UMass coach Charley Molnar eager to start training camp
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Coach Charley Molnar and the University of Massachusetts football team open preseason practice Monday. Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — Sitting in his office Friday afternoon, University of Massachusetts football coach Charley Monar was counting down the hours until Monday morning and the start of training camp.
“I’m ready. The guys are ready. I’m excited to see the players. I haven’t seen them very much over the summer,” said Molnar, who’ll begin his second preseason Monday at 9 a.m. “I’m very confident they’re in great shape. We left them in pretty good shape and I know that Coach Golden had a rigorous summer program with them. We’d like to see who stepped up as leaders over the summer because there are no coaches around. Some players can really make some great gains with their skills. It’s exciting to see who made the most progress, who is a little bit better.”
Molnar hoped that since most of the players have a year in the system it would create a better foundation and faster progress.
“I think the upperclassmen have no doubt about what our expectations are, how we want them to be the very, very best they can be. It’ll be a totally new experience for the freshmen,” Molnar said. “The upperclassmen can teach them the culture, to learn the Minuteman way and how we go about our day-to-day operation. The older guys know what we expect. They’ve embraced it. They know it’s not going to change. It’s nonnegotiable. Our freshmen already have an understanding what’s ahead for them.”
A year ago, UMass played 30 freshmen, including 21 true freshmen. Molnar said some of the freshmen could redshirt, but he’s not counting anyone out yet.
“I’m not excluding anybody. We’re bringing them all in to play,” he said. “We’ll sort it out as the days go by.”
WEGZYN’S JOB TO LOSE — Molnar said if the Wisconsin game was Saturday, sophomore quarterback Mike Wegzyn would start. But while Megzyn enters camp taking the first-string snaps, he still has to hold off sophomore A.J. Doyle.
“Mike has definitely earned the starting role coming into summer camp, very similar to a year ago when Kellen (Pagel) earned it over the 15 spring practices. How long Mike holds on to it is up to him,” Molnar said. “Going into spring ball, Mike started off as the starter, but it was pretty much equal reps, but Mike never gave it up. I know A.J. is a super competitive kid. That’s just his nature. It’ll be interesting to see how he comes into camp to go after the job. It’ll be more Mike starting off, but that can change on a dime. If A.J. comes in and he’s performing at a high level and catches up to Mike and surpasses him we’ll change those reps in a New York minute. I feel good about Mike going in as No. 1 and A.J. as No. 2.”
Molnar isn’t ruling out incoming true freshman Todd Stafford affecting the competition.
“I hope he does feel pressure to catch up to these two guys and not let them get too far ahead of him. I have a sense that Todd is coming in to play,” Molnar said. “I would be disappointed if he doesn’t try to close the gap as soon as he gets on the field.”
HEALTH — Wide receiver Dalvin Battle is expected to miss the entire season, but other than a few undisclosed bumps and bruises, Molnar said he expects full participation in preseason.
“There may be some day-to-day things, but nobody that’s going to be out for an extended period of time,” Molnar said.
NUMBERS — Several Minutemen regulars have switched numbers from last year, including a handful of potential defensive starters. Kassan Messiah switched from 90 to 3, while Jovan Santos-Knox swapped his 50 to 17, which was formerly Randall Jette’s number. Jette switched to 4 as dropping to single digits was common among defensive backs. D’Metrius Williams (formerly 13) is now 7, while Trey Dudley-Giles, previously 20, is now 9.
Newly scholarshipped Joey Colton is now 24 after wearing 46 in 2012.
Stafford gets a number with a lot of quarterback history in No. 12, which previously belonged to all-time leading passer Liam Coen.
MISCELLANEOUS — The construction on the Performance Center in the north end zone will affect practice at McGuirk Stadium, albeit slightly.
For starters, there are no goal posts at that end.
“There’s no net and kicking the ball into a construction site is probably bad business,” Molnar said.
Noise could be a factor.
“We’re uncertain about how noisy it will be at that end. I can’t tell guys to stop banging on steel. How that all shakes down will be interesting,” Molnar said. “It’ll be like when you’re making a key coaching point and a jet flies overhead and you get drowned out. At times we might get drowned out.”
Last year, before heading to potentially loud road games, Molnar played music at high volume to simulate the conditions. If possible, Molnar hoped to use construction noise to the team’s advantage.
“If it makes it a little bit harder to hear the quarterback, so much the better,” he said.