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Charley Molnar: Mike Lee is no longer on the football team

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts coach Charley Molnar explained Monday that junior Antoine Tharpe missed Saturday’s game due to injury not discipline and that Mike Lee, who was one of the suspended players, is no longer a member of the football team.

Tharpe was at practice Monday with his foot in a boot, an injury that has him questionable for the Oct. 20 game against Bowling Green after this week’s bye.

“I don’t know if he’ll be ready for this next game or not. It’s disappointing because he’s been playing well. He’s a valuable member of our secondary,” Molnar said.

Lee, who’d been previously suspended by Molnar during the offseason, was dismissed for his most recent undisclosed infraction.

“Mike Lee is no longer on the football team. I dismissed Mike Lee,” said Molnar, less than two weeks after he’d praised Lee for putting his previous troubles behind him. “It was the head coach’s decision. Mike Lee lived on the edge as far as following rules and doing everything everyone else on the football team did. Mike crossed the line one too many times and it got to the point where he wasn’t being a good team member. I thought he had turned the corner. It was a series of small infractions, but a continuous series of small infractions. He got to overload and that was it.”

The other suspended players — senior offensive lineman Nick Speller, senior wide receiver Alan Williams and junior running back Jamar Smith — who Molnar said had been disciplined for “academic related issues” were not at practice Monday. But he said they could return in time for Bowling Green.

“There are still some things I want them to make up academically before I give them the green light to rejoin the football team,” Molnar said. “There are some guys who just don’t put the all effort and energy into their academics that it requires to be successful.”

Molnar said he’s had a plan for how to handle discipline from the day he was hired.

“I knew how I was going to do it. Every coach has a different level of what’s acceptable to him and what’s not. I have a very low threshold of what’s tolerable to me,” Molnar said. “The vast majority of our guys attend their classes, attend their tutors, go to study table and get their work done on time. All that stuff is part of being a normal college student. I’m not saying what these guys did. I’m just giving the broad picture of what we expect our guys to do. Some of these guys just didn’t do those thing and had to pay the consequences. They’ll continue to pay until they prove to me over the next few days that they’re in line with what I want.

“I want every guy on this team to succeed. It’s like grounding your children. You don’t ever want to, but you will if that’s what it takes to get them to follow the rules,” he continued. “These young men are not just here to play college football. They’re here to get an education.”

HEALTH — Junior tight end Rob Blanchflower (lower leg) and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jamie Casselberry (concussion) missed practice Monday.

“I feel better about Blanchflower than I do Casselberry right now,” Molnar said in reference to their potential to play against Bowling Green.

Sophomore linebacker Greg Hilliard was close to playing Saturday and should play on Oct. 20.

“I would anticipate now as we go through this week and into next week that he would be fine,” Molnar said.

The Bowling Green game had been the original target date for defensive back Ed Saint Vil’s return. The sophomore has been out since the season opener against Connecticut with a leg injury.

“Originally after he got hurt, the plan was that he will be back after the bye week,” Molnar said. “He didn’t do anything today. I can’t tell you if we’re on track, but right now he’s not ready to practice yet.”

UMass could use him. Lee’s dismissal and Tharpe’s injury have left the team thin at defensive back.

MINI-CAMP — Molnar said the Minutemen are using the bye week to focus on themselves and to get healthy. Practices were scheduled for Monday-Wednesday while the team got Thursday, Friday and Saturday off.

“We got the young guys a lot of work,” Molnar said. “We gave them a chance to do some work where normally the veterans would have been in and (the young guys) would have gotten only limited work, but today there were the only guys doing it. The last part of practice was all dedicated to the young guys.”

SCHNELL VISITING — According to 247Sports.com, Spencer Schnell, a 5-foot-9 receiver from Elkhart, Ind., will visit UMass for the Bowling Green game. He’s also looking at Kent State, Northern Illinois and Eastern Illinois.

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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