Gazette: Preview Of Football's Offense - UMass Athletics

Gazette: Preview Of Football's Offense

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In the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Matt Vautour takes a look at the Minutemen on offense with a breakdown of each position.

AMHERST - Senior quarterback Kyle Havens has been in Amherst just over a year, but he'll be one of the University of Massachusetts football team's more tenured veterans as the Minutemen try to improve on last year's offensive struggles with a lot of new faces.

The following is a look at the UMass offense position by position:

Starter: Kyle Havens

While last year's QB derby ran well into preseason, Morris declared Havens the starter early in camp allowing the senior to gain chemistry with a new offensive line and new receivers around him.

After throwing 15 interceptions and just nine touchdown passes last year, Havens will need to improve those numbers for the Minutemen to be effective.

True freshman Brandon Hill is listed as No. 2 on the depth chart right now, ahead of sophomore junior college transfer Ian Shultis. Should Hill see playing time it might depend on the situation.

If Havens were to get injured mildly and needed to miss a series or two, it's unlikely Morris would burn Hill's redshirt even if the freshman is better than Shultis. But if Havens is more seriously injured or is ineffective over a sustained length of time, Morris would likely consider Hill if he thinks he's the better choice.

STARTER: Jonathan Hernandez or John Griffin

EXPECTED TO PLAY: Jamar Smith

Nowhere on the roster are the Minutemen deeper or more talented. Griffin was a preseason All-CAA selection on the strength of his 1,009 rushing yards last year for Northeastern. Hernandez, who blossomed last year with 577 yards on 121 carries, is expected to get an equal share of the load.

If Griffin hadn't joined the Minutemen, Smith, a redshirt freshman, might have been a CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Smith will likely get some carries this year and could be a key piece in the future.

STARTER: Scott Duggan

EXPECTED TO PLAY: Emil Igwenagu, Thad McCummings

As deep as the Minutemen are at tailback, they are thin at fullback as there's no natural choice to replace Chris Zardas, who was among the more underrated members of the UMass offense last year.

Igwenagu will line up at fullback at times, but he'll start at tight end, moving senior Duggan into a starting role for the first time. Duggan, who was a linebacker up until this year, has been a regular on special teams.

McCummings, who was listed on the roster as a defensive back to start camp, could see time. The Minutemen will likely use a lot of one-back sets as well.

Tight End

STARTER: Igwenagu

EXPECTED TO PLAY: Andrew Krevis, Rob Branchflower

Igwenagu, who is an excellent receiver and blocker, is the No. 1 tight end, but the other two will see time in two tight end sets and when Igwenagu is lined up elsewhere. Branchflower has considerable size and could be poised to contribute as a redshirt freshman.

Wide Receiver

STARTERS: Julian Talley and Anthony Nelson

IN THE MIX: Dan Sheeran, Jesse Julmiste

A year ago only four Minutemen wideouts caught more than 10 passes, but Morris listed seven different receivers as potential targets for Havens. Talley and Nelson, who transferred from Hofstra, are locks to be key contributors.

Julmiste has playmaker potential. Sheeran, a Syracuse transfer, was mostly a special team contributor last year, but will likely get a chance to prove himself at receiver.

Julian Colarusso, who is a big target at 6-foot-4, could get a chance to crack the lineup as well.

Offensive Line

STARTERS - Nick Speller, Greg Niland, John Ihne, Stephane Milhelm, Brian Ostaszewski or Josh Samuda,

IN THE MIX - Anthony Dima, Quinton Sales

Morris has placed a high value on versatility among his linemen so there could be considerable movement among the players.

Speller, a Syracuse transfer, has Vladimir Ducasse's old number and old position at left tackle. Niland, who transferred from Northeastern, is at left guard, but could move to center if Ihne, whose health has been shaky at times, is out.

Ostaszewski and Samuda were both starters last year and are currently sharing the top spot on the right guard depth chart, but both are expected to play. Milhelm, who made an impact late in the season last year, should be a mainstay at right tackle again this year.

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