Thursday, September 04, 2014
AMHERST — Marken Michel can’t stop thinking about Aug. 30. The UMass football team’s season opener against Boston College at Gillette Stadium had been on his mind more than every waking moment.
“When I go to sleep, I dream about it,” the junior receiver said. “There’s not a second that goes by when I don’t think about it. Even if I tried to get it out of my head, I can’t.”
A year ago, Michel was out of football. He had left the Minutemen after his freshman year and returned to Plantation, Florida.
His unexpected departure sparked speculation. Michel’s younger brother Sony was a highly recruited high school running back. Rumors in recruiting circles were rampant that Marken quit UMass intending to enroll at whatever school Sony signed with. Marken Michel disputed the rumors, but was unfazed by them.
“I know how the world works. People are going to throw out their assumptions and say what they want to say. I’m a strong-minded person, I just kind of shrug it off and go about my business,” said Michel, who said his reason for leaving was much simpler.
“I wanted to get closer to home. Then I realized why I came up here was to get away from home. Coming up here helped me to become a man and not have to count on my parents.”
Michel, who returned to UMass in January, started the process of returning even before former coach Charley Molnar was fired. But playing for a new staff added to his motivation to perform well in the spring.
“All slates are clean. I have to prove to them that I can play,” Michel said. “But most importantly I want to prove to myself and the UMass nation that I can play. If I do that, everything else will take care of itself.”
The year off gave him a new appreciation for playing football.
“I missed it,” he said. “You’re always going to miss something you love. Being back is amazing.”
UMass coach Mark Whipple and wide receivers coach Mike Cassano have known the Michel family since 2010, when they were both on the University of Miami coaching staff.
“He played really well in spring. He’s been really good. He’s becoming more of a leader,” Whipple said. “He’s playing at high level.”
Cassano said there’s been little evidence that he missed any time.
“He’s been great. He brings a lot of energy. He’s a talented guy that we’re excited came back to the program. We’re real excited to have him,” Cassano said. “If I didn’t know Marken, I wouldn’t know he’d been gone away. He’s such a hard worker. He was training day in and day out to get back on the field. I don’t think he’s lost a step at all. I expect great things from him.”
Michel, a likely starter at slot receiver, has his own high expectations.
“We have a lot of slot plays that come underneath to get me open. A lot of people don’t like to go across the middle, but I’m one of those guys that likes to go across the middle to make difficult catches,” he said. “Coach Whip is a brilliant man. With his plan, there’s no way we can’t execute in this offense.”
WILLIAMS GONE — UMass spokesman John Sinnett confirmed a Masslive report that Whipple had kicked junior safety D’Metrius Williams off the team. His departure, combined with Ed Saint Vil quitting after last season, left UMass with inexperienced safeties. Trey Dudley-Giles, who spent the first two years of his career as a cornerback, moves to safety, while redshirt freshman Jackson Porter and junior Khary Bailey-Smith will likely see more playing time at corner.
Williams played in 23 of UMass’ 24 games in his two seasons and started three times. He gained notoriety freshman year for tweeting during halftime of UMass’ loss to Bowling Green. Williams, who has tweeted over 13,000 times, did not tweet about his dismissal and has not tweeted since Aug. 3.
MIDNIGHT MADNESS — NCAA rules allow teams to practice once a day this early in the preseason, so after being frustrated with his team for undisclosed incidents at Tuesday’s practice, Whipple brought his team back at midnight for extra work to send a message. Whipple said the punishment wasn’t premeditated.
“It was a gut reaction,” Whipple said. “They were all there. We had a good night.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage