Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

UMass men’s basketball finishes non-conference schedule strong with win over Georgia State -

December 28, 2016

Brett Boeing joins UMass hockey for second half of season -

December 28, 2016

J.T. Blyden is earning the respect and trust of his teammates

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Massachusetts football starting linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox shakes his head in amazement when asked about freshman running back J.T. Blyden.

“J.T.’s really, really good,” Santos-Knox said. “He’s going to be a great player for the future of UMass. I can’t really consider him a younger guy because we’re going to need him this year. He’s really, really talented and we’re going to use him a lot for sure.”

UMass fans got a glimpse of Blyden on Saturday against Boston College, as he ran for 43 yards on nine carries, including a 14-yard run off-tackle, and caught one pass for seven yards. Blyden spelled starting running back Jamal Wilson midway through the second quarter and assumed the majority of the workload.

Santos-Knox and the rest of the Minutemen caught their first glimpse of Blyden in early August when he arrived on campus as a true freshman, running with the scout team on the first day of practice. He entered camp with relatively minimal fanfare — he’s been committed to UMass since his junior year of high school — but picked up the playbook quickly, working his way into earning more and more reps as he adjusted to the speed of the game throughout practice.

“Practice already had me up to speed I believe,” Blyden said. “My first day of practice, I was like amazed by the speed. When we have intra-squad scrimmages and everything, that was really beneficial to getting used to the speed of the game.”

Blyden’s name consistently popped up when Minutemen coach Mark Whipple talked about players who surprised him in camp. An afterthought in a deep running back competition, Blyden quietly worked his way up the depth chart and earned playing time with the starters by the end of camp.

According to quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, Blyden’s displayed a penchant for making plays not typically seen out of freshman.

“He came in the first day and really did things the right way,” Frohnapfel said. “He did what he was supposed to do, wasn’t really saying much. You see him with the way he plays, he’s always where he’s supposed to be.”

Whether it be on run plays or pass protection, Blyden transitioned well. That earned the trust of his starting quarterback and ultimately more playing time.

“As a quarterback you know, especially in protections, that I don’t have to worry about where this kid is supposed to be or tell him where to go because he knows already,” Frohnapfel said.

That was evident on Saturday, when the team left Blyden in for multiple different situations. Despite UMass trailing for most of the second half, which limited his ability to earn carries, Blyden’s performance was strong enough to warrant even more consideration of playing time moving forward.

For him, he’s as excited as can be.

“I’m just really excited,” he said. “Even after a loss I’m just excited. “We’re so close in so many areas to big plays. Myself, the whole team, I know we’re going to make a lot of noise this year so (I’m) really hyped for this year.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at mchiarel@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli

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