Profile of an Opponent:
- School: University of Massachusetts
- Website: UMassAthletics.com
- Mascot: Minutemen
- Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
- Blogs: UMass Football Blog - highly recommended
- Conference: Colonial Athletic Association
- 2007 Record: 10-3 (7-1)
- 2008 Prospectus: Sorta
Season Statistics: (National Rank)
- Rushing Offense: 153.23 (65)
- Passing Offense: 248.31 (21)
- Passing Efficiency: 151.07 (12)
- Total Offense: 401.54 (34)
- Scoring Offense: 31.00 (27)
- Rushing Defense: 115.62 (13)
- Pass Defense: 194.00 (46)
- Pass Efficiency Defense: 107.98 (13)
- Total Defense: 309.62 (14)
- Scoring Defense: 19.15 (15)
- Turnover Margin: 0.00 (55)
- Sacks: 3.38 (4)
- Sacks Allowed: 1.46 (36)
Generally: Lucky for us, UMass Football Blog has already answered a number of questions I had regarding the UMass football squad, so I think anything I write will be less informative. I'm going to post DTN's interview on Tuesday, but until then, take everything I write with a grain of salt and keep in mind that the true expert will have the stand tomorrow.
I would like to add one other general thought, which is just because UMass is FCS, it doesn't mean that they are automatically a bad team. Last year UMass played Matt Ryan's Boston College team and only lost by 10, at BC. I watched a couple of BC games last year and they were no slouch.
I'm saying it right now, don't take this team lightly. UMass plays good football.
Offense: Here's what I do know. UMass returns a pretty talented passer in Liam Coen and from all accounts, Coen was pretty efficient (completed over 64.4% of his passes on the year) and had some truly outstanding games at the end of the year. Take a look at UMass' two playoff games, against Fordham (UMass won 49-35) and Southern Illinois (UMass lost 27-34). Coen threw for over 400 yards in each game (419 and 421), completed a high rate of his passes (64% and 66%) and threw for 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. The bad news for UMass fans was that Coen threw all 3 interceptions in the Southern Illinois loss.
UMass threw the ball at least 20 times a game every game last year. The Minutemen aren't afraid to put the ball in the air and they've had some pretty good success.
Matt Lawrence has graduated (over 120 yards a game last year) and it appears that the running game is in very capable hands with Tony Nelson taking over. Nelson had 92 rushes for 486 yards (a 5.3 yards/carry average) and only 1 touchdown. I would imagine that Nelson will get all of Lawrence's goal-line carries (Lawrence had 16 touchdowns last year) so don't let the low touchdown numbers throw you off.
The Minutemen are in a bit of a pinch, as their top 3 receivers have also graduated. Statistically, Jeremy Horne caught 12 passes for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns and tight tend Ian Jorgensen caught 15 passes for 145 yards and 5 touchdowns. I am a bit surprised that UMass doesn't utilize their running back in the passing game (Lawrence only had 17 receptions last year) and wonder if that might change this year with so many of UMass' top receiving targets not returning.
I'll let UMass Football Blog talk more about the offensive line. The most interesting thing is that UMass is replacing 3 starters on the line, which means that this should be an opportunity for Texas Tech to perhaps take advantage of a inexperienced unit.
Defense: This is a good defensive team and as a unit, the Minutemen return 8 on defense, which is a little scary for UMass opponents (they were 14th in total defense last year). The most interesting aspect of UMass' defense is that they do accumulate the sacks. Finishing #4 in the nation with 3.38 per game, it appears that the Minutemen really get after the quarterback and this is a huge part of their success. Michael Hanson averaged 1.23 tackles-for-a-loss last year and almost half a sack a game (0.54). Linebacker Josh Jennings also had a very productive season, with 68 tackles, 6.0 and 9.5 tackles for a loss.
The secondary returns 2 of their top 4 interception leaders, which includes Courtney Robinson and Jeromy Miles. Robinson finished with 47 tackles and 5 interceptions, while Miles had 68 tackles and 3 interceptions. Miles is a player to watch as he not only had those 3 picks, but he also had 8 passes defended and 4 forced fumbles.
YouTube: Up first is quarterback Liam Coen highlights. First thing that I notice is that Coen has a pretty good arm, he's no slouch, and I don't know if it's the video, but he appears to throw the ball side-armed when throwing out to the flat. Coen also seems to have pretty nice touch on his passes as well (slight language warning for the music):
Liam Coen UMass Highlights (via JWho1011)
How about this, we have over 8 minutes of defensive back/kick returner Courtney Robinson highlights. This guy is a player. He's got some real speed, a really nice burst up the middle and he can go up and get a few passes. The only bad thing is that the video is all taped video from the television so the quality isn't great, but you can definitely see Robinson's athletic ability (serious language warning with the music):
Courtney Robinson 2007 (via umassachusetts1)
Unfortunately, that's it as far as video. I'll say it again, UMass isn't a bad football team. I may be proven wrong and I think the difference should be the overall quantity of talent (in comparison to BCS schools like Texas Tech), but individually, UMass has some difference makers.