UMass football Media Day: Catching up with Joe Colton

By Anthony Chiusano

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts football team enters 2015 with raised expectations on defense and a wealth of experience in the defensive secondary, which includes senior Joe Colton.

A former walk-on, Colton has started 23 games over his three seasons in Amherst and finished third on the team in tackles last season with 98. He is slated to be a starting safety alongside fellow senior Trey Dudley-Giles.

As one of the most outspoken players on the Minutemen, Colton sat down Thursday morning at the program’s official Media Day to discuss everything from defensive expectations to his plans for UMass’ unusual bye week to open the season.

On the atmosphere around camp with higher expectations surrounding the team:

“I’d say our group is definitely more confident. We had a three-win season last year, but 10 points total was the difference between us going to a bowl game. If we went to a bowl game last year, we felt like we would have brought back Amherst. Back when they were winning all the time, this town was live and we feel like we can be the difference maker. There’s not a game on this schedule that I feel like we can’t win.”

On UMass’ experience in the secondary, which may start four seniors:

“I’d say experience is very important, but now it’s about what are you going to do with it. We definitely took our bumps and bruises last year and the years before when we were all young. If we learn from those mistakes, which I feel like we are in camp, I think our team will win much more games if our backend is better. It’s going to come down to the defense at the end of the day. If we can hold teams to under 21 points, we should win every football game. Because our offense is going to go out there and score.”

On the unit’s focus on limiting opponents’ big plays:

“We can’t get beat over the top and if there is a big play, we have to corral it and just end it. In spring ball, we felt like we squashed that. We didn’t let up any big plays, there were no throws that came over the top. Guys are just conscious of that. You have to make your weaknesses into your strengths and that’s what we’re doing, that’s how we’re getting better.”

On the impact of adding UAB transfer and senior cornerback Kelton Brackett to the defense:

“That was a huge addition. He’s made a lot of big plays in camp and he’s just a great guy to have on the team. Whether he plays or not, his personality is just something you want on the team. He’s come in and wasn’t familiar with our playbook, but he’s a real smart football player and has picked up things quick. That’s why he’s out there starting right now.”

On what it’s like facing coach Mark Whipple’s pro-style offense every day in practice:

“I still can’t figure out the offense in practice every day. I don’t understand coach Whipple’s route combinations, it messes up my keys. But as long as they keep putting points on the board like they have been, I’ll be happy. It’s the defense that has to step it up.”

On his respect for Whipple, who’s in his second year back in his return to the helm of UMass:

“He’s got credibility. He’s been here and he’s done it. He has the winning record at UMass, everybody else here has had a losing record, so he’s the guy. Just everything he says holds truth and he’s just always right. The great thing about him is that he has a great memory. That’s how he holds guys accountable. If you screw up, he’ll just bring something up that you think he might not remember. It makes sure guys are finishing their business and guys really trust coach Whipple.”

On the unusual circumstance of having a bye week on week one of the season:

“It does feel weird. I don’t think I’m going to realize it until I wake up that Saturday and there’s games being played and I’m going to be watching them. It’s different. On a Saturday afternoon, I really haven’t watched a game since high school. Even when we’ve had a bye week, I’d just get my time away and don’t watch football. I haven’t watched in a while.”

On his plans for watching the Colorado vs. Hawaii game Sept. 4, which will kick off at 12:59 a.m. in Honolulu. UMass will face the Buffs in its season opener the following weekend:

“I’m sure everyone will watch it. I think we were going to go to the Hangar or something to watch it together. I know the defense will be watching.”

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