UMass Minutemen Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the UMass season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
UMass Minutemen Preview
Head Coach: Don Brown, 6th year overall at UMass
13th year overall, 95-45, (43-19 at UMass from 2004-2008)
2021 Record: Overall: 1-11, 2021 Preview
Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
UMass Top 10 Players | UMass Schedule
UMass Minutemen Preview 2022
Let’s just see if we can kickstart this thing.
The UMass experience up at the FBS level hasn’t exactly been a smashing success.
It won one game last year, it didn’t win any of the four in 2020, and it won one game in 2019. To hammer this home even more, since making the move up in 2012, the program has won 18 games – just four more than Georgia did all of last year.
But it’s not like this is one of those programs that hasn’t won anything since the 1950s. There was a winning season in 2010, and this was an FCS powerhouse as recently as the mid-2000s, with head coach Don Brown leading the way to one national title appearance in 2006 and back into the playoffs in 2007.
Brown left in 2009 to become one of the top defensive coordinators in college football, working his way up to the Michigan gig before trying to turn around the Arizona D last year.
Now the when-the-season-starts 67-year-old is back to try to give UMass football something it can build on. There’s experience to work with, and there are plenty of winnable games on the schedule if the team is merely competent.
UMass Minutemen Preview 2022: Offense
The offense hasn’t been great at that scoring thing. It averaged only 16 points and 300 yards per game. There wasn’t any passing game, it was painfully inefficient, but there was a ground attack at times and there were slivers of light here and there. The biggest positive was that it wasn’t as bad as the defense.
Nine starters are expected to be back, and it should all revolve around that ground game early on.
The offensive line is hardly a killer, but it wasn’t awful in pass protection and it cranked out enough of a push to give the offense something to rely on. The line will be a relative strength as it paves the way for Ellis Merriweather, a tough back who pounded away for 1,138 yards and five touchdowns averaging over five yards per carry. He’s the star of the show, but …
UMass has to be able to throw at least a little bit. Four different Minutemen threw at least nine passes with sophomore Brady Olson getting the most work. He’s the odds-on favorite to get back the gig, but it’s an open fight with Zamar Wise and Garrett Dzuro – all three failed to hit 50% of their passes.
The receiving corps gets a slew of parts back. Rico Arnold led the way with only 27 catches for 461 yards and three scores, but he averaged over 17 yards per grab. He’s the No. 1 target, but TE Josiah Johnson and veteran receiver Jermaine Johnson will will be a bigger part of the fun.
UMass Minutemen Preview 2022: Defense
The defense needs to be night-and-day better, and it should be under Don Brown and the new coaching staff. UMass allowed 485 yards and a nation-high 43 points per game. There weren’t enough takeaways – the D picked off just 2 passes – and only two teams were worse at stopping offenses on third downs.
With seven starters back, and – again – with Brown taking over, at least this group will be far more aggressive and disruptive. That starts with …
There has to be a pass rush. The Minutemen only came up with 11 sacks and 45 tackles for loss with 310-pound Billy Wooden doing the heavy lifting. He led the team with eight tackles for loss, but now he’ll be working more on the nose as the new parts take care of the pass rush.
Marcus Bradley is coming in from Vanderbilt and Marcus Cushnie is a former Alabama A&M and Florida State backup who’ll get his shot. These two will go along with Uchenna Ezewike, who led the team with 2.5 sacks.
The top tacklers are back. It’s a decent-sized group that at least cranked up the stops – now everyone has to make more big plays. Gerrell Johnson led the team with 80 tackles, Da’Shon Rice made 76 stops in the middle, and in all, 23 of the top 26 tacklers were underclassmen.
Junior Donte Lindsay is a strong open field tackler from his safety spot, but there have to be more plays on the ball. Josh Wallace is the top returning corner with 12 broken up passes, but he spent too much time making tackles.