UMass' news that it was releasing Kevin Morris as head football coach made national headlines yesterday. The Minutemen completed their final year at the FCS level this past season and now turn their attention to moving up to the FBS level as members of the Mid-American Conference.
Jeff Thomas of the Springfield Republican has an update on Kellen Pagel's return after missing the Villanova game due to injury. He also takes a look at the impact of Shane Vivieros' return to the defense in the recent weeks.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has a notebook covering several aspects of the UMass football team this week including an update on Jerome Lewis' injury at practice yesterday, Tom Gilson being named as a team captain for Saturday, an update on some special alums to be in attendance at Gillette and a look at the schedule of events for the Colonial Clash.
Lynn Barry of WWLP 22 News has a story on Kevin Morris and his wife Rebecca serving as co-chairs of the annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's "Walk to Cure Diabetes" which will be held this Sunday at Six Flags New England.
David Driver of the News & Messenger in Virginia has a profile of freshman defensive back Iric Harris and his transition to college football. Harris hails from Woodbridge, Va. and travelled to the Old Dominion game where many of his local friends and family were in attendance.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette leads of his college football notebook in today's edition with news that the Minutemen are expected to have Kellen Pagel back for the Central Connecticut game this Saturday night. The UMass starting quarterback was left with an injury in this past Saturday's game at Old Dominion, where he had led the Minutemen to 26-straight points before leaving the game.
As you get prepped to follow tonight's game at Old Dominion, here are several previews of the match-up. This will be the first-ever CAA game at Ballard Stadium and will also be "Black Out" night for Monarch fans.
Rebecca L. Morris has Type 1 diabetes, so when she and her husband, University of Massachusetts Amherst Head Football Coach Kevin P. Morris, were asked in 2009 to chair the North Central Connecticut/Western Massachusetts chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk to Cure Diabetes, they immediately accepted the honor.
The Belchertown couple had been wanting to get involved in the cause; they wanted to help raise awareness and financial support for research.
This year's walk will be their third as chairpersons, the first since their only child, Ryan J., was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in December at age 10. "It is our mission as a family to do whatever we can to help raise awareness and funds to find a cure," Mrs. Morris said.
The 2011 North Central Connecticut/Western Massachusetts chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk to Cure Diabetes will take place on Sunday, Oct. 16, at 10 a.m. at Six Flags New England.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette writes in today's edition on the announcement of the 2012 football non-conference schedule. In addition to a home game against Indiana at Gillette Stadium and road games at Connecticut and Vanderbilt, the Minutemen will head back to Ann Arbor, Michigan to take on the Wolverines on Sept. 15.
"It's a little bit of a different model than a lot of schools (making the upgrade from FCS to FBS) have gone through, but it was important to us to send the signal of where we want to go with this program," Athletic Director JohnMcCutcheon said. "Obviously it's going to be a challenge. We're still in a transition phase but we want to get there as quickly as we can. To have a schedule like this in place shows our fans, and more importantly our prospective recruits, where we want to be.
"This schedule certainly legitimizes the announcement that we are going to the next level," Head Coach Kevin Morris said in a statement. "With Gillette Stadium as our home field, the citizens of Massachusetts will have a premier football venue to watch their team compete at college football's highest level. There is no better time to be a student-athlete, alumnus or fan of UMass football."
It was a tough day for the Minutemen yesterday at Boston College with the Eagles coming away with a 45-17 win. One bright spot for UMass was the play of Jesse Julmiste who set a new school record in kickoff return yardage (252) bolstered by a 100-yard return for a touchdown.
Frank Dell'Apa of the Boston Globe has a preview of Saturday's game at Boston College focusing on the confidence built from past performances against FBS programs, including last year's narrow loss at Michigan.
But this is a new era for football at UMass, which will move up to the Bowl Subdivision next season and join the Mid-American Conference. Narrow defeats at Navy (21-20, in 2006), Kansas State (21-17, in 2009), and Michigan (42-37, in 2010) indicate UMass can compete at the next level.
"In the last two years, in particular those games against Kansas State and Michigan, we certainly had our chances in big-time atmospheres,'' Morris said. "Our players haven't played at Boston College but as a staff we have, and we know what to expect from Boston College football. We'll be ready to go. On paper, they are our best opponent, the strongest team we'll play.
"If you go by the Michigan, Kansas State, and Navy games, those are good indicators of where you are as a program. I think we're a very competitive program but we still haven't recruited a truly FBS recruiting class. We're going to go out and play and compete with anybody we play against and our goal is to win the game."
Jonathan Hernandez rushed for a career-high 167 yards, while Kirk Nelms had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, as the No. 21 UMass football team defeated Rhode Island 36-27 under the lights at McGuirk Stadium on Saturday night.
UMass football coach Kevin Morris spoke with the media on Monday morning on the weekly CAA Football Teleconference. Morris previews the upcoming game against Rhode Island and talks about the Rams' tough loss at Syracuse last week.
University of Massachusetts football coach Kevin Morris said he probably wouldn't be making a decision on how he planned to use his quarterbacks until next week.
A bye this early in the season is unusual but not unheard of. Morris is hoping to use this week to focus on improving his own team, including the quarterbacks, before preparing for Rhode Island next week.
"We're really focusing on fundamentals and spending the week on us, making sure we're where we need to be. We'll put the focus on Rhode Island next week," said Morris, who said quarterbacks Brandon Hill and Kellen Pagel would both see considerable action in practice.
Jonathan Hernandez rushed for 151 net yards and sophomore quarterback Kellen Pagel threw two touchdown passes in his UMass debut as the Minutemen handled Holy Cross 24-16 Thursday night at Fitton Field.
Emil Igwenagu's first-quarter touchdown run, his first varsity rushing TD, put the Minutemen up for keeps. They held a double-digit lead until Holy Cross scored a touchdown in the final minute of the game.
"Now we've got a game under our belts," Morris said. "It's a win, so it'll make the meetings and the end result a whole lot happier when you're reviewing the tape because you got the win."
UMass has until Sept. 17 to iron out the kinks and fix what needs fixing.
Head Coach Kevin Morris said his players will take a one-game-at-a-time approach to the season, which begins tonight at Holy Cross.
Sophomore tight end Rob Blanchflower said he and his teammates have broken down their season into smaller goals, too. "Even though we can't play for a CAA championship, we can play to be the best offensive [team] in the country, be the best defense in the country,'' he said. "Shut teams out, put up points, knock people out of the playoffs. We have a very competitive attitude.''
History will be made tonight at Fitton Field in Worcester when Holy Cross hosts in-state rival UMass in the first-ever night football game played on the Crusaders campus.
It marks the 50th meeting in the series between HC and UMass, which begins a two-year transition period into the Football Bowl Subdivision and becomes a football-only member of the Mid-American Conference.
The Minutemen lead the series, 23-21-5, and have won the last eight meetings, including a 31-7 victory in Amherst last Sept. 11.
Holy Cross is pumped to provide an electric-style atmosphere, thanks to new portable lights.
If fans of University of Massachusetts football are excited about getting this season started, more demonstrative adjectives may be needed for Holy Cross.
UMass begins its final season of NCAA Football Championship Subdivision play Thursday night at Fitton Field in Worcester, where the Crusaders are pulling out all the stops in what will likely be the final game in this series.
"We're really excited," Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore said on his weekly radio show. "It's a huge event on top of being a big game."
The Bud Light UMass Football Radio Show returns to the airwaves for its season premiere this Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Join us at the Hangar Pub & Grill for great food and football talk with Head Coach Kevin Morris and show host Josh Maurer.
The show will normally be held on Thursday nights throughout the season, but is moved to Tuesday this week because of Thursday night's season opener. All shows air live on 100.9 FM WRNX and here on UMassAthletics.com. Many shows will also air on AM 1510 (WWZN) in Boston.
When Brandon Hill was deciding where to sign during his senior year of high school in Audubon, N.J., one of his reasons for choosing the University of Massachusetts was the potential to become the starting quarterback early in his career.
Hill knew that if he redshirted in 2010, he would have a chance to win the starting job after Kyle Havens graduated.
