UMass releases football depth chart ahead of Saturday’s opener vs Boston College
JERREY ROBERTS UMass freshman J.T. Blyden, center left, is among the running backs coach Mark Whipple will use this season. Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — With the season starting Saturday at 3 p.m. against Boston College at Gillette Stadium, the UMass football team released its first two-deep depth chart Monday without any big surprises, but a few noteworthy inclusions and exclusions.
Junior Jamal Wilson will start at running back as expected. Sophomore Lorenzo Woodley’s return to health and practice late last week was enough to land him second after an up and down camp. Sophomore Shadrach Abrokwah, freshman J.T. Blyden and junior Jordan Broadnax are all expected to compete for carries.
UMass will play a lot of three and four receiver sets, but it has only two starters technically on the depth chart. Juniors Tajae Sharpe and Jalen Williams will start, backed up by Penn State senior transfer Alex Kenney and redshirt freshman Shakur Nesmith. Juniors Marken Michel, Elgin Long and Bernard Davis, as well as sophomore Shaq Harris, are all expected to be targets for junior transfer Blake Frohnapfel. Junior quarterback A.J. Doyle is the backup.
Junior Rodney Mills, who played tight end and fullback in camp, is the starting fullback, but he will have an H-back type role where he’ll line up in a variety of spot with a chance to be a regular pass catcher.
Junior Brandon Howard will start at tight end, while junior college transfer Jon Denton, also a junior, will back him up and play regularly in two tight-end formations.
Senior nose tackle Daniel Maynes, who has missed much of camp with a back injury, will play, but won’t start Saturday. Junior Robert Kitching is expected to man the middle of the defensive line alongside redshirt freshman Sha-Ki Holiness and sophomore Peter Angeh.
Sophomore linebacker Shane Huber, who suffered a torn knee last year, was a notable omission from the depth chart. Considered a valuable player when healthy, he could still redshirt if he’s not healthy enough to help early in the season.
Redshirt freshman Jackson Porter won the job for the second cornerback slot along side junior Randall Jette.
Much-traveled punter Brian McDonald, a senior transfer from Minnesota-Morris, will start after beating out redshirt freshman Logan Laurent, while junior Blake Lucas will handle kickoffs, extra points and field goals. Junior Trey Dudley-Giles is expected to return kicks and punts.
For the entire UMass depth chart, visit GazetteNET’s UMass Sports Blog at gazettenet.com/blogs/umasssports/.
STILL NO SIFRIN, JOHNSON — Junior college transfers Jean Sifrin, a junior tight end, and Ryan Johnson, a junior offensive lineman, remain in eligibility limbo and did not practice Monday.
MAC POLL II — The Mid-American Conference, which released a preseason media poll in July, released a coaches poll on Monday. Like it was in the media poll, UMass was picked to finish last (seventh) in the East. Bowling Green was picked to win the East with 11 of the 12 first-place votes. There were 12 because one coach elected not to vote. Akron, which had the other first-place vote, was second in the East followed by Ohio, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami (Ohio) and UMass.
The only difference in the two polls was that the media picked Toledo to win the West, while the coaches chose Northern Illinois (nine first-place votes). Toledo was second in the West (three No. 1 votes) followed by Ball State, Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan.
STUDENT BUSES — According to associate athletic director John Sinnett, UMass has sold out 30 fan buses for first-year students (most upperclassmen arrive Sunday and Monday) attending Saturday’s game. He said Boston College will send 20 buses. The UMass student fans are scheduled to run onto the field with the team prior to the game.
PREGAME HIGHLIGHTS — Former Minuteman running back Michael Cox, who is fighting for a job in the New York Giants backfield, is tentatively scheduled to be part of the coin toss ceremonies on Saturday. The Giants host the Patriots on Thursday in both teams’ preseason finale. ... Michelle Brooks-Thompson, wife of former UMass center and current Amherst Regional head coach David Thompson a former contestant on the Voice, will sing the national anthem.