Wednesday, February 5, 2014

CMass National Signing Day Report

Leicester's Tom Rodrick officially signed with UConn today.
By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

Football season officially ended Sunday night (sigh), but today thousands of kids made their dreams of playing college football a reality, sending in their National Letters of Intent to the programs they will represent on Saturdays over the next 3-5 seasons.

A few of those lucky dudes reside in Central Massachusetts, so here's a quick look at each CMass player set to play college football next season.

Also note that these are only the players that have sent in their paperwork and made it official. More players could be added as the day progresses, so check back later.


Jarell Addo, S: Committed to UMass

Addo was an integral part of both Leominster's explosive offense and it's aggressive defense. When the Blue Devils had the ball, he was perhaps the region's best tight end, but when they were on defense is where his incredible athleticism truly showed.

Playing safety, linebacker and occasionally defensive end, Addo used a combination of size (6-foot-2, 200 lbs) and athleticism (a measured 42-inch vertical leap) to both cover ground and register big hits for the Blue Devils.

He will still need to add some bulk, but Addo could be a contributor for the Minutemen sooner rather than later.

Neil O'Connor, DB: Committed to New Hampshire

O'Connor was one of the region's best quarterbacks and defensive backs, and his play on both sides of the ball earned him both the Gatorade Player of the Year for Massachusetts, and the slightly less prestigious SuiteSports Player of the Year for Central Mass.

The versatile athlete and born leader seemed to somehow be flying under the radar with colleges, despite leading Leominster to one of its best regular seasons ever. Call him a sleeper if you will, but if O'Connor does big things at FCS power UNH, nobody that saw him play in high school will be surprised.


Isaac Yiadom, WR/S: Committed to Boston College

Yiadom was a mid-year enrollee, so the paperwork is all done for him, and he's already taking classes in Chestnut Hill, hoping to get a jump on his college career. While Yiadom is known as one of the most explosive and exciting players in the state, he's also one of the hardest working.

His tireless studying on defense allowed him to read some of the best quarterbacks in the state from his safety position, and his versatility on offense made him the most unique weapon I saw all season. Not sure where he fits in with BC, but I think offensive minded coach Steve Addazio will find a way to get the ball in Showtime's hands.

Alfred Adarkwah, WR: Invited to Walk On at UMass

One of the true hidden gems in Central Mass was this 6-foot-4 wide receiver that seemed to have an unlimited catching radius. Well, after a touchdown filled post season that ended with Doherty's first ever state championship, Adarkwah will get to play at the FBS level.

He and Yiadom formed the state's most talented receiving duo, and I honestly couldn't believe he wasn't garnering much D1 interest throughout the regular season. After all, you can't teach his combination of height and leaping ability, plus he had a knack for making plays in a game's biggest moments.

Still, Assumption and Wagner were his two biggest offers until the Minutemen came calling.

Adding bulk to his lean frame will be priority No. 1, but for raw talent and drive, UMass couldn't have found a better guy, especially as a walk on. I have a feeling he'll be on scholarship pretty soon.

Noah Robinson, LB: Committed to Memphis

Robinson graduated Doherty in 2013, and was a huge part of the Highlanders' long awaited run back to the playoffs. He was a physical presence on both sides of the ball, but really brought the wood from his middle linebacker spot, registering a team-high 125 tackles his senior season.

While spending a post-grad year at Atlanta Sports Academy, Robinson gained 15 lbs. to push his playing weight to 235, and wowed scouts with his sideline-to-sideline run stuffing ability, as well as a knack for blitzing. The Tigers seems to be getting a guy that is physically ready to compete at the Division I level, and one that has something to prove.

"Hard work," Robinson told ESPN Boston's Brendan Hall last December of his post-grad year. "I went down there, I had a nice chip on my shoulder, and I wanted to go D1 so I knew I had to play as hard as I could."


Emmanuel Jalbert, LB: Committed to Rhode Island

Jalbert just committed to Rhode Island yesterday, so it's safe to say he's definitely flown under the radar this season. No matter. The tall and athletic linebacker looks to be a perfect fit on the weak side for the Rams, showing an ability to cover the flat, match up with backs and tight ends one-on-one, and blitz when necessary.

But it isn't just about his speed, Jalbert is also a big hitter and instinctive player. He'll need to get bigger and stronger, but he has all the tools to be a productive player at the next level.


Tom Rodrick, LB: Committed to UConn

Rodrick was, in my opinion, the best linebacker in the state in 2013, and you just don't see guys with his DI-ready physique come through small towns in CMass very often.

He did a little bit of everything for the Wolverines, lining up in multiple spots along their defensive front, often proving unblockable, and the Huskies seem to have a gem on their hands. Playing in Leicester doesn't exactly lend itself to media hype, but Rodrick was easily one of the five best defensive players in the state last season, not to mention the Commonwealth's biggest hitter.

He stuck with UConn through their coaching change, and will look to follow in the footsteps of another CMass 'backer that had great success at UConn: Doherty alum Yawin Smallwood.

St. Peter-Marian

Ray Sarkodieh, DL/LB: Committed to Assumption

The most feared pass rusher in the region was mulling over offers from Stonehill and Assumption, but decided to stay local and play for the Greyhounds. Call this an absolute coup for the Assumption staff, who get a talented kid from one of the best Catholic school programs in the region, and one that I thought had D1 potential when I saw him play Doherty earlier this year.

"SugarBear" doesn't have ideal size for a defensive end at 6-2, 220, but is an athletic freak with great strength for his size. Look for him to find a role early as a pass rusher and potentially develop into one of the better players in the Northeast-10.


Will Greelish, OL/DL: Committed to Stonehill

Greelish has the size to cause some real problems. At 6-foot-4 and 320 lbs, he was an anchor for the Rockets on both sides of the ball, excelling as a run blocker on offense, and stuffing opponents when he moved to defensive tackle.

The Rockets were the youngest team in the region last year, having lost 10 starters on each side of the ball from a historically good 2012 bunch, but Greelish's play and leadership kept Auburn relevant in a competitive year for Central Mass.

Whichever side of the ball he ends up on, Stonehill will be getting a guy that packs plenty of whallop.

St. John's

Jeff DeMango, DL/LB: Committed to Wesleyan 

A tall and lanky end, you wouldn't expect DeMango to be one of the best run defenders in Central Mass, but he was just that in 2013. With some of the best hands and longest arms in the region, blockers could rarely engage the St. John's standout for very long, and his improved play as the season progressed was a huge reason why the Pioneers made an unexpected run to the Division 2 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.

Wesleyan is one of the best Division III programs in New England, and they get a guy that is already a complete player in his skill set, with room to fill out physically. A move to outside linebacker could also be in DeMago's future, as he showed great range and ability to make tackles in space. Whatever his role, this looks like a great match for both player and program.

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