Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

New football coach Molnar, players speak at MAC Media Day

The Massachusetts football team took the next step forward towards its inaugural season in the Football Bowl Subdivision as coach Charley Molnar, center Quinton Sales and free safety Darren Thellen spoke at the Mid-American Conference Media Day Tuesday.

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

The trio appeared on an ESPN3 broadcast at 9:45 a.m. at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., to discuss a multitude of topics, including the jump to FBS, playing at Gillette Stadium and recruiting in the northeast.

Molnar, who took over the Minutemen program in December, spoke about the qualities his team needs in order to be successful not only in the MAC, but in the FBS.

“There’s certain fundamentals in the MAC that hold true in all of college football but specifically in the MAC. And this is what it comes down to: We need a team that’s physically and mentally tough and we need a football team that’s very, very disciplined,” Molnar said. “So those are the things that we’ve really started to put into our program, not that they weren’t there, but we just needed to enhance it.”

Sales, a senior from Fort Washington, Md., said he and his teammates are up for the challenge of transitioning from the FCS to the highest level of college football.

“First of all, we know it’s a lot more competitive than before,” Sales said. “It takes a lot more hard work so we’re ready for the challenge. I think this new coaching staff has put in a lot more energy into the program so a lot more promising things are happening.”

Part of that promising future is recruiting, which is something Molnar hasn’t wasted any time on. He’s already worked his way up and down the East Coast to bring FBS talent to Amherst.

Molnar called the east coast “my territory,” having grown up in New Jersey and attended Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania.

“I believe in the football players on the east coast, especially the Northeast,” he said. “That’s going to be the foundation of our program and so far we’ve made pretty good in-routes.”

One piece that’s helped Molnar with recruiting is Gillette Stadium, which will serve as the home of UMass football for the near future.

“We play on campus in a stadium that holds about 18,000 people. We expect, and we’re going, to be a big-time football program and an 18,000-seat stadium just isn’t enough. It’s not enough to recruit the players that we want to recruit, it’s not big enough to hold a fanbase that we expect to have coming to our home games when we play at home and we need to have a venue that we can recruit the best players in America to,” Molnar said. “So playing at Gillette, to me, is a perfect piece of the puzzle.”

On the field, the Minutemen will have their hands full with a competitive conference that poses lethal passing games across the league. Thellen, a senior from Brockton, said he looks forward to facing quarterbacks that like to sling it across the field.

“It’s a big challenge … but as a [defensive back], you’re up for the challenge,” he said. “You want the quarterbacks that throw the ball as much as they can [because it’s] more opportunities for you to make plays and it’s just exciting to actually get more opportunities to make plays.”

On the Minutemen side, Molnar is hopeful that quarterback Kellen Pagel can succeed in the pass-happy MAC. So far, Molnar has been impressed with the signal caller’s work in the film room.

“Off the field, he is a great worker and, again, that’s the kind of guy I’m looking for at that position. He watches film virtually every single day and is always pulling somebody else into the film room with him,” Molnar said.

Under center, Molnar likes Pagel’s arm strength, size and physicality, but hopes that he’ll gain the necessary confidence to succeed at the FBS level.

“I think once he gets that, if we can get him into a rhythm during camp and maintain it through our first couple of games, I think he’ll have an outstanding season,” Molnar said.

UMass opens the season on the road at Connecticut on Aug. 30.

UMass tabbed to finish last in East division

The MAC’s preseason poll was announced as part of the Media Day festivities at Ford Field, and the Minutemen aren’t given much confidence to succeed in their inaugural season.

UMass was picked to finish last in the East division by the league media contingent. They were given 23 points.

Ohio, earning 17 first-place votes, was picked to finish first in the division. Following the Bobcats are Bowling Green, Miami, Kent State, Buffalo, Akron and UMass.

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Sellner.

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