Coach Mark Whipple frustrated with final practice, but pleased with camp overall as UMass switches to game-week mode

Last modified: Thursday, September 04, 2014
AMHERST — Like most college football teams at this time of year, UMass was glad to see training camp come to a close. But coach Mark Whipple wasn’t happy with how the Minutemen ended it.

“We weren’t ready to go. It was probably our worst day. We have a lot of work ahead,” said Whipple, who put his squad through extensive running at the end of Thursday’s scrimmage. “They have to be ready to go. We didn’t get them motivated. So we’ll get them in shape then. ... It’s a young team, lacking some leadership. Some guys have to step up and grow up a little bit. They have during camp. I wouldn’t say we took a step back, but we didn’t get any better today.

“We did some of the things we wanted to do in the scrimmage, but the execution wasn’t good. The attitude was a little flat,” Whipple continued. “They keep score next Saturday. We wouldn’t have won today. If we had played today, we wouldn’t have fared so well.”

Junior Jamal Wilson said the team deserved it’s punishment conditioning.

“As a team we have to stay focused. We had to run. Things happen. He did what he had to do to get us motivated,” he said. “That shouldn’t happen. We should be motivated on our own.”

The Minutemen will gather briefly Friday morning before getting most of the weekend off. They’ll all return to campus Sunday night to get into game week preparation for their Aug. 30 opener against Boston College at Gillette Stadium. The players expected the energy level to be back at the peak when they returned.

“We’ve been waiting for (games) for a long time. We’re excited,” Wilson said. “We’re getting in the film room and getting down to business. We’ve been waiting for that since the first day of spring. We’ve been learning this new offense, this complex offense. We’ve been practicing against each other. We’re ready to play new people. We’re ready to show not only our coaches, but the rest of the world we can be relevant. “

Junior linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox agreed.

“It’s the end of camp. Our legs are pretty much gone,” Santos-Knox said. “These are the dog days of camp. Coach is giving us a good break. We’ll bounce back. We’ll be ready. The energy will be right back up where it’s supposed to be.”

Despite his frustration Thursday, Whipple was pleased overall with training camp.

“I felt like coming out of spring there was a lot more holes. The dam’s not plugged yet, but we’re closer,” he said. “We felt a lot better than we did coming out of spring. The holes have closed. I would not say anybody has regressed. Everybody’s gotten better.”

Santos-Knox said switching to BC preparation means an increase in the importance of the mental approach.

“This is more like you’ve got a big exam coming up. We have to study for this. It’s a lot more mental. The physical part was all camp,” Santos-Knox said. “Now it’s all mental. We’re going to tighten things up. This is where leadership really shows up.”

NO CAPTAINS YET — Whipple said he didn’t expect to name captains until the start of Mid-American Conference play, but he implied that senior linebacker Stanley Andre would likely be among them.

“We probably won’t do something until after the first four games,” Whipple said. “Stanley will be there. We’ll see with the others. We’ll talk about it.”

INJURED/SIDELINED PLAYERS — Junior tight end Brandon Howard returned to practice in a limited capacity and is expected to be at full speed when the team returns to practice next week.

HEALTHY PLAYERS — Whipple listed quite a few players who’d had strong camps, but was particularly pleased with the development and durability of the offensive line.

“There are 11 guys on the offensive line that have not missed a practice or any time,” he said. “You can get some consistency and some reps with things that way. That’s helped.”

The status of junior college transfers Ryan Johnson, an offensive lineman, and tight end Jean Sifrin are both still in limbo as they wait for their academic eligibility to be determined.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage