Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football ready for dual-threat quarterback Reginald Bell, Jr.

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(Courtesy of Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts football team has had to prepare itself for a number of talented quarterbacks in the 2014 season. Whether it was the dual-threat Tyler Murphy – a transfer from the University of Florida – or future NFL quarterback Christian Hackenberg from Penn State, the Minutemen have had their hands full on multiple occasions.

However, when UMass makes its final trip to Gillette Stadium of the season Saturday, there will be a new quarterback that people will be talking about and that’s Reginald Bell Jr.

Earlier this week on the MAC coaches teleconference, Minutemen head coach Mark Whipple compared Bell to former Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III from Baylor.

Last Saturday against Buffalo, Bell put up Heisman-like numbers, throwing 8-for-13 with 144 yards and a touchdown. However, it was Bell’s rushing performance that made a name for him. The former Los Angeles City 110m high-hurtles champion ran for 202 yards and for three touchdowns on 17 carries, including a big touchdown run from 71-yards out and another from 72-yards.

“He impacted that game as much as I’ve seen any one player do all year,” said Whipple. “If you make a mistake maybe last week or a couple of other weeks, it was 10 or 15 yard (gain), but this week it can be a touchdown.”

“He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s not just a runner, and he can throw really well too,” cornerback Randall Jette said of Bell.

The Eagles (2-4, 1-2 MAC) have struggled both offensively and defensively in the 2014 season. Aside from their win against the Bulls, the only other win was against 1-AA opponent Morgan State in week one.

Although Bell has burst onto the scene as of late, Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton has mixed and matched his quarterbacks this season. Bell is last on the team in pass attempts (35), behind Rob Bolden (76) and Brogan Roback (41).

“Discipline is definitely huge (this week). You all saw what he did to Buffalo, he’s a really good player. He’s really fast and electrifying. He can change games,” linebacker Stanley Andre said.

Creighton has used Bell in multiple read-option looks this season, as he leads the team in rushing yards (250) and touchdowns (three). Running back Ryan Brumfield also has three rushing touchdowns this year for the Eagles.

Jette spoke highly of his team’s ability to stop the run following the Minutemen’s 40-17 win against Kent State last Saturday. UMass allowed 150 rushing yards and 341 total yards, the second fewest yards given up since week three against Vanderbilt.

“As much as we stepped up on the run defense, people stepped up in the passing game too. Jackson did great last week, and Trey Seals did a good job with underneath pass coverage especially on third downs,” he said.

Injury Report

Whipple told reporters on Wednesday that J.T. Blyden, Shadrach Abrokwah, Marken Michel, Matt Sparks and Fabian Hollier have all made improvements this week and all have a legitimate shot of playing on Saturday.

Whipple also mentioned that he won’t know their official status for the game until later in the week.

Kickoff from Gillette Stadium is at 2 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.com.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and can be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

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