After finishing with a losing record yet again, UMass fired Mark Whipple this year, bringing in FSU offensive coordinator Walt Bell as the new head man despite FSU’s offense being abysmal in his one year there. Bell is a decent hire and there is some talent on the team but this is a program in disarray. After being kicked out of the MAC after going 2-22 in their first two years, UMass has floated in obscurity. In fact, in their seven years at the FBS level, they have never won more than four games, and I’m not sure how long the program can survive at this level.
Bell will be calling his own plays on offense, but there isn’t much talent to work with. WR Andy Isabella (1,689 yards, 16.6 YPC, 13 touchdowns) was one of the lone bright spots on this team last year, putting up All-American numbers on a 4-8 team, he is gone. As are the two main quarterbacks that shared time last year. As are the top three rushers from last year. This is going to be a rebuilding year for the offense.
WRs Brennon Fingle and Sadiq Palmer are two guys who showed flashes last year and return, but the main question is who will be throwing to them. Michael Curtis, last year’s #3 returns, but he’ll be challenged by JUCO transfer Andrew Brito.
The run game is a complete unknown quantity. Junior Bilal Ally redshirted last year and is likely the starter, they also bring in freshman Kevin Brown and JUCO Cam Roberson. The line is the one bright spot on the offense, where three starters return.
With the coaching change and all of the key pieces in the skill positions gone, this offense could really struggle.
The new DC is Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, who Bell met while at Maryland. Abdual-Rahim doesn’t have much to work with here in year one, this defense was horrible, allowing 6.9 yards a play last year, and the two best players from that team are gone.
Some talent returns though. End Jake Byczko is the top returning sack artist at 3.5, LB Chinedu Ogbonna had 5.5 TFL and CB Isaiah Rodgers had three TFL, four PBUs and two picks. Add in Penn State grad transfer WLB Jarvis Miller and you have a few key pieces to build around.
This won’t be a good defense this year, but they should progress to the mean a little bit, and with plenty of underclassmen in the projected starting lineup, you’ve got to try and find a diamond in the rough to build this defense around in the future.
The offense will be worse, the defense should be better, but I don’t expect much to change in year one for Bell at UMass. This is a program in desperate need of a home, and with the AAC dropping to 11 members and potentially adding a 12th, this would be the perfect year to finally make a bowl run, I just don’t really see the path.
|Date||Opponent||opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|12-Oct||at Louisiana Tech||87||-15.0|
Average Projected Record: 4.8 wins, 7.2 losses