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Notebook: Whipple sees improvement in offensive line in practice

(Caroline O’Connor/ Daily Collegian)

In the Massachusetts football team’s short week of practice in preparation for Friday’s game against Temple, Coach Mark Whipple says that he has already seen improvement in his offensive line.

“The offensive line, I think, is disappointed in the way they played,” Whipple said. “It wasn’t a group; it was one guy missing every time.”

Whipple added, “I liked the last two days. They’ve been good, so today we tried to be more physical like we were last week on both sides. We went after each other, we did a lot of speed work, so that’s good.”

He clarified that it was not a particular lineman, but a different person each time.

“No, it’s like one play it’s technique or, not as many, there were MEs, mental errors,” Whipple explained. “They gave a little bit of a different look. But that’s one guy in one game, if we can get the guy a good pop, it goes from a 2-yard run to 15 so it just takes some time.”

The O-line’s performance was particularly bad Saturday afternoon, but has been a liability all season.

Of all the offensive struggles that have stemmed from the offensive line’s performance, quarterbacks Andrew Ford and Ross Comis have arguably suffered the most. Ford was sacked eight times Saturday, yet Whipple believes the number was inflated by a few moments toward the end of the game.

“I think that was a little bit of an anomaly,” Whipple said. “You see eight sacks, the last two were really two possessions down. Earlier on two were his-on-his. Their line is good. You know, a combination of things.”

Jake Byczko coming along

With Sha-Ki Holines still sidelined due to injury, the likes of Da’Sean Downey, Bryton Barr and Ali Ali-Musa have attempted to fill the D-lineman’s gap.

The Minutemen’s game against Old Dominion saw a spike in performance from true freshman Jake Byczko.

Byczko, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive lineman, recorded 10 tackles against the Monarchs. He had only one in each of the first two games.

“He’s gotten better every week,” Whipple said. “He missed probably 10 days of practice with an injury in camp, which set him back. But he’s playing, every time a young guy gets on he works hard. We thought he was going to be a really good player and he is a good player, tough.”

According to Whipple, for a true freshman, playing on the line is a true sign of maturity.

“Yeah, especially on a line,” Whipple said. “But he’s just gotten better and solid hold at point and can run pretty good. So we thought he was going to be a really good player, and he is.”

Whipple also gave an update on Holines’ status.

“He looks like he’s getting better so we’ll just check with the doctor again,” Whipple said. “But he’s practiced some more, so he’s closer than he’s been.”

Veteran speaks to Minutemen

Vietnam veteran and UMass alum, Jim Parker spoke to the Minutemen Tuesday afternoon. The veteran had met a few of the players at the Troy State game last season.

“I think it probably goes back to when our guys went to Pearl Harbor,” Whipple said of his players’ response to history. “How engaged they were. This day and age, if you ask them to put their cell phones down they’re almost lost. But that tour was like an hour and half and they were really into it.”

Philip Sanzo can be reached at psanzo@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

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