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Havens looks to improve second year as starter

Kyle Havens left the comfortable weather of the Golden State to play football in a new climate. As a junior quarterback, he transferred to play for the Massachusetts football team and battled for a starting role amidst a team seeing its complexion change with a new season.

A full year later, Havens gained the trust of his teammates and feels a renewed confidence in his ability to run the offense and lead the Minutemen to victory.

“I feel a lot more confident in [my play],” Havens said. “I know the guys are more confident in me. We’re ready to go out and show everybody what we’ve got this season.”

The transfer from Concord, Calif. challenged former quarterback Scott Woodward for the starting role while attempting to replace one of the most productive quarterbacks to ever put on a maroon and white uniform.

UMass quarterback Liam Coen broke almost every career passing record in the Minutemen history book in 2008. Coen was an All-American and graduated amongst the top 15 in yards and completions in Football College Series history.

A year later, UMass lost Coen to graduation and saw its head coach leave to become the defensive coordinator at Maryland. Don Brown left the Minutemen after coaching them to a 43-19 record from 2004-08, the most successful five-year stint in school history.

Meanwhile, Havens threw for over 300 yards a game with Diablo Valley in Pleasant Hill, Calif., and earned national recognition.

Havens finished his two-year career with 3,017 yards and 27 touchdowns at DV. He earned NorCal All-Conference Second Team honors and Gridwire Academic All-American honors while being rated the 18th-best junior college quarterback in the nation by Scout.com, receiving interest of then-Minutemen offensive coordinator Kevin Morris.

Morris, who worked on Brown’s staff since 2000 as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Northeastern, took over as his successor. In his first test as head coach, he recruited Havens to battle for the elusive starting quarterback position.

Thrust into a competition with three other players, Havens chose to wear the same-numbered jersey as his predecessor, No. 12.

The  currentsignal-caller beat out Spencer Whipple, Octavius Hawkins and Scott Woodward to earn his place under center.

After a shaky game in his first start, Havens played well in his next four games, completing 64 percent of his passes for 1,147 yards and six touchdowns. He had a breakout performance on Sept. 19 against Rhode Island, when he threw for 329 yards on 22-for-30 passing with  two touchdowns. That performance earned him Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Week and New England Golden Helmet honors.

After a full offseason to get acclimated to the offense, Havens hopes to experience improved results on the field in 2010.

“This is the first time since high school that I have two consecutive years in one offense and it’s just night and day,” Havens said. “The whole game slows down for me. I understand what I’m doing and what everyone else is doing.

“It’s not so much the level of play. My understanding of defensive concepts, knowing where everyone is supposed to be or wants to be on the field, being able to watch film and work with the coaches.”

Key departures at wide receiver make way for a fresh group of receivers whom Havens will look to throw to. Victor Cruz and Jeremy Horne, his No. 1 and No. 3 options from a year ago have graduated as well as starting tailback Tony Nelson.

The Minutemen team is much younger this season and will look to veterans for guidance and leadership in the coming year.

Free from any distraction as a new quarterback in a new system, Morris already sees improvement in Havens.

“Kyle is our quarterback. It’s his team,” Morris said. “He’s got to mature and grow. He’s a different kid coming in this fall, when he was in the shadow of Liam Coen and a new team. Now it’s his squad and the players are performing well around him.”

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at dgigliot@student.umass.edu.

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