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Injured UMass football players slow to return

AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts football team got more bad news than good news Wednesday.

Only two of the questionable players coach Charley Molnar hoped to have Saturday will be available at noon when the Minutemen host Bowling Green at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

Of the three players suspended for academic reasons, only running back Jamar Smith, who has played more special teams than offensive snaps, will be back. Neither wide receiver Alan Williams nor guard Nick Speller will return until next week at the earliest.

“Right now Nick Speller and Alan Williams still have some work to do academically so I think it’s going to be another couple days until we activate those guys,” Molnar said. “I don’t expect those guys to make the trip out to Gillette with us.”

Marken Michel, who returned from injury last week and replaced Williams in the lineup, will start along side Deion Walker and Tajae Sharpe.

True freshman Matt Sparks will make his first career start in place of Speller.

Among the injured players, only defensive back Iric Harris is ready to return. He missed the last four games with a shin injury. Harris played primarily nickelback before his injury. With Mike Lee no longer on the roster and Antonie Tharpe ruled out with a leg injury, Harris could see plenty of action right away.

“Iric Harris practiced today. He did fine and he’ll be ready to go,” Molnar said.

Tight end Rob Blanchflower’s lingering lower leg injury continues to keep him off the field. He’ll miss his second game in a row, which means more time for Derek Beck.

“Blanchflower is not going to go unfortunately,” Molnar said. “We were hoping today to get better news, but it didn’t come.”

Linebacker Greg Hilliard (shoulder), Galen Clemons (concussion), Jamie Casselberry (concussion) and Ed Saint Vil (leg) have all been ruled out. Saturday had been the targeted return date for Saint Vil, who has been out since the season opener against Connecticut.

“Ed Saint Vil is another week,” Molnar said. “We were hoping to have him, but he’s just too sore right now. He started to work, but he’s just not ready to go. “

VANDERBILT ON TV — NESN will carry UMass’ Oct. 27 game at Vanderbilt. The start time, which had previously been undetermined, is officially 7 p.m.

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

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