UMass coach Walt Bell ‘excited’ for what offense could bring in week one

  • Quarterback Mike Fallon looks to throw during preseason practice at UMass. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Quarterback Josiah Johnson looks to throw during preseason practice at UMass. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Quarterback Will Koch looks to throw during preseason practice at UMass. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Sports Editor
Published: 10/14/2020 5:32:28 PM

Either Mike Fallon, Josiah Johnson or Will Koch will start at quarterback Saturday when UMass visits Georgia Southern.

Fallon is No. 1 on the depth chart and presumably has the inside track. However, head coach Walt Bell has yet to make it official, going as far to say that one, two or three could see action during UMass’ first game of the season.

“We’re going to do everything we can and prepare until the toe hits leather,” Bell said Tuesday. “We’ll have a choice made later in the week but as of right now we’re just playing, putting a plan together, making sure that we can look as clean as possible on game day.”

Whoever starts at quarterback will have weapons at their disposal.

Ellis Merriweather, a junior college transfer, and freshman Jared Cole, are listed first and second at running back. Senior Cam Roberson and redshirt senior Nick Orekoya could also see action.

“I’m excited,” Bell said. “We’re young and inexperienced, but we’re physically improved, it’s just how quickly can we get to some level of execution skill knowing that again we haven’t had much time to prepare and practice.”

Sophomore Jermaine “OC” Johnson Jr., junior Samuel Emilus and redshirt junior Javon Turner are the top receivers. Johnson caught a team-high 37 balls for 272 yards and two touchdowns last year.

Josiah Johnson’s move to quarterback leaves the Minutemen limited with experience at tight end. Redshirt senior Taylor Edwards has seven receptions over 15 career games, while redshirt sophomore Jaret Pallotta, a converted quarterback, will debut when he plays.

“We got a good corps guys who we trust and who we really like,” Bell said. “They are a joy to work with in practice everyday and work unbelievable hard.”

A key to the offense is the line. With upward of a dozen available linemen, Bell has said repeatedly that the Minutemen are in a better position entering this season than last.

Left tackle Larnel Coleman, left guard Reggie Marks III, center Dalton Tomlison, right guard Max Longman and right tackle Brian Abosi project to start. The tackles bring the biggest size. Coleman, a redshirt senior, is listed at 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, while Abosi, a redshirt junior, is 6-8, 335. Marks (6-3, 305) and Tomlison (6-4, 320) are both juniors, while Longman (6-4, 326) is a redshirt freshman.

“We legitimately probably have now 11 or 12 scholarship offensive lineman that I would feel comfortable with in a game,” Bell said. “A lot of them are young but we have made huge strides up front just from, again: size, weight gain, strength, depth. We’re excited about that group.”

CAPTAINS — The Minutemen will have five captains this season: Coleman, Emilus, Merriweather, senior linebacker Cole McCubrey and sophomore cornerback Josh Wallace.

Wallace has impressed Bell since last season when he played as a true freshman.

“He displayed an unbelievable amount of maturity,” Bell said. “He played well before he was ready … but he kept a positive attitude, one of the hardest workers on our team, handles his academics, just a first-class person on and off the field. With all those reps I’m really excited for what he can do not only from a football standpoint but from a leadership standpoint because obviously he has the respect of his teammates.”

Merriweather has made his presence felt since he arrived in Amherst.

“One of the most resilient, tenacious workers in our program,” Bell said. “Just so invested in everything that it takes to be a good football player, and that’s on and off the field: how he trains, how he lifts, how he studies, how he takes notes in meetings. It’s really evident that his teammates noticed because to be a guy who has been here three or four months and be elected captain, you got to create some noise.”

TESTING — As of Tuesday, UMass has administered 2,660 coronavirus tests with three positives.

Mike Moran can be reached at Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.

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