- Can you give us a sense of the "state of the UMass program" at this point? Has there been better attendance at Gillette Stadium this year? Is the on-field product getting better? And how seriously should we view this "flap" about coach Charley Molnar's treatment of players in the winter?
The current state of UMass football isn’t all that different from where it was a year ago, really. The team is still very young, gets inconsistent quarterback play and will continue to struggle winning games. Because of that, attendance is still still an issue, though the team is drawing about 5,000 or so more fans at Gillette right now than it did last year. Still, the threat of NCAA probation if UMass doesn’t average at least 15,000 fans per game (it’s drawing 16,021 so far) continues to loom over the program.
Honestly, I’m not quite sure what to make of the infamous winter training video and subsequent alumni petition. I suspect it’s largely the work of ex-players with axes to grind, but, now that it’s started to make the rounds nationally on sites like Deadspin, the team’s image is sure to take quite a hit. Molnar needs to start winning a few games here if he wants to stave off the inevitable.
Click here to read the original story about the training "video" and statement from former players asking coach to treat current players better. Click here to read the story about the counter-proposal by supporters of the program. Click here to read the story about the university chancellor supporting the program. I believe all three of those links have a link to the video, if you'd like to see it for yourself.
- Has UMass settled on a quarterback between A.J. Doyle and Mike Wegzyn? How much of this uncertainty at quarterback led to the struggles of the Minutemen on offense?
- Who are some of the key players for UMass on offense? Judging by the stats, the leaders are very young -- leading rusher Stacey Bedell is a redshirt freshman, leading receiver Tajae Sharpe is a sophomore. Is this a matter of the younger players learning by doing?
It has indeed been Bedell and Sharpe shouldering much of the burden so far, again, because Blanchflower has been missing. The preseason starter at running back, junior Jordan Broadnax, has also been out with a knee injury and doesn’t look to be coming back anytime soon. Honestly, I’ve been impressed with the work of those two guys given the circumstances of their on-the-job training. Getting Blanchflower back (he had seven catches in his first action against Vanderbilt) will be a big help.
- It look as if the defensive numbers, in terms of points allowed, improved against Vanderbilt. Is the UMass defense getting better after giving up 45 to Wisconsin to start the season? If yes, how?
- Who are some of the leaders of the defense? Also, is this a young group or a more experienced group?
Individually, defensive end Kevin Byrne has been something of a standout, especially after the move back to the 4-3 against Vanderbilt when he collected a career-high nine tackles and forced a drive-killing fumble deep in UMass territory. Cornerbacks Randall Jetter and Trey Dudley-Giles, along with safety Devin Brown have also done a nice job. The defense’s emotional leader, safety Joe Colton, is dealing with an MCL injury and won’t be available Saturday.
- Colter Johnson was an All-MAC punter last season, but how has he performed this year? It looks as if kicker Lucas Blake is struggling -- true? And how would you describe the punt and kickoff units for the Minutemen?
As far as place kicking goes, Lucas has also struggled, probably more than Johnson. Lucas has had just three official field goal attempts on the season, but he’s missed all three — on one he made a first attempt, but was effectively iced by Molnar and missed the re-kick, on the second was partially the blocked and the third was pushed wide right into the wind. It’s been pretty ugly.
UMass does a pretty good job in punt and kick coverage, (though, the team kicks off but twice a game) and is near the top in kick return average with nearly 22 yards per return. Dudley-Giles handles all the returning duties and can be pretty slippery out there at times
Click here to read more stories about the Minutemen on the MassLive.com web site.