UMass loses starters Bailey-Smith and Williams for the season

Last modified: Saturday, October 10, 2015
AMHERST — Two players slated to be starters for the UMass football team won’t play again this year.

Starting safety Khary Bailey-Smith, who suffered a knee injury against Temple, will have season-ending surgery Friday. The senior is eligible for a medical redshirt because he played just two games this season. Senior wide receiver Jalen Williams, who has been out all year with a quad injury, won’t play this season either. Because he hasn’t played he’ll receive a regular redshirt.

Defensive lineman Sha-Ki Holines, who was knocked out of Saturday’s game, didn’t practice Tuesday and is unlikely to play Saturday against Florida International.

“I doubt he’d play this week, but we really don’t know. We’ll have to see tomorrow,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said.

Senior corner Kelton Brackett missed practice Tuesday as well, but Whipple was less concerned.

“We think he’ll be all right. He’s walking around,” Whipple said.

Nose tackle Robert Kitching, fullback/tight end Rodney Mills and offensive lineman Fabian Hoeller all practiced Tuesday. Mills missed Saturday’s game against Notre Dame, Kitching was limited to a handful of plays and Hoeller was sidelined with an injury early on. All are expected to be available for Saturday’s 3 p.m. game at McGuirk Stadium. Whipple said getting Mills back would be a lift.

“(Mills) is a lot better. We weren’t going to risk it (at Notre Dame), but we need him back,” Whipple said. “We missed him in a lot of things. A lot of the game plan is out when he’s not in it.”

ISABELLA’S EXPANDING ROLE — The absence of Bailey-Smith and Williams led to Whipple choosing not to redshirt freshman tailback Andy Isabella, who returned kicks against Notre Dame.

Isabella, who was a state sprint champion in Ohio, will have an expanded role as the season goes on. He replaced Bailey-Smith on returns. Because Marken Michel moved to Williams’ outside receiver spot, Isabella could see time at slot receiver, where Michel played much of last year. Isabella will also play some at running back, his listed position on the roster.

“He’s fast. He’s got legitimate speed. He’s the fastest guy on our team. He had a really good week of scout team against Temple,” Whipple said. “He’s a guy who can fill Marken’s role from last year. He can play some running back. He’s a smart kid. He can play some receiver for us and use him on special teams because we knew Khary was out. We just felt like he was too fast and made too many things happen. We took the redshirt off. We’re going to use him.”

KICKING COMPETITION — Whipple said he hadn’t decided whether true freshman Michael Caggiano, who made all three extra points he attempted Saturday, or sophomore punter Logan Laurent will become the full-time placekicker after senior Blake Lucas lost the job Saturday.

“Blake will kick off. (With) Mike and Logan, we’ll see how it goes this week. They both were good (Tuesday),” said Whipple, who was considering Laurent because he held the role for part of the 2014 season. “(Logan) has done it in a game. Mike did a good job (Saturday). He was 3-for-3. He was better today. Logan was good today. We just have to find someone who can get it through the uprights.”

IRON MAN — With Mills out and the Minutemen thin at fullback, Whipple tabbed junior linebacker John Robinson-Woodgett to fill the role. Whipple considered playing Robinson-Woodgett, a Springfield native, there during spring practice. When Matt Tuleja, a walk-on who saw regular reps last year, didn’t return to the team, Whipple made the move.

“Matt (Tuleja) won’t be back so we needed another physical guy,” Whipple said. “He’d done it at Worcester Academy.”

Robinson-Woodgett said he’ll take on whatever role given to him.

“I’ll do whatever Coach asks me to do. I’m just trying to help the team,” he said. “Either way you have to be in shape. I work hard in the offseason. We all do. I feel if Coach asked anyone to do it they’d be able to do for the team. He gives me an assignment to do and I just do my best. It’s just football at the end of the day.”

Whipple has used his fullbacks as pass catchers in the past, but Robinson-Woodgett wasn’t targeted Saturday. Whipple said he would have been if he’d been in the right place.

“If he runs the route, which he was supposed to do on the fake punt,” Whipple said and then deadpanned, “I don’t know if he wants to catch passes.”

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