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College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the UMass season with what you need to know.
– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
– Top Players | Keys To The Season
– What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
– UMass Schedule Analysis
– UMass Minutemen Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015
UMass Minutemen College Football Preview 2021: Offense
– 12 points. That’s how many the Minutemen scored in the rough four game season. It’s a program in a constant state of transition, the transfer portal is playing a big role in trying to get things going in the third year under Walt Bell, and there’s nowhere to go but up after averaging just 188 yards and three points per game.
– The passing game tried out just about everyone possible – with four quarterbacks throwing at least nine passes – but the team might finally have the guy to settle the gig with Tyler Lytle coming in from Colorado. Garrett Dzuro is back after leading the team with 215 passing yards and two picks – he completed just 42% of his passes.
Leading receiver Samuel Emilus is gone through the transfer portal, and the receiving corps loses four other parts to other places. However, Jermaine “OC” Johnson is back after catching 14 passes for 96 yards, and tight end and backup quarterback Josiah Johnson returns along with Taylor Edwards. There’s enough in place to get a big more out of a midrange passing game.
– The offensive line didn’t generate a thing for the ground game and struggled in pass protection, but there’s excellent size and enough bulk to at least try to get more physical. Three starters are back in the interior, and help is coming from the transfer portal, but the backs have to rise up.
Four are leaving through the transfer portal, but the Minutemen are bringing in Kay’Ron Adams from Rutgers to go along with 6-2, 227-pound former JUCO transfer Ellis Merriweather – the only RB to gain more than seven yards – running 42 times for 115 yards.
NEXT: UMass Minutemen College Football Preview 2021: Defense
UMass Minutemen College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– The defense couldn’t to a whole lot right, allowing 482 yards and 40 points per game. It had the most problems stopping anyone from running – at least that helped give the secondary a break – but there was a decent pass rush to build off of with nine starters expected to be back.
– All things considered in the four game season, the pass rush was the team’s biggest positive with nine sacks and 31 tackles for loss coming from several spots.
6-2, 280-pound super-senior Avien Peah was the leader at end with 19 tackles with a sack and six tackles for loss, and the tackles are experienced and very, very big. 6-3, 335-pound Taishan Holmes and 6-1, 310-pound Billy Wooden have to hold up better.
– Leading tacklers Cole McCubrey is gone through the linebacking corps, and No. 2 tackler Mike Ruane is also done from the linebacking corps. 6-4, 228-pound second-year freshman Nahji Logan got in a little work at one outside spot, and the very, very young group of last year has options. However, most of the top tacklers were in the secondary.
All five starters are expected to be back, and that doesn’t even include 6-1, 203-pound sophomore Tanner Davis, who was third on the team with 24 tackles in part of a safety rotation, and with Te’Rai Powell coming off a positive season. Now the group has to come up with a pick after getting shut out.
NEXT: UMass Minutemen College Football Preview 2021: Top Players
UMass Minutemen College Football Preview 2021: Top Players
Best UMass Minutemen Offensive Player
RB Ellis Merriweather, Sr.
There’s a chance that Rutgers transfer Kay’Ron Adams ends up turning into the main man in the rotation, but for now, the 6-2, 227-pound Merriweather needs to be the back the offense works around. He only averaged 2.7 yards per carry on his team-high 115 yards after coming in from the JUCO ranks, but give him a little bit of blocking and he’ll produce.
2. QB Tyler Lytle, Soph.
3. C Dalton Tomlinson, Jr.
4. WR Jermaine “OC Johnson, Sr.
5. RB Kay’Ron Adams, Soph.
Best UMass Minutemen Defensive Player
CB Josh Wallace, Soph.
A few members of the Minuteman secondary could rise up and be here, but it’s Wallace who has the upside to grow into more of a lockdown defender who could move around if needed. He came up with 12 tackles and five broken up passes coming off a solid freshman year, but now he has to start picking off passes.
2. S Tanner Davis, Soph.
3. DE Alvin Peah, Sr.
4. DT Taishan Holmes, Jr.
5. CB Noah Boykin, Jr.
Top Incoming UMass Minutemen Transfer
QB Tyler Lytle, Soph.
