Mike Wegzyn’s offseason dedication, improvement shows in camp

By Nick Canelas

Mike Wegzyn didn’t leave the film room too often this offseason.

The quarterback for the Massachusetts football team spent most of his free time reliving every gut-wrenching moment from a tumultuous freshman season for both himself and the team. He didn’t make it easy on himself either.

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

Wegzyn started by watching every interception he threw. All 10 of them. And watched how they happened, why they happened and what he needed to do differently.

Then he moved on to his incompletions. There were 154 of those, too. Once he had properly analyzed each and every missed target, he finally got to his completions. Watching those 182 passes was much less painful for him.

“I didn’t really leave the film room much,” Wegzyn said after practice Wednesday morning. “I tried to make that my second home. I spent a lot of time watching film, a lot of time going through last year’s film, what I did wrong.”

Wegzyn got down to the root of his problems. Once he saw what went wrong and what he could do better, he dedicated himself to making sure he never repeated those errors again.

“Those kind of taught me a lot of different things. … Looking back, I could just see clearly,” he said. “I’m like, ‘I should’ve done this differently, I should’ve changed the protection to something else, should’ve checked out of this play and do different routes.’

“There’s a lot of things I could’ve corrected, but I feel like now I’ve got a better grasp of what I should’ve done, and I don’t think a lot of those mistakes are gonna happen again.”

Wegzyn’s hard work appears to be paying off.

Coming into spring practice, there was a competition at quarterback between Wegzyn and fellow sophomore A.J. Doyle, whose only start last season came in the final game against Central Michigan.

By the end of spring, the job belonged to Wegzyn.

UMass coach Charley Molnar praised Wegzyn throughout the summer for his growth from fall 2012 to spring 2013, and at one point considered him the team’s most improved player.

Now the quarterback has carried that over to the first week and a half of training camp. And this time, there’s no fighting for his job.

It doesn’t mean he won’t be practicing like it, though.

“I feel like without competition I’d work the same,” Wegzyn said. “I feel like I’m still doing the same kind of work that I’d be doing right now whether it was just me or 100 other guys fighting for the spot.

“I always try to train like I’m in second but play like I’m in first.”

Wegzyn said his footwork is one of the most improved areas of his game. He feels like he’s shaved some unnecessary steps in the pocket, which in return has made him better at going through his reads and puts him in better position to throw the football.

Molnar likes what he’s seeing from Wegzyn so far in camp. But he still thinks the redshirt sophomore can progress even further.

“There’s still plays that I would like Mike to make, but what coach doesn’t want their quarterback to be 100 percent?” Molnar said. “Sometimes he’s the victim of circumstances — guys that are in there when he’s in there. … The biggest thing I’d like to see from Mike is making sure that he’s making progress every day in the little things, from his footwork, to the way he looks off the defense, to his decision-making, (getting the) ball out of his hands.”

Molnar, like Wegzyn, is also dedicated to making his quarterback better every day.

“We do everything. We time his throws, we grade his decision-making as well as his overall results,” Molnar said. “We do that with all the quarterbacks so we want him to keep getting better each and every day.”

Catching on

Of course, Wegzyn’s job should be easier with some bigger receivers to throw to.

Some of Wegzyn’s top targets last season included 5-foot-8 Alan Williams and 5-foot-10 Marken Michel. This year, his options will include 6-foot-4 pass-catchers Rob Blanchflower, Derek Beck and Ricardo Miller.

The Minutemen also added more size at receiver through recruiting, with freshmen E.J. Burston (6-foot-3) and Shaquille Harris (6-foot-2) making an impression early in camp.

“It always makes a quarterback happy when you know you can throw a jump ball to somebody, and they’re probably gonna come down with it and got a good chance, especially when you’ve got these 6-foot-4 receivers,” Wegzyn said. “We’ve got a ton of them, we’ve got good speed on the outside, we’ve got a lot of tight ends that are gonna be able to do some good things for us. So I couldn’t be happier with what we’ve got out here. (There’s) a lot of young talent so I’m excited to see them progress.”

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