That plan is on track as Minuteman coach Kevin Morris on Monday named Hill, a redshirt freshman, his starting quarterback for the UMass season opener at Holy Cross at 8 p.m. Thursday.
The University of Massachusetts quarterback sweepstakes goes to redshirt freshman Brandon Hill.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander out of Audubon, N.J., beat out redshirt sophomore Kellen Pagel to earn the starting job for the Minutemen, who open the season Thursday at Holy Cross in Worcester.
"In the offseason, I worked hard and I've been working toward this for my entire life," Hill said Monday. "I know Kellen worked hard, too. What won it for me? I don't know. I worked hard and did everything I could, tried to learn as much as I could.
"Kellen's a great quarterback and it was a good competition and I learned a lot from him as well," Hill said.
UMass football head coach Kevin Morris will be on hand to speak with UMass fans on Sept. 8 as the Together We're One Tour heads to the 99 Restaurant in Tewksbury. The event is being held in conjunction with the Merrimack Valley Alumni Club and UMass Athletics.
The event begins at 6 PM with Coach Morris scheduled to speak at 7 PM followed by a Q&A session. The events from the summer were outstanding and a great time was had by all!
What's in a transitional year? That's a good question for the University of Massachusetts football team.
The 2011 season will be the last for the Minutemen in the Colonial Athletic Association and the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision as they transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Mid-American Conference.
UMass will play 11 games this season, no more and no less. There will be no CAA championship to play for, there will be no FCS playoffs as a goal.
Morris has pledged that Jonathan Hernandez will be the feature back this season after gaining 938 yards and nine touchdowns on 219 carries last year. UMass will try to use the ground game to take pressure off its inexperienced quarterback.
"There's really nothing that needs to be said. Everybody's on the same page. We all know what this year means to the university. It's a big transition year. It's a big year to leave the CAA on a good note," said defensive lineman Brandon Potvin, a redshirt sophomore and former Holy Name star from Worcester.
The word Jonathan Hernandez uses when he talks about playing for the University of Massachusetts football team is "honor."
Being recruited to UMass in 2007 after a stellar career at Leominster High was an honor. Becoming the latest in a long line of outstanding running backs for the Minutemen was an honor. And being scouted and recruited by then coach Don Brown and then running game coordinator Brian Picucci was an honor.
"He and Coach Brown recruited me, so that's an honor to me. I'm honored to play for him now," Hernandez said of fellow Leominster native Picucci. "We do connect because we're from the same town."
A day off Wednesday and the beginning of actual game preparation brought a little added energy in University of Massachusetts practice Thursday as the Minutemen put training camp in the rearview mirror and began preparation for their Sept. 1 opener at Holy Cross.
"We just got out of camp. Our legs are fresh off the break. Everybody is excited for game week No. 1," senior captain Tyler Holmes said. "I'm very excited to get into game week."
Junior center Quinton Sales agreed.
"It'll be good to face some different colored jerseys," he said. "When you get closer to a game, you can see the light. It's exciting, there's a little more energy."
A year ago, as he prepared to begin his first full season as a starter, Darren Thellen talked about wanting to live up to the high standard set by the University of Massachusetts safeties who'd preceded him.
A year later, he's the one setting the standard.
At practice Monday, Thellen marvelled at the speed of his role transition.
And on the 20th day of preseason camp, the University of Massachusetts football team rested.
Nineteen straight days of running, blocking, throwing, catching, hitting, kicking and tackling each other has earned the Minutemen a well-deserved day of rest Wednesday as camp came to a close Tuesday.
"It went pretty good, the team obviously bonded well and all the practices went well and we built on everything," senior tight end and captain Emil Igwenagu said. "It is nice to finally get a day off to get our legs back, get treatment and take care of our bodies."
The University of Massachusetts' quarterback competition may be drawing to a close as the Minutemen will complete preseason training camp today. After an off day Wednesday, UMass will move into full preparation Thursday for the team's Sept. 1 opener at Holy Cross.
