“They did a good job,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said of Georgia Southern. “They had a good plan and most importantly, their players executed.”
Execution will go a long way for the Minutemen this season — there’s talent scattered throughout the UMass roster, which has led to the lofty expectations. Andrew Ford, who threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns a season ago, returns under center. Marquis Young, a fixture since his freshman year, mixed with Bilal Ally give UMass a dangerous running game and weapons like Andy Isabella, Sadiq Palmer, Jacoby Herring and Brennon Dingle give Ford weapons on the outside.
Bryton Barr returns for his final year of eligibility to captain the UMass defense, which features a strong secondary led by Lee Moses, Isaiah Rodgers, Bakhari Goodson and Connecticut transfer Brice McAllister. Defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham returns for his second season with the Minutemen, and the players have had a second offseason to get the system down.
There’s talent all over the UMass roster, now it has to come together and produce on the field. This year’s schedule has UMass facing off with some familiar opponents, taking on Florida International, Ohio, Coastal Carolina and BYU, all of which it played a season ago. The Minutemen fell to FIU and Ohio in shootouts, lost a close one to Coastal and defeated the Cougars.
The remainer of the schedule is comprised of Charlotte, South Florida, UConn, Liberty and Georgia. The Bobcats and Eagles both opened their seasons 1-1, and will be competitive matchups for UMass. South Florida has opened the season with two wins, while UConn has struggled in the early part of the season, dropping its first two contests.
The Bulldogs, who fell to Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship game last year, are currently ranked No. 3 in the nation and may be one of the toughest opponents in program history.
There are a handful of winnable games on the schedule, and the Minutemen showed last year against Tennessee that when they come to play, they can put a scare into anyone, even an SEC opponent. But this team has also shown in recent years that they are very tough to get a grasp on.
“We weren’t as good as everyone thought we were last week,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said after the BC loss, “and we aren’t as bad as everyone thinks we are after today.”