UMass football: Taisun Phommachanh named starting quarterback for Week 1

 By GARRETT COTE

 Staff Writer

Published: 08-21-2023 5:03 PM

AMHERST – The long wait is finally over — UMass football now has its QB1.

Taisun Phommachanh will be leading what the Minutemen hope is a much-improved offense for their Week 1 game against New Mexico State this Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN), head coach Don Brown announced during a press conference on Monday afternoon.

“We’re going with Taisun,” Brown said. “It’s not a scenario where one guy didn’t win the job and the other guy did, it was really [that] his play was exemplary. I’m very happy and comfortable with the other guys as well. [Phommachanh] can run, he can throw it, and we just made the decision that he’s gonna get us off on the right foot.”

Brown waiting until the week of his team’s first game to make a decision wasn’t to keep New Mexico State guessing which of the three quarterbacks (Brady Olson, Carlos Davis or Phommachanh) they would be facing. 

The competition was just that close.

“It’s not like three guys played bad and he played good. There are small increments between each guy, and we just thought Taisun gave us the best shot. That’s all,” Brown said. “He’s very controlled, he’s got a nice way about him, as they all do. But he’s determined, there’s no question about it. He's very determined to help UMass football be successful.”

Although Phommachanh comes from a power-five background, having spent four total seasons as a backup quarterback at Clemson and Georgia Tech, Brown said Phommachanh’s previous experience — while it certainly helps — didn’t come into play when determining who would be leading the offense this weekend. 

“Obviously he has a feel for the position, but the reality is we can make our own decisions,” Brown said. “We just felt that, at this time, he was the guy that we were gonna go with.” 

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Brown said that Olson, a junior, and Davis, a redshirt senior who transfered from Western Carolina, remain in good spirits and have been supportive of Phommachanh. While it may be disappointing they didn’t get the nod, the coach said they will root just as hard for the next guy to succeed as they would themselves.

“That whole quarterback room, they’ve got each other’s backs,” Brown said. “I’m not nervous at all, we’ve got good guys in there. We’re excited.”

Gino Campiotti was another player who came into the season listed at quarterback, but as camp and preseason unfolded, Brown approached him with a new task: make the switch to tight end.

Campiotti didn’t hesitate. If trying his hand at tight end would benefit the offense, he was ready to give it a go.

“He’s taken to the position … we feel good about his development and what he brings to the table. He’s an athletic guy,” Brown said. “The thing that he did well is that he didn’t pout when we moved his position — he embraced it. We’re getting the best of Gino, for sure.”

With more athleticism on the offensive side of the ball, improved overall talent at play-making positions and an eager, veteran signal-caller under center, the Minutemen offense is ready to flip the script of recent woes. 

“I think we’re vastly improved (offensively), but now we gotta prove it,” Brown said. “The reality is, we signed a number of new receivers, a tight end, running backs — we feel good. Guys are healthy, so we really feel good about where we are, now we just gotta go out and prove it. It’s one thing to say it.”

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