In the realignment drama this spring the buzz for the MAC was WKU and MTSU joining, a mess of teams leaving CUSA for the Belt and the AAC, etc. One prgram that tried constantly to get attention was UMass.
On paper, UMass is a solid program to add but they have said “Either the American” (who is not interested in moving north) “or football only somewhere else”.
The problem here is, UMass football is something of a dumpster fire and has been since the MAC severed the football-only relationship that brought UMass up to the bowl subdivision.
Since coming up to the FBS in 2012 UMass has won only 18 games, they are 2-26 in the last three seasons. They hope that bringing back Don Bown to the sideline, who led them to the FCS championship game in 2006.
Brown has a lot of building to do if he wants to turn UMass football into a program that holds any value the next time chairs are shuffled during conference realignment.
The offense returns their line, which was serviceable, and running back Ellis Merriweather who is a very solid player to build an offense around. Last season Merriweather racked up 1,138 yards on five yards a carry.
What doomed the UMass offense last season was the passing game. Brady Olson was one of a gaggle of quarterbacks who tried to run the offense, he’s probably their starter this year.
Whoever wins the job has some options to throw to. It’s not a star-studded unit but it’s well spread out and experienced. The question is can the passing game get it together this season.
While the offense showed some signs of a solid foundation the Defense was the opposite. It was terrible, and it’s hard to find any redeeming qualities. UMass allowed 485 yards and a nation-high 43 points per game.
Don Brown is renowned as a builder of defenses. He didn’t just get the UMass job because of his experience there 15 years ago, it’s also because of his experience running the defense at Michigan and Arizona.
UMass is going to need that. They are returning a lot of players on the defense, most of their top tacklers. The big changes need to happen in the front seven, who had a very tepid pass rush last season, averaging less than one sack a game.
This is a should-win game for the Bulls. It could be challenging if Brown turns the defensive line into something that can apply pressure but outside of that the Bulls should be able to keep pace with anything UMass can muster offensively.