The Legacy of UMass' 2013 Class A Winning Standard Established Feb 27 7:41 PM Donte Gaston and the 2013 recruiting class made UMass a winner Recap Comments0 National signing day, February 2013. Coach W.D. Franklin sat anxiously at his first Minutemen Signing Day Event at the school’s Alumni Hall. Throughout the day, faxes from names he expected to hear from slowly rolled in. There was Jorge Smith, the class headliner- a four-star middle linebacker from Bethpage, NY, who served as an assistant recruiter after capping off a class-changing, momentum inducing, commitment flurry for UMass. That flurry included the highly notarized flipping of HB Darren Darby from West Virginia and CB Jake Samuel from arch rival Boston College, as well as the commitment of ** Lance Wilkerson from Westbrook, ME. Smith’s commitment legitimized the class, according to one recruiting service. Before Smith’s commitment, UMass had secured the commitments of 11 prospects, including 7 three-star caliber players. After, Smith’s commitment, 10 more prospects pledged themselves to the Minutemen, including four-star prospects such as Donte Gaston, Aaron Simmons, & Randy Palmer, as well as others who would turn into standouts during the matriculation at UMass, such as Grant O’Brien and a heralded JUCO transferred named Ernest Lee. In all, 22 men committed themselves to UMass on that February signing day in 2013. Not all would finish their careers at UMass; tight end Marcus Rice and Simmons would transfer to other schools because of a lack of playing time. JUCO transfers such as Lee and tackle John Ray graduated, but were essential to the development of the program from presumed cupcake to legitimate BCS contender in such a short time. Danny Peters and Matt Bonds, will graduate next year after having redshirted while at UMass and ************* of eligibility remaining. What is left of the group of 22 men is 16 who will graduate together. To their resume are two Big East championships, two BCS bowl appearances, including a National Championship appearance, and two bowl victories, and a legacy of winning when they were not suppose to win. They will be remembered for their stars; Both Palmer and Gaston leave UMass with their names etched in the record books; Palmer has the all-time career yardage leader, Gaston as the career leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Defensively, Smith and Wilkerson garnished All-American Honors during their careers, while cornerbacks Jake Samuel and Nate Carter each earned conference recognition. Not all contributions can be measured in accolades, however. Some, such as defensive end Shaun Jean, fullbacks Brent Franklin and Braylon Harris, and wide receiver Anthony Hopkins leave UMass having never really seeing much action. Others such as free safety Brent Gardner, guard Jonathan Olson, center Eric Thompson, and defensive tackle Grant O’Brien, and will graduate without much fanfare or acknowledgment, but with solid contributions in their stay. After a going 7-5, failing to make it to the conference title game, falling out of the Top 25 and settling for a victory in the Liberty Bowl, in a season with National Championship aspirations, the inkling to be disappointed in this team his strong. But as with anything, it all must be taking in context. Yes, the team should have performed better this year. The victories should’ve been more plentiful and more relevant; but the foundation which these young men have built have steadied and elevated **************** this program in the future. If the Minutemen were to win a championship next year with Jeremy Holland at quarterback and Sam Davis as the lead receiver, instead of Randy Palmer and Donte Gaston playing pitch and catch; If Billy Gant, David ******, Shaun Spurlock, and Jake Parsons become a defensive unit more staunch than any of its predecessors, remember who made UMass a destination location for talented football players. Remember who established the standard for UMass football.