Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football fall camp: Freshmen Sekai Lindsay, Andy Isabella impressing at running back

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Mark Chiarelli/Daily Collegian, Maroon Musket

Mark Chiarelli/Daily Collegian, Maroon Musket

In a search for a more consistent running game in 2015, the Massachusetts football team will most likely rely on a rotation of veteran running backs Jamal Wilson, Shadrach Abrokwah and Lorenzo Woodley to carry the workload. However, entering the second week of fall camp, two freshmen are making a case to be considered in this mix.

True freshmen Sekai Lindsay and Andy Isabella have turned heads so far with their transitions to the college game and add to an already deep group of running backs. Lindsay, in particular, has even earned a sample of first-team reps during practice, including during Saturday night’s intra-squad scrimmage.

At 5-foot-8, 215 pounds, Lindsay said he likes to utilize his physicality when carrying the ball. This was something he was able to fully take advantage of for the first time this weekend in the Minutemen’s full-pad scrimmage.

“I feel like I’m more of a north-south, downhill-type runner,” Lindsay said Saturday. “So in full pads, when they have to tackle me to the ground, I feel like I can do more. It’s just more natural, like being in a game.”

UMass running backs coach Darrius Smith has taken notice of Lindsay’s impact in camp so far, and said his maturity and ability to quickly adapt to Division I football has been promising.

“I have seen a very good, hard-running freshman running back who at this point in time is a little bit above the curve in what we anticipated him being as a true freshman coming into a major college football program,” Smith said Monday.

He added: “With him being a true freshman, I’ve seen a quality that is very rare with young freshmen coming into the program. He seems to be responding as if he belongs, and that’s a good sign.”

To coach Mark Whipple, Lindsay’s smooth transition comes with little surprise based on what he saw during the recruitment process when Lindsay was attending Palm Bay High School in Melbourne, Florida.

Whipple added that Lindsay’s presence on campus during the summer has helped him ease into the system.

“When we went down to see him (in Florida) I thought he already had a kind of knowledge for football. Just the look in his eyes,” Whipple said. “He’s a running back that’s already talking about protections and those things. You don’t get a lot of guys like that.”

One major difference that Lindsay said he’s still working on improving is pass protection responsibilities, which he said he didn’t have to worry about in high school. However, he added that working with the first team offense on occasion has helped with this transition.

Isabella turning heads with speed

When asked about what he’s seen from Isabella, a former Ohio state champion in track, UMass senior defensive back Randall Jette opted not to use words to describe Isabella’s speed. Rather, he simply offered a sound resembling that of speeding jet.

“Pheeeow. I don’t know how to spell it but I don’t even call him Andy, I just call him ‘pheeeow,’” Jette said. “He’s a strong back too, so it’s not just speed. He’ll lower his shoulder too.”

Isabella ran track at Mayfield High School and set personal bests of 10.51 seconds in the 100-meter race and 21.27 seconds in the 200-meter. In an interview with MassLive’s Daniel Malone last Thursday, Isabella said he plans on continuing his track career at UMass and has already cleared it with Whipple.

However, his more immediate plans include utilizing his speed for the Minutemen this football season.

“That’s why they brought me to the program,” Isabella said Saturday. “I’m hoping they can find a way to use my speed on the field this year, but if not I’m just going to keep working hard so I can get a chance on the field.”

Whipple stayed noncommittal about whether Lindsay or Isabella would earn a spot on the plane to Boulder, Colorado for UMass’ season opener against Colorado. He even joked that the Minutemen may consider implementing the wishbone formation.

“We’re deeper certainly there than we were last year,” Whipple said. “Maybe we’ll go to the wishbone. We have enough good ones, I never had enough good ones.”

Added Lindsay: “Whatever coach decides at the end of the day, I’m going to do. We have a good team and I want to be part of it and I want to be on the field.”

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

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