Each day, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian sports blog will break down each position on the UMass football roster from now until the regular season. Check in tomorrow for a look at the defensive backs. UMass defensive linemen were highlighted yesterday.
Key Returners: Kassan Messiah (SO), Stanley Andre (RS JR), Ed Saint-Vil (RS JR), Tom Brandt (RS SR), Jovan Santos-Knox (SO), John Robinson-Woodgett (SO), Michael McKenna (RS SO)
Key Losses: Perry McIntyre (Graduation), D.J Adeoba (Graduation)
Promising Newcomers: Shane Huber (FR), Peter Ngobidi (FR), Steve Casali (FR), Vondell Langston (RS FR), Andrew Ellis (FR)
There are some big shoes to fill in the middle of Charley Molnar’s defense.
A season ago, All-MAC First Team middle linebacker Perry McIntyre amassed 132 total tackles to go along with three sacks as he led the Minutemen defense. Now, a host of young linebackers will be counted upon to fill the void.
Among them is Stanley Andre, a recently reclassified redshirt junior. Andre’s a former middle linebacker who converted to defensive line in 2012, making 41 tackles in his first season as a defensive lineman. Now, the versatile linebacker is back at his natural position and gets the first crack at replacing McIntyre.
Kassan Messiah also returns in 2013, bringing an intriguing skill-set as a high-impact edge rusher and versatile defender capable of playing in multiple packages. Messiah, who is considered by some teammates to be the hardest hitter on the team, is the leading returning tackler from a season ago with 65.
One of the strongest aspects of the linebackers this year will be the group’s overall depth, which will provide defensive coordinator Phil Elmassian multiple combinations to test prior to the season opener at Wisconsin. Jovan Santos-Knox will look to build upon a promising freshman season which saw the outside linebacker start eight games. Santos-Knox showed signs of developing into a solid all-around linebacker recording 32 tackles a season ago, including four for a loss. He also showed ability defending the pass, breaking up a pair of passes.
Ed Saint-Vil will also battle for starting time at outside linebacker. Saint-Vil, listed as a defensive back, has the ability to play up in the box and could be utilized as an effective linebacker against passing heavy schemes.
Both John Robinson-Woodgett and Tim Brandt recorded tackles in limited playing time a season ago and may again be asked to contribute on special teams.
Freshman Shane Huber and Steve Casali have both turned heads in limited opportunity in camp, making strides in a crowded stable of linebackers. Peter Ngobidi has also performed well early, rounding out the trio of notable recruits at linebacker.
Mark Chiarelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli