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UMass football nearing full strength after back-to-back bye weeks

  • UMass tight end Adam Breneman, shown against Hawaii on Aug. 26, is back to full strength as back-to-back bye weeks have allowed his injured ankle to heal. AP



@MattVautourDHG
Thursday, October 12, 2017

AMHERST — After hobbling into their back-to-back bye weeks, the UMass football team expects to be near full strength when it returns to action Oct. 21 against Georgia Southern.

Adam Breneman, Lee Moses, Isaiah Rodgers and Bakhari Goodson have all returned to practice.

“Everybody practiced today,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said Wednesday. “They’ll be back out there.”

Breneman, who has been in and out of the lineup with an ankle injury he suffered Week 2 at Coastal Carolina, said the added healing time helped.

“For me it’s been huge to get my ankle to 100 percent so it’s not something I’m dealing with the rest of the season,” he said.

Whipple gave the entire team last week off as the coaches went out recruiting. He said this week, the team has focused on giving some younger players a chance to compete alongside veterans, while scout team players have worked on learning Georgia Southern’s option attack so they can mimic it to prepare the UMass defense to face it.

“With their option game, it’s a good time for a bye week,” Whipple said.

UMass defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham faced Georgia Southern last year with Western Michigan. Whipple said he’s talked with New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell, his close friend, about what to expect from GSU.

He said the Minutemen (0-6) have been doing some preparation for playing the Eagles already, but will return to full game preparation Friday.

Breneman thought the UMass players would use the long break like a reset.

“I think it came at a good time after getting off to the rough start that we did. We’re excited about the second half of the year,” he said. “There are games we can be competitive in. We have to start it off the right way against Georgia Southern and get our first win of the year. It’s like a new season from a fresh start standpoint.”

Whipple didn’t want to wipe the slate completely clean.

“We don’t want them to forget how well they played on defense at Tennessee or how well we played on offense vs. Ohio,” he said. “There’s a lot of good things there. We have to put them together.”

STEELE READY — UMass’ secondary woes against Ohio on Sept. 30 forced Xavier Steele, a natural safety and a true freshman, into a cornerback roll in the second half. He had an up-and-down performance, but thought he gained from it.

“I’m just trying to watch film and learn my plays better,” Steele said. “Having the first game out of the way, I won’t be as overanxious. I’m working hard to get ready.”

UMass defensive backs coach Steve Costello saw promise.

“He was going to play some nickel and we have a few people go down. He did a few things well and a few things he needs to work on,” Costello said. “Overall I think he played solid. He’s so physical. He’s aggressive and works so hard. We just have to get it under control.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage