DTN is proud to welcome UMass74 who writes UMass Football Blog to gain a little insight on the University of Massachusetts football team. I can honestly say that I haven't had the pleasure of watching UMass play football and I would imagine that most of you haven't either and I thought it would be a good idea to go straight to the source and ask someone in the know.
DTN:I'm really glad that we've gotten in touch because I'd love for you to dispel some of the myths about the FCS, for example, in your opinion, how much difference do you believe to be in talent for top-ranked FCS teams (like UMass, Appy State, and Eastern Washington - also on Texas Tech's schedule) and teams in the lower end of a particular conference (i.e. Baylor or Iowa State)?
UMass Football Blog: Well FCS/I-AA team Northern Iowa handled Iowa State last year 24-13. Two Big Ten teams lost to I-AA teams and UMass' big rival New Hampshire has a three game winning streak (Marshall, Northwestern and Rutgers) against BCS teams.
Jeff Sagarin's final computer rankings had the FCS/I-AA Southern conference (60.50) rated ahead of three I-A conferences: Conference USA (59.54), Sunbelt (59.19) and MAC (54.99). UMass' CAA (54.99) conference was ranked ahead of the last two.
The real question for Texas Tech fans is "How good is a good FCS/I-AA team?". FCS teams get 63 scholarships spread over a maximum of 85 players. The real talent difference typically shows in the offensive and defensive lines. Everybody has 300 pd offensive linemen these days, but BCS teams have better athletes. Defensive linemen are bigger and faster at the FBS level. When a FBS team schedules a I-AA team the AD is paying for a win. Top FCS teams like UMass never see the Temples and Arkansas States of the world because we'd beat 'em. Against top I-A teams like Texas Tech the answer to the "How good are UMass and Eastern Washington?" question is ---- probably not good enough to beat the Red Raiders.
DTN:Can you generally talk about the type of offense and type of defense we can expect to see from UMass?
UMass Football Blog: UMass plays a "Pro-set' offense. Our QB throws from the pocket. We try to establish the run first and then throw. We play both one-back and two-back offenses.
Defense is "Mutiple". Our base defense is 4-3. However we play many "packages" and we play attacking defense.
DTN:On the offensive side of the ball, who is returning for UMass that Texas Tech fans should watch for?
UMass Football Blog: Offensively, our key player is our Senior QB Liam Coen (6-2 210). He leads the FCS Division in four career categories: passing eff. (152.43), passing TD's (66), total offense yards (8,130) and yards per play (7.66). He holds most UMass passing records and he has a year to go.
We return our two tackles Sean Callichio (6-5 300 All-Conference) and Valdimir Ducasse (6-4, 305).
Our top three WR's from last year graduated. This year Warren Wilson (6-1 185 transfer from Boston College) and Jeremy Horne (6-3 198 transfer from Syracuse) will start for us at wide-out.
DTN:Defensively, the Minutemen were better defensively (14th in the nation in FCS) than on offense (34th in the nation in FCS), what was the key for the defense last year and what standout players should we keep an eye on?
UMass Football Blog: UMass is a defensive team. Coach Brown was the Defensive Coordinator on our National Championship team and he loves defense. We'll blitz off the bus. All 11 defensive positions blitzed last year. We do stunts, twists and everything else in between.
Defensive players to watch include DE Michael Hansen (6-2, 235). He had 16 TFL and 7.0 sacks. Josh Jennings LB (6-0 220 ) 69 tackles 9.5 TFL and 6.0 sacks could be an FCS All-America this year. Jeromy Miles DB (6-2 207 transfer from Navy) is a preseason All-American.
DTN:UMass did a great job of getting to the quarterback last year, 4th in the nation in sacks, what was the key for UMass' success and do you expect that trend to continue this year?
UMass Football Blog: UMass has excellent team speed on defense. We play a lot of single coverage. That allows us to pressure the QB.
DTN:Who replaces running back Matt Lawrence, who rushed for over 120 yards a game for the Minutemen?
UMass Football Blog: UMass' last three featured RB's have all signed Pro contracts. Marcel Shipp (five years with the Cardinals), Steve Baylark (Practice Squad Cardinals) and Matt Lawrence (free agent contract Bears). Our next featured RB will be Steve Nelson TB (5-10 210). He had a 5.3 yards per carry average in 2007 and one TD. He is a Rivals three star recruit. Our short yardage back will probably be Brandon White (6-2 245).
Again, a big thanks to UMass Football Blog for taking the time to talk with DTN.