Freshman offensive lineman Michael Boland earns time on UMass line

Last modified: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
AMHERST - The combination of Michael Boland's strong camp and the lack of offensive line depth for the University of Massachusetts have made the 6-foot-7, 295-pound offensive guard into a rarity in college football - a true freshman offensive lineman with a chance to start.

"This is a perfect storm for him because we lack depth," said UMass coach Charley Molnar. "He's more ready physically and mentally than most freshmen are. It's an area of need for us and so he's got a real chance to compete.

"He's a big strong guy," he added. "You can see his athleticism. Even though he's so big, he moves really well."

According to offensive line coach Ron Hudson, Boland slightly trails redshirt freshman John Wallace in a tight competition to start at left guard, but he likes Boland's talent and approach.

"Mike Boland has shown that he has the ability to be a physical player," Hudson said. "Sometimes we give him a little more credit than he's ready to handle as far as understanding everything. But he's shown some ability to be physical and play hard.

"He's got character and he's got toughness," he added. "He's pushing for playing time because he's come in here, he hasn't said two words and he's worked his tail off."

Boland, of Rockville, Md., said the coaching staff told him to arrive ready to compete at the start of camp and he's simply following instructions.

"I'm just trying to do the best that I can. I'm listening to the older guys and listening to coach. Hopefully it's starting to pay off," he said. "I still can improve and get better with techniques. I have a long way to go.

"The older guys are awesome about helping me outINJURY REPORT - After Tuesday's practice, Molnar said that other than quarterback Kellen Pagel, 21 of the 22 projected starters on offense and defense are healthy. He declined to name the one injured player until he releases a depth chart later in the week.

"We probably have one guy that I was hoping for a better prognosis, but he's not cleared up yet," Molnar said. "If you take Kellen Pagel out of the equation, we'll be able to start maybe 21 out of the next 22 guys. We're in good shape."

The second string may have taken a hit. Redshirt freshman tight end Brandon Howard, who is competing with Derek Beck to be the No. 2 tight end, had his right arm in a sling at practice Tuesday after injuring it Monday.

"He's got a little bruised shoulder. We're going to get an MRI or an X-ray," Molnar said. "He said he felt better today than he did yesterday."

KOEPPLIN CUT - The Patriots cut former Minuteman kicker Chris Koepplin despite strong kickoffs in Monday's preseason game against Philadelphia. Koepplin was a long shot to make the team as the Patriots were unlikely to carry another kicker alongside reliable veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowksi.

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 http://www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.