"It could go all the way up to game time, but then we'd be splitting too many reps going into game week," UMass coach Kevin Morris said. "They say if you have more than one quarterback you have none. That's a cliche that has merit. We're probably going to get this thing done as soon as we can."
"He did his best to help us out, practicing every day and taking as many reps as he could. It was disappointing for us and heartbreaking for him. But he's looked great in preseason camp,'' added head coach Kevin Morris.
He considers Igwenagu a valuable weapon. "Emil is one of the better players in our league and he can do a lot of things for us and create a lot of mismatches for the opposing defense,'' Morris said. "We'll also use him in short-yardage situations because he was such a great tailback in high school.''
Igwenagu said he's feeling positive about the upcoming season.
"The seniors were asked if they wanted new captains and they said they liked things the way they were,'' with Igwenagu and linebacker Tyler Holmes leading the team. "That was reassuring and a great honor,'' he said.
Sophomore Kellen Pagel or redshirt freshman Brandon Hill will win the job in a matter of days, if not sooner as the Minutemen are less than a week from getting into game practice.
Hill appears to be getting more reps with the first team, but coach Kevin Morris says it is still a competition.
"Those guys are in the top two right now fighting for the job," Morris said. "Mike Wegzyn who is a true freshman that we brought in, he's done very well and Ray Pendagrast who has gotten taken away from the quarterback competition a little bit and into the punter competition and he's really getting focused on that."
Senior tailback Jonathan Hernandez will have one of the team goals his senior season altered. Because of the move to the FBS, the 2011 season will be a transition period, in which the Minutemen will play a full FCS schedule, but will not be elligible for postseason play.
"I'm excited for the younger kids, because they are moving on to the MAC," Hernandez said. "I'm really excited for them, but I'm just excited to play this season. I don't think that affects any of us on the team at all. We like to compete and Coach Morris stresses that all the time. We're taking every game like its our last game."
"I came here to get a natinoal championship ring," Leominster native Rob Blanchflower said. "Now that we're moving up, I don't have that opportunity but I do have the opportunity to play in a bowl game. Being in a bowl game, playing in front of bigger crowds, that's pretty incredible."
Former Leominster High star tailback Jonathan Hernandez is expected to make a major impact in this his red-shirt senior season at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. With the departure of Oakmont Regional grad John Griffin to the NFL, Hernandez is expected to carry the brunt of the load of the Minutemen rushing attack in 2011.
Hernandez and the rest of the Minutemen participated in UMass Football Media Day Wednesday afternoon at McGuirk Stadium.
"I think Hernandez is going to be the feature back but we had a couple of other backs that stepped up this preseason," UMass head coach Kevin Morris said. "Jamar Smith whose been waiting in the wings. And also Alan Williams, those guys have had an outstanding preseason for us and they'll be able to take some of the load off of Jon.
University of Massachusetts football fans know former Minuteman running back John Griffin is battling for a job with the Cincinnati Bengals.
They might not realize that the best UMass runner is still on campus.
Jonathan Hernandez, who led the Minutemen in rushing yards and touchdowns, is back for his senior year and ready to carry the load for the run game as UMass prepares for its final season of Football Championship Subdivision play.
"For a lot of seniors, this could be our last time ever playing the game," said linebacker Tyler Holmes, a preseason All-America selection and the CAA preseason defensive player of the year. "Our attitude is positive, regardless of postseason play or anything like that. We've had great energy in preseason, and I'm just very excited waiting for the season."
UMass All-Access checks in with three blueshirt MVP's from Sunday's practice: linebacker Chad Hunte, defensive back Mike Lee and offensive lineman Stephane Milhim. Also head coach Kevin Morris talks about the offensive and defensive lines along with an update on Monday night's practice.
Jonathan Hernandez was a practice MVP for the third consecutive time on Saturday earning him the Green Jersey in Sunday's practice. Galen Clemons was also named an MVP after a great training camp effort on the defensive line. Head coach Kevin Morris updates you on the team's depth and progress following Sunday's practice and one week of training camp.
The University of Massachusetts coaches thought they had a potential recruiting steal when they signed the undersized, under-recruited running back from Leominster, a perennial central Massachusetts powerhouse. He was fast and he was strong.
