The 2019 UMass spring game was April 20, and cfbdynasty saw a lot of good action happening on the field. In the days before the game, we had the chance to talk with Josh Walfish, sports beat writer for the Daily Hampshire Gazette and expert on the UMass Minutemen. Find out his thoughts on the RB distribution and what he thinks the Minutemen will do more of this season. Check out more from Walfish on Twitter @JoshWalfishDHG.
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Overall, how do you believe the offense will compare to the 2018 version?
If you thought Mark Whipple’s offense was fast, Walt Bell’s attack makes that offense look like they were moving in molasses. UMass is going to be near the top of the nation in offensive tempo if Bell has his way, which is the first major change from the previous regime. However, the other big one is that Bell seems to actually be committed to running the football, something the Minutemen did sporadically last season. There are other obvious differences in terms of what is required of the quarterback and the type of route trees the receivers will be running, but the major ones is how fast the Minutemen will be and how much they want to use the running game early and often as opposed to just when they’re winning.
What do you expect from the QB position in 2019?
Insert the shurg emoji here. The expectations for the quarterback begin with which signal caller will be out there on opening day at Rutgers. If it’s Michael Curtis, the Minutemen should be an efficient offense right off the bat due to Curtis’ familiarity and previous success in a quick-decision offense back in junior college. If it’s someone else, there might be a learning curve both in terms of getting comfortable in the offense as well as building chemistry with the receivers. Curtis had some success in spot duty last season and that seems to have carried over into the spring.
How do you see the workload at RB being distributed?
This is the most fascinating question to me because Walt Bell is going to want to run the ball, but he doesn’t have the experience in the backfield that breeds confidence in that. Kevin Brown is a freshman who spent a year at prep school last year where he bulked up and really prepared himself to be a force right away for the Minutemen. I expect he’ll be the starter for the first game, but his backups are going to be interesting to watch. Nick Orekoya didn’t see much playing time last year, but has looked good in the spring. Victor Santiago is a quick, agile runner who can make people miss in space, so he might play a larger role as well.
How does the offensive line compare to the 2018 group?
This year’s offensive line will be far more inexperienced than last year’s group that returned four starters. The Minutemen return both starting tackles from the 2018 line, but the entire interior of the line will be new faces, some of whom have seen some game action during their careers. Which three players will trot our as starters at the two guard spots and at center in August against Rutgers is still to be determined, but this line looks more athletic than the ones in previous years. It also hasn’t helped that UMass has dealt with a lot of injuries this spring on the line, which means there are plenty of linemen who haven’t even practiced much and could add to the depth at the position.
What do you think the distribution will be to the WR/TE's?
The issue UMass has at tight end is that the ones on the roster right now were largely recruited as blockers under Whipple and have been inconsistent as receivers. The obvious exception is Taylor Edwards, who was too big to be a wideout for Whipple, and ended up as tight end but didn’t improve enough as a blocker to usurp Kyle Horn or Travis Reynolds at the position. The Minutemen are deep at wideout and have a couple of speedy options who can succeed in the screens that Bell likes to throw as well to help with the rushing game. I think the receivers will see far more passes thrown their way than the tight ends.
For our dynasty owners, who are some young players that stand out as future breakout performers?
The two players I’d look at for long-term effect are freshmen Kevin Brown, who is shaping up to potentially be a four-year starter at running back, and sophomore Samuel Emilus, who ended last season really strong at receiver and is picking up the momentum under the new coaching staff.