4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE UMASS DEFENSE
– The UMass defense still needs a whole lot of work. The D allowed 489 yards and 43 points per game, having the biggest issues up front. There weren’t any sacks – just ten on the year – and the stops sometimes never came. UMass allowed 55 points or more six times.
– Is there going to be more of a pass rush? New defensive coordinator Aazaar Abdul-Rahim comes in after working with the Maryland defensive backs over the last few seasons, and Job One is to find some sort of heat to bring into the backfield.
Three starters are back up front, starting with junior Jake Byczko on one end and with a whole lot of youth about to be thrown to the wolves. The ends might be a concern, but the tackles – at least early on – are going to be the bigger problem.
– Can the linebacking corps start to be more active? Junior Chinedu Ogbonna is the team’s leading returning tackler at one outside spot, and there’s just enough experience coming back to be hopeful that this turns into the team’s most improved unit. That’s partly because it was so bad, especially against the run.
– The secondary has to replace three starters, but Isaiah Rodgers is a dangerous corner with the talent to be a difference-maker who has to be avoided. To be a broken record, the youth will have to play a big role around S Martin Mangram – who made 24 tackles – and JUCO transfer Logan Darby.