UMass football fall camp: Jackson Porter adapting well following switch to wide receiver

By Anthony Chiusano

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

With the majority of the Massachusetts football team retiring to its locker room following an early finish to Tuesday’s late afternoon practice, few players stayed put on Gladchuk Field for some extra work.

Already out of his white practice jersey and pads, Jackson Porter was among those still stationed on the practice field, running extra routes and catching passes in shorts and a UMass undershirt. For the Minutemen’s newest wide receiver, these extra reps are all part of his ongoing position change.

Porter, a redshirt sophomore, started eight games at cornerback for UMass last season but struggled to be consistent in pass coverage. With added depth in the defensive secondary this year, coach Mark Whipple decided last week to move Porter to the offensive side of the ball at wide receiver.

According to Porter, the switch has been something he’s embraced.

“The transition from cornerback to receiver, it’s been good to me so far,” Porter said. “I’m just putting in a little extra work in so I can get my hands right.”

Whipple said Porter has been progressing well since the change in large part to his natural talent and athleticism. Porter said his speed is something he looks forward to utilizing in addition to his familiarity with the mindset of a cornerback.

“Playing defensive back for almost three years now, I know pretty much a lot about the techniques and alignments and everything,” Porter said. “I can sort of tell what a corner is going to do before they do it. I can definitely use that as an advantage.”

However, Porter said learning the playbook has been the biggest challenge in what has been a pretty smooth transition so far.

“I have the speed to run routes and I know where to be at, but it’s just memorizing where you have to go and just knowing the plays,” Porter said. “They’re throwing a lot at you in a short amount of time so you just have to soak it all in, ask a lot of questions and try your hardest.”

Porter said he’s relied on the Minutemen’s experienced receiving corps to help ease his move. UMass will graduate five receivers following the 2015 season, led by top target Tajae Sharpe.

According to Porter, Sharpe’s route running ability and work ethic at the position serves as a great example for how to model his own game. He compared his conversations with Sharpe so far to that of his relationship with senior cornerback Randall Jette last season when the two played side-by-side as starting cornerbacks.

“When I was playing corner I would look at Jette and try to model what he does. Now playing receiver I have to look at Tajae and see how he plays and how he runs his routes,” Porter said. “I ask him question here and there and he helps me out with some plays. It’s basically like having Jette except on the opposite side.”

Whipple said he expects Porter to be quickly included in the Minutemen’s offensive game plan considering his positive start to his new position. UMass’ first game will be at Colorado on Sept. 12.

He added that Porter has adjusted to the offense at a quicker pace than former Minutemen tight end Jean Sifrin did last season at this point. In his one year at UMass in 2014, Sifrin caught 42 passes and six touchdowns en route to being named the first team All-MAC tight end.

“(Porter) will get some things in Colorado, no question,” Whipple said. “He’s made plays and we’ll have a game plan that gives him (opportunities)… First game, guys get tired so we want to make sure to play a lot more guys and get them into it.”

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