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UMass football loses offensive coordinator Mike Kruczek  

University of Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar, center, seen here in August, is seeking a new offensive coordinator after Mike Kruczek left the program. (AP Photo)

University of Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar, center, seen here in August, is seeking a new offensive coordinator after Mike Kruczek left the program. (AP Photo) Purchase photo reprints »

Coach Charley Molnar originally hired former Hawaii assistant Nick Rolovich in December 2011. Rolovich was with UMass through signing day in February, but left before spring practice to become the offensive coordinator at Nevada, a job closer to his West Coast roots.

Kruczek was hired shortly afterward. But the former head coach at Central Florida and NFL quarterback, is returning to Florida. His family did not move with him to Massachusetts because his son Garrett, a junior in high school, is a Division I prospect and Kruczek wanted to keep him where there was a higher level of competition.

“I think he wanted an opportunity to see his son play his senior year,” Molnar said. “It was a quite a distance. His family didn’t move up and the separation was too much for him.”

Kruczek declined to comment.

Molnar, who called all the plays on offense during his first year as head coach, has not ruled out filling the role himself and hiring a coach in another area.

“That’s to-be-determined right now,” Molnar said. “I would be happy to take over the role. We’ll have to see what’s out there and then decide.

“In my first year, I didn’t want to do it because there were so many things I wanted to do to make sure I had my feet underneath me before I tried to” take on all the duties of offensive coordinator, he added. “I thought that would have been a recipe for disaster. Now it would be easier for me to take that role on.”

KEEPING RECRUITS — While NCAA rules prohibit Molnar from talking specifically about Shane Huber, the New Jersey linebacker who decommitted from UMass last week, Molnar said that recruiting from now until signing day on Feb. 6 is as much about retaining a team’s committed recruits as it is convincing undecided ones.

“We have three-quarters of our class committed at this point,” he said. “We continue to recruit those guys as if they were uncommitted. You really need to do that up until signing day.

“You never know when somebody else is going to come along,” Molnar added. “Perhaps they really do have some things to sell trying to get your committed players to look around. We constantly remind our committed guys of why they chose UMass in the first place. That’s usually enough to keep them in the fold.”

Molnar said like every other program, his staff has contingency plans in the event that a recruit changes his mind.

“We would be foolish not to have a plan if we were to lose one of our committed guys,” Molnar said. “But the next guy we’d go to, there’s no guarantee that we could get him. We keep our list of potential replacements. But we’re still recruiting at every position regardless of if there’s a committed guy there or not. We have a number of candidates at each position.”

There’s a growing sentiment among football coaches that an early signing period, similar to what exists in basketball, would benefit their sport. Molnar is a proponent.

“I would certainly like to have an early signing date,” Molnar said. “When you have a guy that your university is the place for them, they’ve done their homework. They’ve been on your campus multiple times. You’ve had an opportunity to be in their school, to be on their home and meet their parents or guardians. You’re a great fit academically for them, socially and from an athletic standpoint. There’s no reason we can’t sign those guys and put our focus on guys that are undecided.

“When guys decide too early and they see other recruits that are still being courted, sometimes they feel the need for some attention and they start to look around a little bit,” Molnar said. “Then you have to go back to them to try to keep them in the fold. It takes the focus away from rounding out your recruiting class. I think it would save everybody time and money if you could have an early signing date.”

DEPARTURES — Three more Minutemen are headed elsewhere. Defensive end Ryan Delaire, who had the sack to seal the only win for UMass last season, and Greg Hilliard, the linebacker who missed most of the 2012 season with a shoulder injury, have both decided to transfer.

Fullback Matt Campbell, who came to UMass under former head coach Kevin Morris, will also transfer. Molnar’s offense does not use a fullback.

UMass will officially announce which players have transferred at the beginning of the spring semester on Jan. 22.

NIU IMPACT — Watching Northern Illinois compete with Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Tuesday, Molnar hoped that seeing a MAC team reach a BCS bowl would inspire both recruits and fans.

“Anybody that makes that kind of improvement in their record over a relatively short period of time is good program to point to,” said Molnar of the Huskies, who were 2-10 in 2007. “Not only to our recruits, but to our fan base.

“Some people are still trying to figure out what are the benefits to making this move up to I-A,” he added. “Getting an opportunity to play in the Orange Bowl, on one of the biggest stages in all of college football, is a great example. To have even casual fans watching your program is great publicity for Northern Illinois. They’ll be able to live off that game from an institutional standpoint for five years. It can do so much for their school and for our school when we get that opportunity.”

TRIPUCKA A JET — The firing of general manager Mike Tannebaum, a UMass alum, has not stopped the Jets from signing Minutemen.

The Jets who already have Vlad Ducasse, and have had James Ihedigbo and John Griffin, signed former UMass long snapper Travis Tripucka to a reserves/futures contract which means he will likely get an opportunity to attend mini-camps and offseason workouts for a chance to earn an invitation to training camp.

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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