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Brito has room for growth after first start for UMass

  • UMass quarterback Andrew Brito runs a drill during the first practice of the season, Aug. 2 at McGuirk Stadium. Brito made his first start for UMass against Charlotte on Saturday. He completed 18 of 27 throws for 127 yards and a touchdown, but also had an interception and was sacked five times. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2019 9:13:18 PM

AMHERST — Andrew Brito focused on remaining calm as he awaited Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff at Charlotte.

The redshirt sophomore knew he was about to make his first start as the UMass starting quarterback, and oddly enough he was more nervous for the opener at Rutgers – a game he didn’t start – than Saturday’s game against the 49ers. He did such a good job at preventing himself from being nervous, he said he might have been too relaxed when he finally took the field on the game’s first drive – a three-and-out for the Minutemen.

“I tried my hardest to come into the game cool, calm and collected, that was probably my biggest focus before the game,” Brito said. “I believe I did a really good job at coming into the game calm, it’s just I might have come into the game a little too calm and didn’t execute as well as I would have liked to in the beginning of the game.”

It was an overall average day for Brito in his first game as the commander of coach Walt Bell’s offense. He completed 18 of 27 throws for 127 yards and a touchdown, but also had an interception and was sacked five times. Brito had some impressive throws as well, notably a fourth-down throw in the second quarter where he stepped up into pressure and absorbed a hit as he unleashed a rifle to Jermaine “OC” Johnson Jr. for the first down. Yet he also had two misfires to Taylor Edwards on sure-fire touchdown passes, overthrowing an open Edwards on one pass and underthrowing the tight end on the next drive.

Bell said he was happy with the fact his quarterback didn’t make a lot of massive mistakes and was able to make some timely throws to help keep the offense in rhythm.

“He was OK, not a ton of critical errors, obviously a couple of throws he’d like to have back,” Bell said. “The interception he had was on a protection issue, ... but I thought he managed the game OK, there were some things he’d like to have back, I’m sure, but it was a good first start.”

Before he made his first start for the Minutemen, Brito received a bit of good news that will extend his time in Amherst. The NCAA granted his request for a medical redshirt year for the 2018 season during which he hurt his knee at College of the Canyons. The waiver means that Brito now has three years of eligibility to play at UMass, including this year.

As for whether or not Brito’s performance was good enough to keep him under center for Saturday’s game against Coastal Carolina, Bell still listed he and Randall West as co-starters at quarterback. Bell was also non-committal when asked about Brito remaining the starter against the Chanticleers.

“We’re going to come out here every single week and compete everywhere,” Bell said. “We’ve got too many young guys and too many inexperienced guys not to compete every day. We’ve got to keep competing and the best guy wins.”

ROBERSON SETTLING IN — Cam Roberson came to UMass from junior college as a speedy slot receiver who was supposed to thrive in Bell’s offense.

By the end of spring practice, Roberson was taking some reps at running back to counteract a significant lack of depth at the position. In fall camp, Roberson started to make the transition to the backfield full time and became the Minutemen’s backup to Bilal Ally by the start of the season. He’s currently averaging just shy of 50 yards per game and almost 5 yards per carry as the secondary ball carrier.

He said it was not a tough sell for him to switch to running back because he just wanted to see the field, but he hinted that the change had been coming long before he even took the field for a UMass practice.

“The amount of reps we get during each practice with how fast we play, it wasn’t very hard to settle into the role,” Roberson said. “When I first was coming to UMass, they were little by little teaching me running back stuff here and there. It was mainly receiver and they would sprinkle in some running back stuff, so when I made the transition, it wasn’t brand new, it was just jogging my memory through everything they were teaching me throughout the months.”

THINNER THAN PAPER — The depth on the interior of the UMass defensive line took yet another hit Tuesday with Bell’s announcement that Charley Timite had voluntarily left the program.

The redshirt junior started at defensive tackle against Rutgers and made six tackles in the loss. However, he received sporadic playing time the following week against Southern Illinois then did not play on Saturday at Charlotte.

His departure leaves UMass with a severe shortage of defensive tackles on the roster and will force Bell and his staff to be creative to plug the holes. The Minutemen currently have a pair of scholarship true freshmen, a true sophomore and a freshman walk-on playing the two interior positions. Bell had planned to redshirt Cletus Mathurin this season as he tries to fill out his frame, but he said he might have to use the freshman in certain games to maintain depth while still making sure Mathurin qualifies for a redshirt.

Timite missed all of last season with an undisclosed illness, but Bell said the decision was not strictly medical-base, although he cited privacy laws when declining to answer whether Timite’s departure was at all related to the medical issue.

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