Tight end Rob Blanchflower cleared for practice, Vanderbilt
Massachusetts wide receiver Deion Walker (3) reaches for an incomplete pass in front of the Bowling Green bench in the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Purchase photo reprints »
Bowling Green sets down against Massachusetts in the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts football team received good injury news in the position it needed it the most.
Junior tight end Rob Blanchflower, who missed the last two games with a lower leg injury, returned to practice and will be back in action Saturday at 7 p.m. when the team travels to Vanderbilt.
“He was out there 100 percent. He was ready to go. He was really excited to practice football,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said. “It was awesome just to have him out there. The energy and the fact that he’s a good leader adds a little bit of confidence to our quarterbacks when he’s out there. Everything was just better today with him.”
Blanchflower was relieved to be back.
“It’s depressing seeing your team out their struggling when you know you could be out there helping them instead of just twiddling your thumbs on the sideline or even worse sitting at home watching them on TV,” Blanchflower said. “The coaches and the medical staff said it was in my best interest for me to miss two games.”
Without him the tight end situation has been in particularly dire straits. The Minutemen don’t have another player on their roster who played the position before August. Second-string tight end Derek Beck and No. 3 Julian Colarusso were wide receivers in the spring. Beck, who started the last two games, might miss Saturday’s game with a leg injury.
There could be more good news. Sophomore safety Ed Saint Vil (shin), who hasn’t played since Sept. 8, practiced Monday and will likely play. Senior defensive lineman Galen Clemons (concussion) could be cleared to return Tuesday.
Junior linebacker Greg Hilliard (shoulder) will see a doctor Tuesday to be evaluated.
“He’s more week-to-week than day-to-day,” Molnar said. “If his strength isn’t at a certain level I imagine it will be another week tacked on. It’s been slow progress with him.”
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jamie Casselberry and junior defensive back Antoine Tharpe (leg) are unlikely to return.
“Tharpe seems to me to be another week,” Molnar said. “He’s not out, but he’s doubtful.”
Alan Williams and Nick Speller, who have been suspended the last two games for academic issues, are getting closer to returning.
“I’m hoping to have those guys back (Tuesday). They know what the task at hand is,” Molnar said. “Hopefully they’ve accomplished that and we’ll be ready to go.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.