Saturday, July 22, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: U Mass Minutemen
U Mass Minutemen
I continue to be perplexed as to why U Mass stays in FBS football, when they are so obviously such a bad fit for it. They do not have the facilities (and let's not get started on driving to Foxborough), and they don't have a conference home. Nobody really wants to be an independent, except for Notre Dame, and there is not one conference clamoring for U Mass. How much longer can this program flail away in this current status, especially when they are averaging two wins per season over the last five years?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Andrew Ford, who started his career at Virginia Tech (wouldn't they love to have him now?), passed for 2665 yards last season, and tossed 26 TD passes to 14 INTs. He completed 60.8% of his passes, while averaging 242.3 yards passing per game.
Top target Adam Breneman is back at TE after catching 70 passes for 808 yards and eight scores last fall. He is a field stretching TE, and is an absolute NFL prospect at the position. He averaged 5.8 receptions per game last season. Andy Isabella also returns at WR after catching 62 passes last season. RS freshman Brennon Dingle looked very good in the spring game, and will be pushing for reps.
Marquis Young is back after leading the Minutemen in rushing last fall. He ran for 898 yards and four scores while averaging 16.5 carries per game.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The line returns just two starters in Tackles Raquan Thomas and Jack Driscoll. The entire interior line must be replaced, and two of the potential replacements are just sophomores. With Thomas and Driscoll, there could be as many as four sophomores starting on the line at any time.
Depth at receiver is not great, as nobody outside of Isabella and Breneman caught more than 20 passes last fall. Finding targets will be tough, and that is only if Ford has enough time to get the ball up field with such a young line in front of him.
The run game, despite the return of Young, needs a massive lift after averaging just 99.5 yards per game last season. As a team, the Minutemen averaged just 3.26 yards per carry in 2016.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Two starters return on the line in DE Sha-Ki Hollness and NT Ali Ali-Musa. They combined for 11.5 TFLs last fall, and should form a foundation for a defensive unit that desperately needs an identity. Junior Joe Previte will start at DT, while Da'Sean Downey starts at DE as the Minutemen move to a standard 4-3 set. Downey moves to the line from OLB, and could add a solid pass rush off the edge after finishing with 8.5 TFLs last fall.
Steve Casali returns at LB, and finished with eight TFLs last season. He will slide into the ZIP spot after leading the team with 105 tackles last season. He will be joined by returning starter Tedrick Lowery, who who collected 37 tackles, but played in just eight games last fall. Shane Huber will come off of the bench to start this season at MLB.
Logan Laurent will handle both PK and P duties this fall, and connected on 7/9 attempts last season on limited tries, and averaged 41.65 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
U Mass finished just 120th in the nation in pass efficiency defense last season, so the secondary is under siege. Isaiah Rodgers is back at CB, while Lee Moses is back at Safety. Rodgers finished with seven PBUs last season, while Moses finished with six. Two new starters will be introduced in Jackson Porter at CB, and Charan Singh at Safety. With an updated depth chart, Moses could actually move to safety, relegating Porter to the bench. Singh could be challenged by Patrick Amara, and Jesse Monteiro could enter the picture at Safety? Confused yet? Good.
8/26 Hawaii, 9/2 at Coastal Carolina, 9/9 Old Dominion, 9/16 at Temple, 9/23 at Tennessee, 9/30 Ohio, 10/14 at South Florida, 10/21 Georgia Southern, 10/28 Appalachian State, 11/4 at Mississippi State, 11/11 Maine at Boston, 11/18 at BYU
Let's not hack at the steak here. This program is simply biding time until they run out of options in FBS football. The reality is that this program is not built for this level of football, nor was it ever. Tat said, it's very hard to see how the Minutemen are going to be any better this season than last. The only game on this schedule that I can see U Mass being favored to win is probably the finale against Maine at Fenway Park in Boston. It could be another long season in Amherst.