As a new fall semester begins at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the campus will be crawling with fresh-faced youngsters just starting their college careers. The UMass football program will be experiencing something a little similar this season as it embarks on its first ever FBS schedule. The Minutemen are essentially the freshmen of the Mid-American Conference, and let's just say that freshmen don't fare too well when they come into the FBS.
Head coach Charley Molnar and company will face their FBS baptism at UConn on Thursday, August 30th , but don't expect a rout. While UMass definitely doesn't have a roster filled with FBS-level talent, Molnar has assembled what looks to be a fairly solid combination of UMass vets and new faces.
Molnar's recruiting efforts have yet to bear fruit for this roster, but he's already left his mark. Perhaps one of his boldest choices was tapping redshirt freshman Mike Wegzyn for the starting quarterback spot.
Kellen Pagel's continuing recovery meant that there was no chance he'd be healthy in time for the FBS debut, but Molnar had at least one other good option in A.J. Doyle. Doyle is a true freshman and Massachusetts native who's shown promise but hasn't proved as effective in training camp as Wegzyn.
Although Wegzyn was redshirted, both QBs have had the same amount of time to adapt to Molnar's passing scheme. With Wegzyn getting the job to start the season, Molnar and company may decide to redshirt Doyle.
While Molnar's main claim to fame is his work on the passing game, he's inherited some pretty solid linemen on both sides of ball. Considering the way established FBS teams are typically able to plow through smaller FCS-type linemen, this should go a long way in giving UMass a shot to compete this year. In fact, it could be one of the most critical factors in making the most of what will undoubtedly be an extremely challenging first FBS season.
The standout offensive lineman is arguably redshirt senior Stephane Milhim whose size (he's 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds) and experience should help to anchor the offensive line. By my count, the team's starting O-line combines for around 1,500 pounds. On the other side of the ball, the starting front four on defense weigh almost 1,100 pounds overall.
It's worth noting that nobody on either the O-line or the D-line's front four is less than 6-foot-1. That should give anxious fans like me at least some peace of mind as UMass heads into the FBS era.
Taurus Londono graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2007 where he became a fan of the Minutemen for life.
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