Palmer, Britt starting to materialize as playmakers on UMass football’s receiving corps

By Ryan Ames

(Daily Collegian Archive)

Fans of the New England Patriots are familiar with the phrase ‘Next Man Up.’

The terminology/battle-cry references the Patriots’ ability to throw another player in game action at any given moment, with the expectation that they will provide just as much as the player that went out, whether it be from injury or roster moves.

The Massachusetts football team is experiencing a similar phenomenon with their receiving corps.

Redshirt senior tight end Adam Breneman, the University of Massachusetts’ (0-4) top target, hasn’t looked the same since suffering an injury in the second half of the Minutemen’s 38-28 loss at Coastal Carolina.

With junior wide receiver Andy Isabella being the only other proven pass-catcher on the roster, UMass has looked to some of its relatively unknown receivers in this trying time for the offense.

Sadiq Palmer, a sophomore out of Red Bank, New Jersey, stepped up for the Minutemen in its most recent loss to Temple, snagging 117 reception yards, in the 29-21 defeat.

“It felt good. I broke my yards that I had last year so it was pretty fun,” Palmer said about his on-field performance against the Owls. “But it’s never fun to lose.”

Palmer already set a new career-high in reception yards, now at 239 yards on the season, after catching for just 100 yards in nine games as a freshman last year.

“Those guys [Brenemen and Isabella] dictate some coverage so the next guy, you go through your progressions. [Palmer] stepped up and had a really good game,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said of Palmer. “I think what I was proud of was that I thought in the Coastal Carolina game he did not play very well, and we got after him a little bit. He’s really responded like I thought he would.”

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound wide out did indeed struggle against the Chanticleers, hauling in just two catches for 22 yards, in his worst statistical single-game performance of the year.

Although Palmer did raise the bar after his eye-opening contest Sept. 15, he feels even more can be expected of him.

“I feel like I’ve played okay,” Palmer said. “Every time I get a chance, [I] try to show what I have each play. I’m just trying to do what I can for my team, do the best I can.”

Freshman Jessie Britt made a name for himself against Temple, catching his first career touchdown reception on a 20-yard hookup with quarterback Andrew Ford, with just under six minutes remaining in the third quarter.

With that catch and subsequent nerves now out of the way, Britt feels like he’s capable of doing even more for the Minutemen offense.

“I would say I went from 60 to 70 percent confidence, to 100 percent confidence now,” Britt said.

“It’s still fast-paced, but I feel like it’s slowing down a little bit,” Britt said about his adjustment to college football. “In my mind, I know places to be at the right time. I know the play that’s designed [is] to get people over so if you just run your route and not do your own thing, you’ll be open, and it’ll come to you eventually.”

Coming from Lake Alfred, Florida, Britt was embarking on a daunting journey that not all freshman can handle. However, Britt said the transition to UMass football and the whole lifestyle that comes with it was made easier with assistance from Isabella and Palmer.

“Andy was the first number I got when I first found out I was coming here,” Britt said. “When I got here, he took me to the film room almost every day, showing me plays and what he did a little bit.”

“Sadiq always stays on me. Anytime I do something, he congratulates me. Any one-handed catch I do, he says, ‘You just did the Palmer catch, the Sadiq catch.’ Those two really helped me out,” he said.

After a rough start to his Minutemen football career—that included a muffed punt in the Hawaii game—Britt has slowly but surely worked his way up the depth chart.

“Jessie had his first touchdown and did a good job on a return,” Whipple said. “He’s grown up from the first game. The team’s better, but the receivers are way better than before the Hawaii game.”

Now onto its stiffest competition to date in Tennessee on Sept. 23, ‘Next Men Up’ for UMass.

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.