But it wasn't until they saw him every day in practice that they realized just how tough Jonathan Hernandez is.
"He's a tough nut. There's no question about that. He brings it every play. He's got skills and speed. Add toughness on top and that's what you want from your tailback spots," UMass coach Kevin Morris said. "He was an under-recruited player. We knew he had potential, but there's a lot of potential out there. We haven't been disappointed."
Things were lining up for Emil Igwenagu to have a big year in 2010. Not only had he but voted captain of the University of Massachusetts football team as a junior, but he was set to have a big role in the Minuteman offense.
UMass coach Kevin Morris planned to use him a lot as plays were drawn up that had Igwenagu lined up as a tight end, a tailback and a fullback.
But in the season opener, he suffered an ankle injury and was never really healthy again the rest of the year. Igwenagu missed three games, but even in the eight he did play, he was never close to 100 percent. He finished with just 12 catches for 142 yards.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette also had a great feature on Tom Gilson today featuring the redshirt senior's perseverance in going from walk-on to starter over the course of his career.
About 20 minutes after the rest of his University of Massachusetts football teammates were showering, changing or enjoying their post-practice Gatorade and popsicles, Tom Gilson was still working out near the visitors sideline in the noon heat that approached 90 degrees at McGuirk Stadium.
A manager fed ball after ball into the Juggs machine firing rapid-fire passes at him.
Gilson, a Mansfield native, caught one high, one low, extending and contorting his arms to secure each ball before tossing it aside to prepare for the next.
"I had a couple drops. I was really upset with myself," Gilson said.
As he caught his breath, sweat made his shirt stick to the new praying-hands tattoo on his left arm with the words "Blessed is he who perseveres through the trial."
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette looks at the UMass wide receiving corps today with a focus on Julian Talley's experience being crucial. The preseason All-CAA pick is the lone returning wideout with significant career receiving numbers. Jesse Julmiste and Tom Gilson are expected to push for starting roles as well.
Vautour also rounds up several other key positions on the offense including the running back spot to back up Jonathan Hernandez.
Tuesday was the first day of full-pad practice for the UMass football team. Afternoon showers kept things cool as the Minutemen continued their preseason camp at McGuirk Stadium. Wednesday will bring the first two-a-day practices of the year with a morning and evening session.
Monday's team MVP's went to tailback Alan Williams, wide receiver Jesse Julmiste and defensive back Antoine Tharpe. Tharpe earned his second MVP of the season. A third MVP honor gets him "the Money Jersey" which is green.
The Minutemen held a spirited and intense practice on Monday afternoon at McGuirk that saw a little extra pop on the defensive side of things. Head Coach Kevin Morris talks about the intensity and the competition that has been building up.
Sunday's team MVP's were Jamar Smith from the offense and Ed Saint-Vil from the defense.
As with the other tour stops, coach Morris spoke to the fans about the move to FBS, the joining of the MAC in 2012, and playing in Gillette Stadium.
"Can you imagine Penn State's Joe Paterno or Alabama's Nick Saban going out to rub elbows with the little people? The UMass tour is definitely unique.
Among those who were on hand or stopped by to say hello were Steven Gentilucci, who played at WPI under Morris; former Auburn High football coach Paul Fenton; ex-WPI head coach Ed Zaloom; former record-breaking WPI quarterback Mike Riccio, and Mike Wynn of Grafton, an offensive lineman on UMass' 1998 national championship team.
Also in the crowd was ex-UMass kicker Matt Goldstein, now the color commentator for the Minutemen's radio broadcasts. He is also manager of the Walgreen's store on Park Avenue.
"I'm ecstatic about (joining the BCS)," said Goldstein, who is also P.A. announcer for UMass basketball and hockey. "It's a great opportunity. UMass is the state university of Massachusetts, and this is a step in the right direction."
Join us on Wednesday night in Worcester for another stop of the Together We're One Tour. The event begins at 6 PM at the Banner Bar & Grill on Green Street. It is a free event with a cocktail hour followed by comments and a question-and-answer session from head coach Kevin Morris about the football program.
