Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football notebook: Jackson Porter moves to WR, UMass schedules 2016 game with South Carolina

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Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian

Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian

After the second day of fall training camp last Tuesday, Massachusetts football defensive coordinator Tom Masella said UMass was confident with redshirt sophomore Jackson Porter lining up as the starting cornerback opposite senior Randall Jette.

But with UAB transfer Kelton Brackett shining so far in his first camp with the Minutemen and a surplus of defensive backs behind him, UMass coach Mark Whipple announced Friday that Porter has been moved across the field to wide receiver.

Brackett, a senior, transferred from UAB after the university temporary disbanded its football program. He is immediately eligible to play for the Minutemen in 2015.

Whipple added that the presence of Scottsdale Community College transfer Jordin Hamilton and freshmen James Oliphant and Brandon Mangram in the secondary allows for Porter to make the switch.

“We felt that Kelton’s earned a starting position and we think Jordin Hamilton is going to be pretty good,” Whipple said following Friday’s practice. “(Porter’s) had a couple of real good days (at receiver) and I’m happy about that.”

Porter comes off a rocky 2014 season where he started eight games and finished with two interceptions. Playing alongside veterans Jette, Trey Dudley-Giles and Joe Colton in the secondary, he was often targeted by opposing quarterbacks.

Whipple said he believes Porter has the necessary skillset to make for a smooth transition to receiver. He added that the Minutemen’s lack of depth moving forward at receiver, which graduates five after the season, played a factor in the decision.

“He’s fast, he can run, he can catch the ball,” Whipple said. “He’s done a really good job in two days for a guy who hasn’t had two years like some of the other guys. He’s athletic and we’re just trying to get our best players on the field.”

Whipple: Downey will continue to practice with team amid charges

A day after being charged with two accounts of assault and battery causing serious injury, UMass linebacker Da’Sean Downey will continue practicing with the team, according to Whipple after Friday’s practice.

Downey was involved in a Hadley fight last February that left two UMass students seriously injured. His arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 21 at Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown.

“That’s out of my hands,” Whipple said when asked about Downey’s situation. “Whatever it is, they’re dealing with it on the other side.”

Downey has been held out of practice drills for the past week with an ankle injury that’s left him in a walking boot. Whipple said the injury situation is day-to-day and Downey may “get a couple of snaps” as early as this weekend’s intra-team scrimmage.

UMass announces 2016 matchup with South Carolina

UMass filled its 12-game 2016 schedule Friday, as athletic director Ryan Bamford announced what will be the Minutemen’s third matchup of the season with a Southeastern Conference opponent in South Carolina.

UMass will travel to Columbia, South Carolina to face the Gamecocks on Oct. 22, 2016. It was also announced that the Minutemen will host its homecoming game at McGuirk Stadium on Oct. 29, 2016 against Wagner.

In order to schedule the matchup with South Carolina, UMass moved its game with Appalachian State, originally set for 2016, to 2020.

The Minutemen’s 2016 schedule now includes three SEC opponents in the Gamecocks, Florida and Mississippi State, in addition to other “Power 5” foes Connecticut, Boston College.

“Obviously it’s the most competitive schedule we’ve had as a football program,” Bamford said in a conference call Friday. “I spent a lot of time over the summer talking to coach Whipple about some of the changes to the schedule and we were able to rearrange things where, out of only five home games, we could at least get one back on campus for homecoming.”

South Carolina will pay UMass $1.5 million for the game, according to Bamford.

“We knew South Carolina badly needed a home game. For us, the economics had to be right,” Bamford said. “We weren’t going to take another million dollar game to play another SEC school.”

Bamford said the Minutemen also agreed to pay Wagner between $315,000-320,000 to have the Seahawks visit McGuirk Stadium next year. In order to reschedule the game with Appalachian State, UMass will pay $325,000, which will go toward the Mountaineers’ scheduling of an FCS team.

“Appalachian State did not have an FCS opponent on their schedule so we were able to actually help them buy that game,” Bamford said. “We took some of the dollars from South Carolina and helped them buy the game… It worked out well.”

As part of the deal with South Carolina, the Minutemen and Gamecocks will also begin a home-and-home series in basketball starting in 2016 with a matchup in Columbia. The series will return to Amherst the following year, while no dates have been agreed upon yet.

Bamford confirmed that UMass will not add any additional games to next year’s football schedule, although playing 13 games was an option.

“With only one bye week in a 13-week season, there’s no way we could expect our team to play 13 weeks in a row,” Bamford said. “We decided it was in our best interest to take a bye week.”

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

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