Each day, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian sports blog will break down each position on the UMass football roster from now until the regular season. Today we look at the offensive line. Check in tomorrow for a look at tight ends. UMass defensive backs were highlighted yesterday.
Key Returners: Anthony Dima (SR), Vincent Westcarr (SR), Al Leneus (SO), Matt Sparks (SO)
Key Losses: Stephan Milhim, Nick Speller, Quinton Sales
Promising Newcomers: David Osei (SR), Josh Bruns (JR), Tyshon Henderson (FR), Terrel Correia (FR), Fabian Hoeller (FR), Tyrell Smith (RS FR)
Notes: The Massachusetts football team was the worst offensive team in the Mid-American Conference last season, and the offensive line was an important reason why. The unit was hampered by injuries from the very beginning last season and was forced to rotate different freshmen into the lineup on a weekly basis. This made life especially difficult for quarterback Mike Wegzyn, who was already under enough pressure as a freshman on a team in its first Football Bowl Subdivision season and had little time to make plays in the pocket.
UMass coach Charley Molnar said in the offseason that average play from the line is enough to improve the entire offense. That isn’t asking for much, especially with the addition of fifth-year transfer David Osei from Rutgers and junior Josh Bruns from Glendale Community College to add a veteran presence, as well as five freshmen.
UMass has its rock in Anthony Dima, who was named to the 2013 Outland Trophy preseason watch list. However, outside of of Dima at the left tackle spot is much uncertainty. Right now Osei appears to be in command of right tackle, while Matt Sparks seems primed to be a quality Division 1 starting center as a sophomore this season.
Tyrell Smith and Vincent Westcarr have gotten a majority of the first team reps at left and right guard, respectively. They appear to be the front-runners for the position. Although some newcomers, most notably Fabian Hoeller, Tyshon Henderson and Bruns, could work their way into the rotation.
Henderson is a freshman that is particularly worth watching. The rookie has rotated with Dima at the left tackle spot, although it was mostly to give the veteran a breather from time to time when he’d get banged up. Molnar has had mostly good things to say about Henderson, saying that he’s ahead of his fellow freshmen. Expect to see him get some game action throughout the season, even if it’s on a rotation basis.
If healthy, the line should meet Molnar’s hopes for average. It ultimately comes down to whether or not the Minutemen can solidify some stability on the interior and have enough experienced players to fill the apparent holes that are preventing this offense from reaching its full potential.
Nick Canelas can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.