Leominster High Class of 2014 safety Jarell Addo has verbally committed to UMass, he confirmed to ESPNBoston.com this morning.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Addo, a three-star prospect, is ranked the No. 9 overall recruit in Massachusetts by ESPNU. He is the third in-state pledge for UMass' 2014 recruiting class, joining Dexter lineman Dan DiNicola and Dean College linebacker Jason Sylva, who originally signed with UConn in 2012 out of Tabor Academy.
Addo also had an offer from Colgate, and was picking up interest among the Division 1 FCS ranks. He says he was at Villanova for a one-day camp last Sunday, when UMass hosted more than two dozen recruits on its campus for a "clam bake" meet-and-greet. The Minutemen netted six commitments on Sunday. Addo last visited the UMass campus in late May, when he was offered a scholarship.
"It's a free education and it's close to home," Addo said. "Also, their sport management program is one of the best in the country. There's not much better places than that."
In his first full season of varsity action last fall, Addo developed a reputation as a violent downhill player who was among the region's hardest hitters, as the Blue Devils won a second straight MIAA Division 1 Central Mass. Super Bowl. In the newly-aligned MIAA landscape, which will award six true state champions, the Blue Devils are one of several favorites in Division 2.
At combines and camps this spring and summer, Addo has generally measured in the 4.7-4.8 range on 40-yard dashes. But there are also several measurables that have some college coaches believing he could be a hidden gem. At the Nike SPARQ combine last April in New York, Addo measured a 41.8-inch vertical leap and a 4.28-second 20-yard shuttle time.
With the Blue Devils, Addo plays multiple positions, including free safety, outside linebacker, tight end and slot receiver. At UMass, Addo projects to play safety.
"I'll play whatever as long as I get to play," Addo said. "That's a program I want to be a part of, as they're rebuilding."
It's worth noting UMass historically has had a solid recruiting pipeline with the Blue Devils program, going back decades. Palazzi graduated in 1989 as the school's all-time leader in passing yards, a record since broken twice. Leominster's defensive line coach, Kevin Murphy, played fullback and defensive line for the Minutemen -- and roomed with Palazzi -- before injuries cut his career short. The Blue Devils' best export in recent years, running back Jonathan Hernandez, walked-on at UMass and ran for nearly 1,100 yards in 2011.
"He already knows the place like the back of his hand," Addo said of Palazzi's familiarity with the program. "They've had coaching changes there, but it's still such a close community. It's so diverse, just like Leominster here, so it wouldn’t be much of a change."
Much has been made of UMass' "Made in Mass" strategy, which seeks to build 50 percent of its roster with Bay State prospects, including the top in-state recruits. Addo said remaining in-state gives him a greater sense of pride.
"It does, that means that much more pride that I take into the sport I'm playing," Addo said. "And it's only an hour away from where I live, so my family can come out to support me."