UMass running back Stacey Bedell ready to make an impact
AMHERST — University of Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar was asked in August if there was a true freshman he thought had a chance to make an impact.
He quickly pointed to running back Stacey Bedell. The highly touted Mastic Beach (N.Y.) native seemed like a natural answer. Bedell was an all-Long Island and all-state honoree after rushing for 2,562 yards and 39 touchdowns as a high school senior and UMass had playing time available.
As the season advanced there were quite a few freshman who made an impact on both sides of the ball, but Bedell wasn’t one of them. In the second game of the season against Indiana, he suffered a shoulder injury and never returned, his season over before it ever really got started.
Fortunately for him, the timing of the injury allowed for Bedell to earn a medical redshirt. He’s back at 100 percent for spring practice, which started Tuesday.
“It feels good to be back out on the field playing again,” he said. “I’ve been training all offseason. I’ve been training for this the whole season. Now I’m just out there having fun.”
Molnar said the time off hasn’t dulled Bedell’s ability, but his precision has been off so far.
“He looks fast. He looks like hasn’t played football in a while,” Molnar said. “He’s a little bit antsy out there and he’s made some mistakes. He was a little better today than he was on day one.”
Bedell hoped to use the lost year as an asset.
“Even with the injury, I was able to learn the plays. Now I’m able to bounce back this year already knowing the plays,” he said. “I feel more comfortable with everything. I’m more comfortable around the coaches, players. I feel like I have a chance to be an impact guy. I just have to work hard in the spring, summer and in camp.”
Bedell will be in the mix to earn carries along with Jordan Broadnax, Jamal Wilson and the team’s incoming true freshman running backs. Bedell has also improved his pass-catching ability.
“Stacey’s main thing is his speed and he’s a good one-cut runner. He’ll put his foot in the ground and make a nice cut and can really make somebody miss,” Molnar said. “He seems to be catching the ball better than when he came in. He probably caught one ball in his high school career so his hands weren’t very well developed, but now he looks a lot better.”
Bedell, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, will likely work on the outside than between the tackles early in his career.
“You don’t want to make a fast back into a back that’s slower and less effective because you’re so focused on him getting bigger,” running backs coach Roderick Plummer said. “He’ll continue to get bigger as he matures over the next four years.”
“He lacks bulk, but he’s been working hard in the weight room,” Molnar said. “Gaining the bulk that he needs to be an effective inside runner will take time, but he’s on the right course.”
Bedell said his shoulder is no longer a factor, allowing him to focus on getting better.
“My shoulder feels fine now, 100 percent. I don’t let it bother me,” Bedell said. “I’m competing for a starting spot. But I’m going to keep working hard and my time will come.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.