The Together We're One Tour will head to Boston tonight for a free event at the UMass Club from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. We hope to see you all out there. Matt Vautour had some insight on the event in today's Daily Hampshire Gazette.
MARKETING FOR THE FUTURE - Morris will be a featured guest as part of Maroon Night tonight at the UMass Club, 225 Franklin St. in Boston.
It's the fourth of five "Together We're One" events designed to help promote the upgraded football program.
"The outpouring of support has been outstanding. We expect more of the same Thursday," Morris said.
UMass athletic director John McCutcheon said the summer event tour is just the beginning of increased marketing efforts by the department in connection with the football upgrade.
"We'll start to gear up the campaign to make people aware and increase season tickets. We have a lot of work ahead of us for sure. We need to get people excited and get down to the business of preparing for 2012," McCutcheon said. "We'll be doing a number of different things. We're looking at anything and everything. We're looking at advertising campaigns, special market campaigns. We're out meeting with various groups around the state and the response has been very positive."
Here is a video montage from last night's Senior Awards Banquet at the Campus Center. Sean Busch and Jackie Lyons took home their respective Athlete of the Year honors, while Chris Piekos was named the Inspirational Award recipient and Samantha Schnoerr and Anthony Nelson were named the Scholar Athletes of the Year.
Saturday's annual University of Massachusetts spring football game will have some added events after last week's announcement that the school was upgrading its program to the Bowl Subdivision.
In addition to the 4 p.m. game at McGuirk Stadium, there's a 1 p.m. tour of the program's new offices in the Slobody Building at 101 University Drive. Members of the 100 Yard Club, a UMass booster club, can meet coaches and players at 3 p.m. prior to the spring game and eat with them at a barbecue afterward.
There will be an autograph session for anyone after the spring game.
UMass coach Kevin Morris said he was pleased with his team's progression this spring.
"It's been good. We've got a good group of guys," Morris said. "Guys have really taken it seriously and set a high standard."
After years of debate and speculation. UMass is moving its football team up to the FBS, formerly called Divisioin I -A With that move comes another, UMass will play its future home games in Foxborough. "I'm glad to see them make it finally where they should be", says Amherst's Al Ohlson. Watch the full story from NBC22.
The Berkshire Eagle has a follow-up story on UMass football elevation to the FBS and the MAC. Howard Herman takes a look at the team and its future. "There's always pressure to win," Morris said. "We were 6-5 last year with a couple of losses that were heartbreakers -- they were 'woulda, shoulda, coulda.' We have to come back off that and whether we're playing in the CAA or the SEC or now with the MAC, coming into 2012, you've got to win. There's no secret there."
After Wednesday's press conference, all talk about the University of Massachusetts football program naturally revolved around its future. But lost in the chatter and debate about Gillette Stadium, the Mid-American Conference, bowl games and exciting potential nonconference opponents were any thoughts about the present.
Check out the UMass Football Practice 6 Report With MVPs. Interviews with Shane Viveiros, Julian Talley, Emil Igwenagu, Stephane Milhim, Theo Agnew and coach Kevin Morris.
The next practice is slated for Saturday morning. The UMass Football Spring Game is April 30 at 4 p.m.
Check out this interview with UMass Football Coach Kevin Morris and this week's Spring Practice Most Valuable Players. Tuesday's MVP's were defensive backs Christian Birt and Antoine Tharpe, tight end Rob Blanchflower and wide receiver Tom Gilson
The Daily Collegian has an update notebook on UMass football. The team held its annual Pro Day at McGuirk Stadium on March 25, announcing its 2011 schedule. The schedule is highlighted by the second-annual Colonial Clash at Gillette Stadium against New Hampshire on Oct. 22 and a BCS battle against Boston College on Sept. 24.
This year the announced UMass recruiting class features 22 players, 17 true freshman and five mid year additions. The recruiting class is very offensively heavy with 16 of the 22 players coming from that side of the ball. Five players are listed as playing defense while kicker Andrew Ortiz out of The King's Academy in West Palm Beach, Fla. is the loan special teams player.