UPDATE: UMass starting tight end Rob Blanchflower has been ruled out of the season opener at Wisconsin by coach Charley Molnar.
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 tight ends. Check in tomorrow for a look at quarterbacks. The UMass offensive line was highlighted yesterday.
Key Returners: Rob Blanchflower (RS SR), Derek Beck (SO), Rodney Mills (SO), Brandon Howard (RS SO)
Promising Newcomers: Ricardo Miller (GS), Sharif Custis (FR)
Notes: Heading into training camp, tight end was one of the most secure positions for the Massachusetts football team. They had Rob Blanchflower returning and some solid depth behind him with the addition of graduate student Ricardo Miller.
But all of a sudden, tight end has become a position to watch out for as the Minutemen gear up for their season opener against Wisconsin on Saturday. Blanchflower is expected to miss some practice time with two undisclosed injuries, and his status for the opener is up in the air. So that means Miller, who transferred from Michigan, might have to move up the depth charts in Week 1. He saw limited playing time during his three years with Michigan, mostly on special teams. Even though UMass has a second option ready in Miller, Blanchflower would be severely missed if he can’t play. He had 43 receptions for 464 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Third on UMass’ tight end depth chart is Derek Beck. The sophomore played began last year as a wide receiver and was eventually asked to convert to tight end after Blanchflower missed a couple of games due to injury at the time. This year he will solely by called upon to play tight end. Rodney Mills is another player who is listed as a wide receiver, but the sophomore is expected to see playing time at tight end.
There is also a new addition to the tight end corps in freshman Sharif Custis. Brandon Howard is also sort of a newcomer as the redshirt sophomore has yet to see playing time with the Minutemen.
Ultimately the success of this group revolves around Blanchflower’s health, but if he does miss time, UMass has some experienced options like Miller to turn to.
Cameron McDonough can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.