At the end of the 2012 camp season, UMass coach Charley Molnar spent some time thinking about how he and his staff could leave a lasting impression on recruits.
He knew that once the fall hit, there would be no real face-to-face contact unless a recruit came to a game or visited during a Bye week. He felt that “maybe some of the momentum we created was lost,” so he wanted to put together an event that would “leave us in a good position.”
With that thought in mind, the second-year head coach decided to try something a little different, something that would leave an impression on the new crop of recruits.
He rolled out the UMass Clam Bake.
“It has a New England flavor to it, if you will,” he said.
The first-annual clam bake, held on July 28, was a huge success for UMass. The Minutemen picked up verbal commitments from Chris Carter (DE), Jack Wynne (DE), Josh Smiley (TE/LB), Dan DiNicola (OL), Jacob Largay (DT) and Jason Sylva (LB), according to multiple sources. There were a few others who may be close. In total, there were about 30 recruits on hand, according to a source.
Under NCAA rules, Molnar isn’t allowed to speak about unsigned recruits, but indicated that a number of guys left impressed with the program. He added that UMass’ coaching staff plans on reaching out to some of the attendees during the next couple of days.
“The recruiting will never stop. We will have a recruiting meeting tomorrow, and some of the young men that were here today can expect to get some phone calls from some guys over the next 24 to 48 hours,” he said. “There are some guys who might be in a little more of a hurry to commit since we’re almost halfway done with our class.”
After the first-annual UMass Clam Bake, the Minutemen have 11 of their 2014 scholarships accounted for.
When asked whether the team would come up with a catchy name for the event in years to come, Molnar said he was comfortable just calling it, “the UMass Clam Bake.” He indicated that it pretty much sums up what the staff is going for – an event that is uniquely Massachusetts’.
“Not everyone can have a clam bake. They can fake one, but they can’t have a clam bake like we can,” he said.
Shane Waldron, UMass’ recruiting coordinator, said the event – which was considered an unofficial visit for the recruits in attendance – gave the coaches a good chance to sit down face-to-face with recruits.
“It was a great turnout for us. We had a bunch of top players from throughout the Eastern seaboard. Not only did we get commitments out of this, but there’s another group of guys who are on the verge, and this was another chance to sit down with the coaches in a barbecue atmosphere, which allows it to be a little more laid back,” he said.
He added that the event took place next to the new performance center construction area.
“It made it a lot more of a tangible item to showcase to the recruits,” he said.
DiNicola, one of the six commits, said he enjoyed the event and said it was different than a lot of the other recruiting events he’s been to in the past.
“It was awesome. I got a chance to talk to the coaching staff on a more personal level. It was a little different than the camp atmosphere,” he said. “I got to talk to the coaches and cover topics other than football. I met an academic advisor who was very informative and got to meet a few other recruits. Overall it was a really good event, and I couldn’t be happier about the outcome.”
Across the country, bigger programs typically have similar events. At the University of Michigan, the Wolverines hold a “BBQ in the Big House,” where it gathers recruits for a meet-and-greet with coaches. Typically, these events yield a number of verbal commitments.
Follow Bob on Twitter: @BobMcGovernJr