Gazette: Defensive Line Has Plenty To Prove - UMass Athletics

Gazette: Defensive Line Has Plenty To Prove

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The four starters on the University of Massachusetts defensive line have combined for two career starts and eight career tackles.

The inexperience of that unit is the biggest among a host of questions facing the Minutemen as they open the 2010 season Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against No. 4-ranked William & Mary at McGuirk Stadium.

Read the full story from the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

AMHERST - The four starters on the University of Massachusetts defensive line have combined for two career starts and eight career tackles. The inexperience of that unit is the biggest among a host of questions facing the Minutemen as they open the 2010 season Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against No. 4-ranked William & Mary at McGuirk Stadium. The two starts belong to senior Brandon Flanagan, who made them last year when he was an offensive lineman. All eight tackles are by junior defensive end Courtney Jackson, who played intermittently as a reserve the last two years. Defensive end Brandon Potvin and tackle Kevin Byrne are both redshirt freshmen and will be making their college debuts Saturday. UMass coach Kevin Morris was pleased with the unit's play in preseason, but was curious to see how it would fare against an opponent. "They're a group that's been scrappy together, grinding it out every day," Morris said. "We've been happy with their progress. That's all well and good, but let's see how they do in the fire." Flanagan's move to defensive tackle gives the Minutemen size up front at 6-foot-2, 300 pounds and leadership. "His attitude has been unbelievable. He's really come out and done a great job for us," Morris said. "He's really stepped up by his actions. He's not a loud guy. He's a feisty guy, but not a rah-rah guy. He's a blue-collar guy." Flanagan, who played defensive line at Buffalo as a freshman before transferring to UMass, said he's comfortable in his new role. "It's been a relatively easy transition. It's been a fun transition and an opportunity to help out the team and get some more wins," said Flanagan, who thought his time as an offensive lineman helped prepare him to face them. "I can pick up on their tendencies easier watching the film. I understand the mind set a little. I can transition run to pass a little easier watching them." After redshirting last year, Potvin and Byrne were looking forward to their first game action. "I've been pretty excited about it," Byrne said. "I'm trying to use all the stuff I've learned over the past two years." Potvin agreed. "It's very exciting. The last time I played was in an all-star game out of high school. Four weeks of camp feels like it was years long, but it's game week and we're about as ready as we'll ever be," said Potvin, who was confident in his ability to be effective. "In my opinion we've been banging with the best offensive line in the conference. I've been holding my own so I'm ready for everything." William & Mary will have senior quarterback Mike Callahan, who'll be making his first career start Saturday. "If we can pressure him, hopefully we can make him make some bad decisions and throw some interceptions," Flanagan said. "We're going to get after him early and after him often and get some big hits on him," Potvin said. "Get him rattled and let them know they're in our house." Time & location: 3:30 p.m., McGuirk Stadium Records: UMass was 5-6 last year; W&M 11-3 All-time series: UMass leads 7-4 Last meeting: Oct. 27, 2007: UMass 48, W&M 34 TV: Comcast Sportsnet New England Radio: WRNX-FM (100.9), WMUA-FM (91.1) Internet broadcast: Links can be found at umassathletics.com When William & Mary has the ball: The Tribe's biggest question on offense is at quarterback, while their biggest certainty is at running back. W&M will likely try to get Callahan in a rhythm challenging UMass' youth in the secondary and on the defensive line. But it's tailback Jonathan Grimes who'll concern the Minutemen the most. The junior was named a preseason All-American by just about everybody and is on the Walter Payton Award watch list after rushing for 1,294 yards and nine touchdowns last season. When UMass has the ball: UMass' strength offensively is its running attack. All-conference tailback John Griffin makes his UMass debut after transferring from Northeastern. He joins Jon Hernandez, who was effective last year in the Minutemen's No. 2 role. They'll be running against a Tribe defense led by junior linebacker Jake Trantin, a preseason All-American who had 90 tackles last year. UMass quarterback Kyle Havens will try to get his senior season off to a good start against a talented W&M secondary, led by cornerback B.W. Webb, who was last year's CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year. Notable: Former Minuteman Brandon London was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers Friday. ... Former UMass defensive backs coach Bob Shoop is the Tribe's defensive coordinator. ... UMass 7-5 in its last 12 games vs. top five opponents. Four of those wins have come against teams ranked No. 4.

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