UMass has to settle its quarterback situation and it needs talent at the position. Lytle’s a 6-5, 220-pound transfer from Colorado with a live arm and the passing ability to start stretching the field. He’s not going to run all that much, but if he can get the job, he’ll be able to finally do something for an O that averaged fewer than five yards per pass.
NEXT: UMass Minutemen College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
UMass Minutemen College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
UMass Minutemen Biggest Key: Offense
Just start moving the chains. Name any aspect of the 2020 UMass offense and it needs improving. It couldn’t run, it really couldn’t throw, it couldn’t block, and it couldn’t score points. Other than that, everything was great.
It all starts, though, with simply being able to convert once in a while on third downs. It all tied into that – the team couldn’t move the ball, couldn’t go on any decent drives, the time of possession was a disaster, and every game was ugly.
As bad as previous UMass offenses were, the 2018 team was able to convert 37% of its tries, and the 2019 O converted 35% of its chances. Last year? 25%, converting just 14 of 55 tries.
UMass Minutemen Biggest Key: Defense
Do something to slow down the run. The pass rush wasn’t all that bad, there were plays in the backfield, and there’s a ton of bulk on the defensive line. It didn’t matter a lick last season as the run D clunked.
It held up okay against Florida Atlantic allowing 140 yards and two scores, but Georgia Southern and Liberty each ran for over 300 yards, and Marshall tore off 267 yards. On the year, the Minutemen allowed 6.5 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. That’s why …
UMass Minutemen Key Player To A Successful Season
DT Taishan Holmes, Sr.
The 6-3, 335-pound senior made six tackles in his first season on the nose. Billy Wooden is 310 pounds, Cletus Mathurin is 305 pounds, and Josh Atwood is 360 pounds.
There’s bulk on the inside of the UMass line, and it all has to translate into more production against the run. There rotation has to keep everyone fresh, and something has to happen to hold up between the tackles. Holmes should be the best tackle of the bunch.
UMass Minutemen Key Game To The 2021 Season
Eastern Michigan, Sept. 18
The Eagles are stronger than UMass, but it’s a home game and it’s a winnable game among a sea of almost certain losses over the first part of the season.
The Minutemen start out the season at Pitt and with Boston College to follow, however, there’s a chance to go on a little bit of a run over the second half of the year. Any wins in the first part of the season would be gravy, and if they can beat EMU, and with UConn coming up in early October, there’s a chance to start turning this around record-wise.
2020 UMass Minutemen Fun Stats
– Scoring: Opponents 161 – UMass 12
– Yards Per Game: Opponents 482 – UMass 188.8
– Time of Possession: Opponents 33:14 – UMass 26:46
NEXT: UMass Minutemen College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction
UMass Minutemen College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction
Blow off 2020.
Everyone in the college football world – and everyone else – has to obviously take the global pandemic year for what it was, but for UMass, it was truly a season of scrimmages to try to get everyone a little bit of experience.
Four games, all on the road, all against good teams, and it was all ugly. However, it’s not like the Minutemen were playing Alabama and Clemson.
Yeah, Liberty was wonderful, and Marshall, Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern finished with winning records, but they weren’t so unbelievable that losing 161-12 to them and being totally inept in every phase was okay.
Going forward for head coach Walt Bell, it’s about trying to build this whole thing up into respectability.
Set The UMass Minutemen Regular Season Win Total At … 3
It would be more fun to be in the MAC again, or a part of Conference USA – just being everyone’s paycheck win as an independent isn’t entertaining for anyone.
However, the positive is that the program can find games at its own level. UConn, Rhode Island, Maine, at New Mexico State. Those all have to be wins if UMass is starting to take any sort of a positive step, and it would be nice to pull off a victory over an Eastern Michigan or maybe pull of a shocker against someone else.
More than anything, UMass just has to be competitive. It has to start finding something it can do right and it has create a positive identity in some way.
With just 19 wins since moving up to the FCS world in 2012, it’s taking a while.