Randall West embodies leadership qualities in UMass quarterback room

  • UMass quarterback Randall West runs a drill during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 2, 2019 at McGuirk Stadium. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass quarterback Randall West runs a drill during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 2, 2019 at McGuirk Stadium. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass quarterbacks Randall West, front, and Michael Curtis run a drill during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 2, 2019 at McGuirk Stadium. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass quarterback Randall West runs a drill during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 2, 2019 at McGuirk Stadium. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/9/2019 8:15:24 PM
Modified: 8/9/2019 8:15:12 PM

AMHERST — The UMass men’s basketball team held a team meeting on Jan. 26, the day before the Minutemen would eventually beat Rhode Island at the Mullins Center.

Coach Matt McCall left the meeting that day and rang football coach Walt Bell, who had only been on the job for less than two months. The topic was Randall West, the fourth-string quarterback who made his name at UMass with his sporadic but impactful minutes over the past two seasons on the basketball court.

“I said ‘I have no idea if he can throw a 10-yard out or a 40-yard touchdown. I have no idea if he can make the pitch on an option, I have no idea what he can do on the football field,’” McCall recalled. “‘But I know I want that guy on my team because he will impact winning in some type of way. It may be by something he says, it may be by something he does, but he will impact winning.’”

That is the prevailing notion around everyone who has come in contact with West during his five years on campus. Bell didn’t have much time to talk with West during the first few months of his tenure because of West’s commitment to the basketball team. However, in addition to McCall’s endorsement, Bell said West’s poise and maturity were very apparent from that first meeting with the quarterback.

“The first thing you notice when you sit down with Randall is his maturity,” Bell said. “He is very – and especially at the quarterback position, it’s really important – he’s very even-keeled and to me that’s a guy who can survive a mistake and go do his job on the next down.”

As the quarterback competition enters its second week, West is still in the thick of the race along with fellow senior Michael Curtis and junior college transfer Andrew Brito. He’s had some good days, including completing all four passes in his 11-on-11 work during Thursday’s practice, and has been consistent throughout camp.

This is probably the closest West has been to winning the job since arriving in Amherst in January 2015, as he sat behind Ross Comis and Andrew Ford for the last four years. West said the opportunity to play has not changed his outlook or confidence level this fall.

“I’ve always been confident I could go out there and play good football, just as good as Ross or Andrew,” West said. “Did it always turn out to be that? No, but I have no ill feelings toward Coach (Whipple), he did what he thought was best for the football team, but I believed if I got my shot and got out there, I’d be able to lead the team successfully. I don’t think my confidence has changed, it’s just different now that I’m a little older.”

Although West is currently proving he has the physical tools to be UMass’ starting quarterback, it’s his intangibles that might give West an edge. McCall said West was among the most vocal during that team meeting in January and that has translated onto the field where West is always talking to his receivers after his reps during team drills. He’s also among the loudest when huddled with the offense after the unit sprints off the field following 11-on-11 drives.

“There’s always a certain leadership aspect that has to do with quarterbacking, it’s the nature of the position,” West said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be yelling and screaming at people, there are different leadership techniques that we all use. Coach Bell says it all the time ‘I’m going to know who the guy is because the 10 guys that are around you are going to tell me, yeah, that’s him.’ You really want to have respect from your peers and you want to be able to lead the offense in the right direction and you want to be able to lead the team in the right direction.”

It seems nearly impossible to find a player within the UMass locker room who doesn’t respect West for how he goes about his business. Roommate and fellow redshirt senior Mike Yerardi said West possesses all the characteristics you want in a quarterback, especially with a young, inexperienced team.

“Randall’s just a really mature guy, he’s really all about his business and he’s really to the ‘T’ about everything,” Yerardi said. “That’s someone you want as a quarterback.”

The quarterback competition is far from over and West said he understands there’s still a lot of work he needs to do to prove he’s the right guy to be the starter. Whatever the decision ends up being, West said he’ll put the team first, but in the meantime, he’s on a mission to be the quarterback he’s always felt like he was capable of being.

“Right now, my job is to make Coach Bell’s decision as hard as possible or as easy as possible, it all depends on the competition,” West said. “Right now, any time I take that field, I’m competing with whoever it is that’s playing quarterback out there to prove that I can be the guy to lead the offense.”

“And if it’s not me,” West continued, “I will get behind whoever it is with the same fire, enthusiasm and passion as I would be if I were the guy.”

Josh Walfish can be reached at jwalfish@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshWalfishDHG. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.



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