The Massachusetts Daily Collegian’s football coverage will offer daily positional breakdown’s of the Massachusetts football team in the days leading up to the start of the 2014 summer training camp. Today, the focus is on the linebackers. You can find a list of previous breakdowns at the bottom of the page.
Returnees: Trey Seals (RS JR), Jovan Santos-Knox (JR), Vondell Langston (RS SO), Kassan Messiah (JR), John Robinson-Woodgett (RS SO), Shane Huber (SO), Peter Ngobidi (SO), Michael Mckenna (RS JR), Stanley Andre (RS SR)
Newcomers: Zeke Edmonds (FR), Da’Sean Downey (FR), Andrew Ellis (RS FR), Steve Casali (RS FR), Hassan Graham (RS FR)
Key Losses: Ed Saint-Vil, Tom Brandt
Projected Starters: Trey Seals (OLB), Jovan Santos-Knox (ILB), Stanley Andre (ILB), Kassan Messiah (OLB)
The Skinny: From top to bottom, UMass’ most talented position may be the linebackers.
Even with the decision to move to a 3-4 and feature an extra linebacker on the field in base packages, finding playing time for a vast array of players will be a tricky dance for Minutemen coach Mark Whipple and defensive coordinator Tom Masella.
UMass is stout up the middle, with Stanley Andre returning for his redshirt senior season as one of the most reliable players on defense. Andre started all 12 games a season ago and racked up 111 tackles. The season before, he started every game as a defensive lineman. He’s a proven run-stopper and should thrive as an inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense as opposed to spending more time as a roving middle linebacker in a 4-3.
Jovan Santos-Knox started next to Andre in the spring game and should be a favorite to command a starting role this season. He’s a solid compliment to Andre in the sense that Santos-Knox can act as a more dynamic playmaker. He appeared in all 12 games in 2013 (four starts) and made three tackles for losses, added half a sack and an interception in addition to 33 total tackles. He’ll add an athletic dynamic as Andre acts as more of a traditional run-stopper.