Charley Molnar stresses basics for UMass football this spring
University of Massachusetts coach Charley Molnar, seen here against Bowling Green in Foxborough on Oct. 20, opens his second spring practice Tuesday. (AP Photo) Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — After his team struggled through a 1-11 season in 2012, University of Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar said he and his staff would be recommitting to fundamentals when spring practice begins today at McGuirk Stadium.
“When I came in a year ago I said we’re going to have a really fundamental spring and I think we did that,” said Molnar, who begins his second season. “As the head coach as I assessed last season, I saw a breakdown in fundamentals over and over again when we were overmatched (in terms of talent). We’re still going to have a number of guys out there on every down that are equal or overmatched. Fundamentals are critical so we’re going to go back and reteach fundamentals.”
Molnar said he expects the players would have a better idea of what to expect this season.
“Just because it’s year two doesn’t mean you take your foot off the gas, that you loosen things up,” he said. “They understand how the program is run. I think all players appreciate consistency from the top down. They know what every day is going to be like and they can make it through.”
NEW STAFF — Molnar confirmed that he will also hold the position of offensive coordinator, replacing Mike Kruczek who returned to Florida after the season. Molnar has yet to name a quarterbacks coach, a position Kruczek also held, or a new cornerbacks coach to replace Jeff Burris, who was hired as an assistant by the Miami Dolphins.
Until replacements are hired, Molnar will handle QBs while safeties coach Ted Daisher and defensive coordinator Phil Elmassian will coach corners.
DEPARTURES — Three more Minutemen who contributed last year have left or are leaving the program. According to Molnar, freshmen offensive linemen Michael Boland and Jamie Casselberry both left for health reasons. He said both are expected to remain in school.
Molnar did not address the specifics of their injuries, but both suffered concussions during the season.
“Both of those guys decided to not play football,” Molnar said. “Both of those guys had health concerns that made them believe that playing football was not in their best interest. I wish them the best.”
Their departures combined with the graduation of starters Stephan Milhim, Quinton Sales and Nick Speller leave the Minutemen shorthanded on the offensive line. Only junior Anthony Dima has played regularly for the Minutemen and only freshmen Matt Sparks and Al Leneus have even seen snaps for UMass. Newcomers Josh Bruns, Terrell Smith, Sam Zeff and Cameron Mock are all competing for time.
“I might more another guy over to offense,” Molnar said. “We’re really shorthanded right now.”
Wide receiver Marken Michel’s departure is a little more complicated.
Michel’s younger brother Sony Michel is a high school junior and is among the most highly sought after running back recruits in the country with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and host of other elite BCS programs. It appears that Marken may attempt to transfer to wherever school his brother decides to commit.
Michel, a sophomore whose season was shortened by injury, caught 28 passes for 229 yards last year. He had three catches for 31 yards and a touchdown as a freshman.
Molnar declined to comment on Michel who has not yet been officially released from his scholarship.
RETURNEES — Freshman running back Stacey Bedell, who missed most of last season, and sophomore quarterback Brandon Hill, who missed all of it, will both be at full strength after recovering from injuries when practice starts today. Molnar said both will be back in action today.
“Stacey is 100 percent. I’m really excited to see him go,” Molnar said. “From an offensive standpoint, I’m more excited to see Brandon Hill in action than any other player. I haven’t seen Brandon do anything since high school. I’ve never seen him rip the ball in anger. So I’m anxious to see him rip the ball.”
Hill started three games as a redshirt freshman in 2011 but missed last year with a shoulder injury.
Molnar said redshirt freshman Mike Wegzyn, who started 11 of 12 games last year, will take the first snap with the first string Tuesday, but that the quarterback competition is wide open.
“We’re going to pick up where we left off. Mike Wegzyn will get the first snap of the spring, but it’s more ceremonial than earned,” Molnar said. “We have a good competition with Mike, A.J. (Doyle) and Brandon Hill.”
INJURED — Wide receiver Dalvin Battle, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, and punter Colter Johnson, who has an undisclosed injury, are both expected to miss spring practice.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.