Whether suspended, injured UMass football players will return remains uncertain
Massachusetts head coach Charley Molnar, center, reacts during an NCAA college football game against Connecticut at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — Going into last week’s bye week, the University of Massachusetts football team’s two biggest goals were to get academically and physically healthier before Saturday’s noon game against Bowling Green at Gillette Stadium.
Whether the week can be declared a success or not remains to be determined.
UMass coach Charley Molnar said the status of the three players suspended for academic reasons — wide receiver Alan Williams, offensive guard Nick Speller and reserve running back Jamar Smith — wouldn’t be finalized until the middle of the week.
“Some are on track to be back and some won’t,” Molnar said. “Some guys still have a few more hurdles to get over before they’re cleared.”
The injury front was similarly uncertain:
∎e_STnSRedshirt freshman offensive lineman Jamie Casselberry is out with a concussion. With he and potentially Speller out, the line would be Matt Sparks and Michael Boland at guard, Stephane Milhim and Anthony Dima at the tackles and Quinton Sales at center.
Speller will be in the mix at guard if he returns.
∎e_STnSJunior cornerback Antonie Tharpe is doubtful. He was in a walking boot Monday.
∎e_STnSJunior tight end Rob Blanchflower, who wasn’t expected to be out long, didn’t practice last week or Monday and is questionable with a lower leg injury.
“Hopefully tomorrow he’ll do more and be good to go,” Molnar said.
∎ Senior defensive lineman Galen Clemons, who returned against Western Michigan after missing time with a concussion, is doubtful after suffering further symptoms.
“The doctor’s want to be very sure before we move forward with him,” Molnar said.
∎e_STnSSophomore linebacker Greg Hilliard is questionable with a lingering shoulder injury.
∎e_STnSRedshirt freshman defensive back Iric Harris returned to practice after missing time with a lower leg injury, but his status for Saturday is uncertain.
Molnar said even the players that haven’t missed time are healthier.
“All these guys have bumps and bruises, and sore hamstrings and fingers,” Molnar said. “All that stuff has cleared up immensely.”
THIN AT TIGHT END — With Blanchflower out, true freshman Derek Beck has been the team’s No. 1 tight end, a position he hadn’t played before the fall.
“He’s got some work to do. He’s not a complete football player by any stretch of the imagination,” Molnar said. “He’s trying to adapt to the role at tight end, but he’s a wide receiver at heart. That’s been his biggest downfall. He hasn’t raised the physicality of his play enough to say ‘this guy is a real tight end.’ He’s raised it for Derek Beck, but for winning football, he’s not there yet.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.