13 Teams/13 Days: UMass Minutemen Football Preview

Updated 8/27/2012


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Blue Ribbon Analysis
Head Coach: Charley Molnar (Lock Haven, '84)
2011 Overall/Conference Record: 5-6 (3-5 CAA)
Offense Starters Returning/Lost: 6/5
Defense Starters Returning/Lost: 8/3
The 2012 season represents a new era in UMass football as the Minutemen transition from a storied past at the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivisionand the Mid-American Conference. UMass will become eligible for the MAC Championship and will be Bowl-Eligible in 2013.
UMass was the winningest program in the CAA over a 10-year span from 1998-2008 with an 83-44 record with a 65.7 win percentage.The Minutemen have won 22 conference championships - the last two coming in 2007 and 2008. All-time UMass had eight NCAA Tournament appearances winning the 1998 national title and also playing in the championship game in 2006 and 1978. New For 2012 Along with the move to the Mid-American Conference, UMass welcomed new head coach Charley Molnar in December 2011. Molnar assembled a new coaching staff which is made up of a veteran group with coaching experience at the highest collegiate and professional levels.
The UMass offensive line returns nearly complete from a year ago with the exception of four-year starting left guard Josh Samuda.The group is the most veteran of any offensive position giving the Minutemen a strong foundation to build around. Stephane Milhim, Nick Speller and Anthony Dima started every game last season, while Quinton Sales returns as one of the top centers in program history.
Marken Michel and Rob Blanchflower are the top returning receiving threats as the starting trio of wideouts from a season ago are gone. The Minutemen will have to find a way to replace Julian Talley who signed with the New York Giants in the offseason and was the top receiver a year ago. Chase Danska and Derek Beck received valuable reps in the Spring and figure to be big contributors in the fall, while fifth-year Notre Dame transfer Deion Walker joined the program in the summer. Brandon Howard and Dan Foesel redshirted the 2011 season, but add to the stable of tight ends behind Blanchflower.
UMass also graduated 1,000-yard rusher Jonathan Hernandez, but return several running backs who could fill the void. Fifth-year senior Alan Williams looks to stay healthy after missing six games in 2011 as does redshirt junior Jamar Smith - both have big run potential. Chris Burns who transferred from Pittsburgh prior to the 2011 season and fifth-year Michigan transfer Michael Cox also figure to play prominent roles in the ground attack. Veteran Defense Leads The Charge in 2012.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Minutemen return to their traditional 4-3 look after playing the 2011 season using a 3-4 defense.
Despite losing All-American linebacker Tyler Holmes to graduation, the UMass defense returns nearly all of its major contributors in 2012. Fifth-year senior Darren Thellen is the leader of the corps from his free safety position after having a break-out year in 2011. Thellen broke school records for interception return yardage (172) after picking off five passes during the year.
Perry McIntyre achnored the linebackers alongside Holmes last season and finished the year on a tear with 52 tackles over the last four games. He finished the 2011 season with 116 total tackles just two shy of Holmes. Three of UMass’ starting defensive linemen return with Chaz Thompson, Brandon Potvin and Kevin Byrne manning the trenches. Notre Dame fifth-year transfer Hafis Williams figures to make an impact as does Ryan Delaire who moves to defensive end.
Joining Thellen in the secondary is an experienced group led by Antoine Tharpe, Christian Birt, Ed Saint-Vil, and Mike Lee who all have started games during their careers.
Jeff Strait returns as UMass’ top punter on special teams, while Brendon Levengood will handle the place kicking and kick off duties. The Minutemen will need to replace four-year long-snapper Travis Tripucka who signed with the St. Louis Rams during the offseason and the electrifying Jesse Julmiste who set program records in 2011 in the kick return game.
Along with his abilities as a wide receiver,UMass will also have to find a replacement for Julian Talley on the punt return. Brian Dowling, Jamar Smith and Alan Williams all took reps during the Spring and have potential with their speed.

2012 UMass Minutemen Schedule
Aug. 30 - @UConn
Sept. 8 - Indiana
Sept. 15 - @Michigan
Sept. 22 - @Miami
Sept. 29 - Ohio
Oct. 6 - @Western Michigan
Oct. 20 - Bowling Green
Oct. 27 - @Vanderbilt
Nov. 3 - @Northern Illinois
Nov. 10 - @Akron
Nov. 17 - Buffalo
Nov. 23 - Central Michigan