UMass wide receivers are young, but experienced

  • UMass wide receiver Sadiq Palmer, center, is tackled by Tennessee defensive back Micah Abernathy, Sept. 23, 2017, in Knoxville, Tenn. AP

  • UMass receiver Brennon Dingle, left, scores a touchdown in front of Ohio University’s Javon Hagan, Sept. 30, 2017 at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Hadley.

  • UMass freshman receiver Jessie Britt is confident he will improve on last season when he caught 29 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns. GAZETTE STAFF/Caroline O'Connor

  • Andy Isabella, right, of UMass, celebrates his touchdown against Old Dominion with Jessie Britt, Sept. 9, 2017 at McGuirk Stadium. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass’ Andy Isabella (right) of UMass, celebrates his touchdown against Old Dominion with Jessie Britt (center) and Sadiq Palmer (left), Sept. 9, 2017 at McGuirk Stadium. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 4/3/2018 12:30:53 AM

AMHERST — As his touchdown sprint slowed crossing the goal line, UMass freshman receiver Jessie Britt stopped and flexed his biceps in celebration.

There were no fans at McGuirk Stadium and the TD catch late in Monday night’s spring practice didn’t count for anything.

But Britt is planning to have a big year so practicing some end zone exultation couldn’t hurt.

Britt isn’t alone. The wide receivers who were finding themselves early in the season last year are still a young group, but have a lot more experience.

“We have a bunch of young guys all over the field, but they have a lot of game experience,” junior quarterback Andrew Ford said. “I think we’re really clicking right now. That’s going to help us in the fall.”

Andy Isabella, last year’s leading receiver with 65 catches for 1,020 yards, will be a senior and the leader of the group.

The graduation of tight end Adam Breneman means there are more catches available and this receiver group has several players eager to fill the void.

“My confidence level is at a 10 out of 10 right now. Last year was just a preview of what’s going to happen this year,” said Britt, who caught 29 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns as a true freshman. “I’ve set some high goals. Team goals, academic goals and a lot of on-field goals too.”

Britt and Brennon Dingle (21 catches, 330 yards, four touchdowns) both showed signs as freshmen. UMass coach Mark Whipple said their experience gave them a good foundation.

“Dingle and Britt made a difference once they got comfortable playing at this level,” Whipple said. “We’re been moving them in different positions and putting a little more on their plate.”

Ford said he’s watched Britt and Dingle grow into their talent last year.

“We knew they were really talented guys, but until they go out and do it on Saturday you don’t know what you’re going to get,” he said. “To see those guys play as well as they did and get better each week has given them a lot of confidence.”

Sadiq Palmer, who caught 35 passes for 518 yards and one TD last year, no longer thinks of himself as a young guy. He’ll be a junior in the fall and is emerging as a leader.

“I’m old now. I know the game a lot better,” he said. “We’re been working hard on the field and in the film room also. Everybody’s been doing their part. It’s time for the younger guys to step up. Every receiver is looking strong. We all practice at every position so we’ll know multiple positions. We’re even blocking better. We’re coming together.”

Silky Brown and Zak Simon, who’ll be a sophomore and redshirt freshman, respectively, in the fall could make an impact as well.

“We’re got some young people who are going to step up,” Britt said. “I like what Zak’s been doing. He’s really showing up. I feel like he’s going to step up.”

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




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