring practice Thursday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass tight ends coach Jeff Moore observes a drill during spring practice Thursday in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 4/21/2022 5:19:52 PM
Modified: 4/21/2022 5:18:36 PM

AMHERST – The sidelines of every UMass spring football practice reveals coach Don Brown’s recruiting strategy plainly.

They’re filled with recruits and coaches from Massachusetts high schools, other college programs and interested observers.

“You open your doors up, you treat the guys with respect, good things usually happen in recruiting because it’s reciprocated,” Brown said. “Recruiting is your lifeline, and you better take care of your own business. That’s one of the things I firmly believe. Everybody wants to run to Florida and do all that, but you’ve got to take care of your own home before you can start worrying about that piece.”

No one has recruited New England like Brown for decades — the last 40 years, he’s quick and proud to mention.

“It’s kind of my baby,” Brown said. “When you’re an assistant for as many years as I’ve been, it’s really the lifeblood of the program.”

Now that he’s a head coach for the first time since 2008, Brown sometimes has to leave his ‘baby’ with a sitter: UMass recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach Jeff Moore. Moore is in his first collegiate coaching job after spending the previous three years at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn., and the prior six years building the St. Thomas More program.

“We're really happy with where we're at right now. We still have some work to do. But we're fortunate we have a great group of coaches who all have strong relationships throughout the East Coast and the country,” Moore said.

Three players in UMass’ 2022 signing class hail from the Commonwealth, and two of the transfers are Massachusetts natives.

“Massachusetts and New England will be important no matter what. The biggest thing is we want the kids who fit our program the best. But if we can get that opportunity locally first that will always be a priority,” Moore said.

GET IT RIGHT, GET IT TIGHT – After participating in some quarterback drills and wearing the black non-contact jersey for most of the spring, Josiah Johnson switched to a white jersey and has stuck with the tight ends during practice.

“I did have a lot of fun, you know, throwing around, running the ball,” said Johnson, who was recruited as a quarterback. “I didn't know if I was helping our team as much in that spot. It was kind of a back and forth when I talked to (UMass offensive coordinator Steve Casula), and we just thought the best route for me to go, especially for my future, just trying to play next level, would be if I'm going to declare as a tight end and I need to practice as a tight end.”

Johnson played tight end last season and amassed 115 yards receiving on 11 catches and scored three touchdowns. He also ran for another 52 yards and another two scores lining up behind center taking snaps. That level of versatility will allow Casula to use the Jacksonville, Fla. native in intriguing ways.

“I think he’s got a chance to be a pro guy,” Brown said. “There'll be a time we're going to surprise some people, some runs, and you know, he'll be at the head of that.”

BACK TO A BACK – Kay’Ron Adams switched back to his original position of running back after playing some linebacker during the spring. He was wearing a white No. 22 jersey after donning a maroon No. 19 earlier in camp.

Adams, a Rutgers transfer, started at running back for the Minutemen last season before an injury ended his campaign.

SPRING FLINGS –UMass is still working out the kinks for its upcoming spring game (April 30, noon). The coaching staff is determining whether they’ll have enough members of certain position groups to divide the roster into teams and whether the event will feature tackling to the ground.

“The question is going to be, do we tackle or do we practice, you know, practice? Kind of like (Jeff) Hafley did at BC, and a lot of people across the country, they're doing it because they're so frightened about injury and the portal business and how many guys leave?” Brown said. “I'm not frightened about that. I think our guys are in a pretty good place.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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