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

Jordan Broadnax takes early lead in tight running back competition

Maria Uminski/Collegian File Photo

There’s a competition brewing at running back on the Massachusetts football team.

The Minutemen opened training camp Monday with five backs on their roster that could challenge for the starting job. And they’ll be working from now until Aug. 31 when they begin the 2013 season at Wisconsin to be the team’s Week 1 starter.

However, only one of those backs has real game experience. That’s the leader of the group: junior Jordan Broadnax.

Broadnax spent most of last season as a backup to Michael Cox, but was featured as a pass-catcher in long-yardage and third down situations. He also had 53 carries for 159 yards and a touchdown.

With three freshmen and sophomore Jamal Wilson, who only had 18 carries last season, behind him, that game experience makes Broadnax the clear front-runner for UMass’ No. 1 spot next season.

“I was mainly a catching back last year (but I’m) a little bit quicker and (I have) experience towards the game,” Broadnax said. “I got a year in front of everybody. I’ve been playing since my freshman year so I’ve been apart of this game for a while now.”

Broadnax’s words resonated on the practice field Monday, when UMass coach Charley Molnar said the junior’s combination of experience and talent put him well ahead of his counterparts.

“Jordan Broadnax (was) clearly the best in practice (Monday), but so much of that is to do with the combination of talent and experience, where it’s hard to put the freshmen in the same category, even (redshirt freshman) Stacey Bedell,” Molnar said. “These guys might be highly talented players, they just don’t have the experience. But Jordan really combined both, I felt really good when he was in there picking up the blitz and knowing his assignments.

“His footwork was on the money, just what you would expect from a guy like him.”

Broadnax’s spot isn’t guaranteed, however. Bedell and true freshmen Lorenzo Woodley and Daquan Mack will all be spending camp trying to state their case as well.

In fact, Molnar thinks the Minutemen need someone to overtake Broadnax talent-wise.

“I hope so. I really believe that that’s gotta happen,” Molnar said. “I think Jordan is good and I’m hoping these younger guys are better.”

Bedell said after Monday’s practice, which was closed to the public, that he got some reps with the first string as well, which only heightens the competition. Bedell also has a season of practice under his belt, putting him ahead of his fellow freshmen for at least the early days of camp.

Woodley may not be too far behind either. The freshman received offers from multiple big-time programs, such as Florida State, Cincinnati and West Virginia, as a three-star recruit, but came to UMass with the hopes of earning significant playing time as soon as this season.

“Everybody likes to be on the field, have a chance to compete for a job right away, so you can never go wrong with that,” Woodley said. “Nobody likes to sit on the bench and watch from the sidelines. This is a good opportunity for me so I want to take advantage of it.”

Woodley describes himself as a balanced player who not only excels at running the ball, but is also an effective pass-blocker and receiver. Those skills should put him right in the mix.

“We’re all competing for a job,” Woodley said. “Somebody’s gonna have to step on that field, so I’m gonna try to work to the best of my ability to be that guy.”

Regardless of who’s the starter, a majority of them will likely have a role on this team.

At 6-foot-1, 247 pounds, Mack would be well-suited for short-yardage situations – a role he said both him and Woodley can succeed in — while Broadnax and Bedell can use their quickness to make plays in the open field.

With such a wealth of promising young talents at the position, Molnar would like certain players to carve their own distinct role in the backfield. But right now it’s too early to tell if and when that will happen.

“We think that different guys will bring different skill sets to the table, but until they prove that they’re clearly the best at doing certain things, each one of them is going to be expected to do everything well,” Molnar said. “Then when a guy differentiates himself as running certain plays clearly better than the other guys, then we’ll find a way to get that guy in to do those things.”

Until then, it comes down to who the last man standing is at the end of camp.

“We have a lot of running backs with some new freshmen and we’re all competing against each other,” Bedell said. “The best man is gonna get the starting job.”

Nick Canelas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *