Three things to know as UMass football begins spring practice Saturday

By Mark Chiarelli

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Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian


The Massachusetts football team embarks on its spring football practice schedule Saturday, practicing at McGuirk Stadium until its Spring Game in mid-April.

We caught up with UMass football coach Mark Whipple Thursday as he prepared for the upcoming string of practices. Here are three things you should know as the Minutemen begin their spring season.

UMass is (almost) completely healthy

A number of Minutemen concluded the season hobbling, including quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, who missed the last two games of the season with an injury which the team called a bone bruise, but was actually a bit more severe. Whipple said Frohnapfel has no health concerns heading into the spring.

Only running back Jamal Wilson, who missed nine games last season with an ankle injury after winning the starting job out of training camp, is still injured. Whipple said the team would monitor his progress but doesn’t plan to allow him to participate in contact drills.

“He’s been running a little bit. He hasn’t been able to go full speed. We’ll be cautious with him,” Whipple said.

In total, Whipple said there are 96 players entering spring camp, including receivers Lamarriel Taylor and Darrian Josey, incoming freshman running back Marquis Young and quarterback Randall West.

The team is further along than last year

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but Whipple was pleased with the improvements made across the board in conditioning and preparation. He said players look faster in workouts and retained most of the information from last year.

“Last year we had to teach everything how we wanted things done,” Whipple said. “I think they’ve been better. They’re better than they were at anytime last year. We have some new guys and they’re helping the new guys.”

UMass enters its second season under Whipple’s stewardship. He said having the central location of the football performance center aided in the team’s ability to prepare over the winter. That, and that guy are “bigger, faster and stronger,” should eliminate mental errors, according to Whipple.

Whipple is still not happy about the end of last season

Playing without Frohnapfel in the final two games of 2014, the Minutemen ended the season with a thud. They lost their season finale at home to Buffalo (41-21), which followed a 30-6 loss to Akron on the road the week prior.

Whipple stewed over the team’s effort then, and still hasn’t forgotten about it.

“I’m still not happy with the last two games, the way we approached those, especially the last one.There’s a lot to be learned,” he said.

“That’s still a little in my craw. But we’re looking ahead. It’s about having a solid weekend, getting guys the reps they need and developing some depth. You’re going to need that.”

Odds and ends

Whipple had only one positional change to report. The team is moving junior D.J. Woods back to wide receiver after he played defensive back a season ago. He originally played receiver before making the switch a season ago … The Minutemen have six quarterbacks on the roster, which Whipple said might result in less scrimmage time for Frohnapfel as the others get more reps

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.