Defensive line coach Ben Albert helping right the UMass football ship

  • UMass defensive line coach Ben Albert cares deeply about his alma mater and returned to Amherst to coach the Minutemen on Don Brown’s staff. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass defensive linemen Marcus Cushnie, right, and Marcus Bradley battle in a drill Tuesday during spring football practice. They’re two of UMass’ potential impact transfers in the trenches. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass defensive line coach Ben Albert cares deeply about his alma mater and returned to Amherst to coach the Minutemen on Don Brown’s staff. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 4/12/2022 4:40:04 PM
Modified: 4/12/2022 4:38:54 PM

AMHERST – Ben Albert takes great pride in being a UMass alum. The Minutemen’s current assistant head coach/special teams coordinator/defensive line coach always monitored the program during his time at other jobs. He previously coached at his alma mater after graduating in 1995 and again in 2003, but also spent time in the NFL, at Temple, at Richmond and most recently with Duke.

He returned to Amherst to be a part of Don Brown’s staff and help reverse the program’s losing trend.

“I left a part of my soul here and I gave blood, sweat and tears. We came back here to get the ship right and get UMass back to championship-caliber football,” Albert said. “We have a lot of pride in this program and we're gonna get it going back in the right direction.”

Though he was leaving a Power 5 program pumping out all-conference players and NFL draft picks, Albert returned due to the relationships he forged with Brown, defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski and other members of the staff. He stayed in touch with them through coaching conferences, and their wives are friends, as well.

“This is great, man. It's like putting the band back together. … The thing that makes this place unique is these guys, we really care about each other and they care about the well being of each other's families,” Albert said. “It's not just about football. That carries over not only about the staff, but down to our players. It's not about what you can do on a Saturday, it’s what you can do every day and when you leave here, are you able to go on and do great things with your life.”

Albert and Brown threw a lot at the Minutemen’s defensive linemen quickly. They’ve installed 32 plays in Dr. Blitz’s scheme in a shade over two weeks of spring practice.

“Coach Brown made it tough on us at first,” UMass junior Cletus Mathurin said. “Now that we've settled in, we’re way ahead of schedule on playbook.”

Albert’s methods, teaching more than coaching, smoothed the transition.

“They break the game down, give you all the answers to make the job simple,” Mathurin said.

Albert looks for three characteristics in his defensive linemen: bend, balance and burst. They incorporate and cultivate those qualities in their drills. He can’t teach passion, though.

“The only person that can block you is you. You’ve gotta believe that and you have to buy into all of those things,” Albert said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

UMass brought back 13 players from a group that struggled with injuries and generated the second-fewest sacks in the nation. Brown’s early recruiting attack brought in both some depth and high-end potential. Three Power 5 transfers joined the defensive line room: Marcus Cushnie (Florida State), Marcus Bradley (Vanderbilt) and Tyson Watson (Michigan State).

They’ve quickly established themselves as part of the fabric of UMass’ defensive line.

“Once you come here, everybody sticks together. We want to win. We haven’t won in so long,” Mathurin said. “It’s like, do you want to keep losing or do you want to let everybody come together and bond to win games?”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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