Randall West named starting quarterback ahead of UMass football opener

Redshirt senior wins QB competition


(UMass Athletics)

By Amin Touri, Editor in Chief

On multiple occasions over the last few weeks, with rumors and speculation about the Massachusetts football team’s training camp quarterback competition swirling, Walt Bell cited what he called the number one rule of decision making: take all the time allotted.

Three days out from UMass’ season opener against Rutgers was as much time as Bell needed, as redshirt senior Randall West was officially named the Minutemen’s starting quarterback on Tuesday afternoon.

“To be honest, we’ve probably known for five, seven days that things were trending that way,” Bell said Tuesday, “but again, number one rule of decision-making: take all of the time allotted. We’re proud he’s the guy, we’re proud to announce that he’s the guy, we’ve got great confidence in Randall and we want the whole world to know that we believe in Randall, and let’s go.”

West was far from the favorite entering camp, as Andrew Brito, Michael Curtis and even Mike Fallon seemed more likely candidates, but West, a well-liked leader in the huddle, spent the month of August proving his worth.

“Randall’s done a really great job,” said Bell. “He’s improved, maybe as exponentially as any player on the roster since we got here. He had a great summer, he kind of makes me wish we had him full-time in the spring, just seeing the jump that he’s made from a confidence standpoint, from a point-guarding standpoint.

“I think the biggest thing is just the amount of improvement. Just how much he’s improved, he’s done a really nice job pushing the ball down the field and throwing deep balls, but most importantly he’s really done a nice job taking care of the football and managing the line of scrimmage.”

It’s been a long road for West, who struggled to establish himself early at UMass as he recovered from a major knee injury during his senior year of high school. He only played four times and attempted seven passes over four years with the program, and finally, in his fifth year in Amherst, he’ll have his shot.

“It feels good,” West said. “Coach Bell pretty much sat us all down, me, Curtis and Brito with coach [Angelo] Mirando and we had a discussion on what he saw during camp. What he saw, what he felt, gave reasoning, and he was very honest with all three of us. And really, like I said in the past, that’s all you can ask [for] in a quarterback-head coach relationship, a guy that’s going to be up front and honest with you.”

Brito and Curtis, of course disappointed in not having won the job, handled the news well according to Bell.

“Those two dudes, they handled it like tough guys,” Bell said. “When it’s all said and done, the ability to handle adversity like that, because at the end of the day, when they lay their head on the pillow at night, nobody dreams of being the backup. And that’s the tough part, it’s like Highlander — there can only be one.”

The common opinion was that West’s greatest attributes were his intangibles, as a confident leader who could command a huddle better than any of his competitors for the starting job. But at the end of the day, he made the throws he needed to make, and the combination was enough.

“[The intangibles are] a huge part of it, but — I can be the nicest guy in the world, Ill never be the center for the New York Knicks,” Bell said. “It’s not in my genetic code. I can work as hard as I want and be the nicest guy ever and the greatest teammate and I’m never going to be the starting center for the New York Knicks.

“He does have great intangibles: very even-keeled, learns really well, he’s probably done the best job of managing the process, but at the same time, physically, he had to go do the job. At the end of the day, it’s not intramurals, man. You’ve got to go win the job, and he did that.”

Now just two days out from making his first collegiate start at Rutgers on Friday, in his home state of New Jersey, West says the nerves haven’t come yet.

“I’m sure they’ll come the day of the game,” West said. “Nut right now, there’s no time for that. There’s so much time that needs to spent on focusing on the game plan and all the looks that Rutgers will give us. The nerves will come, every game you’ll have nerves — every game I played basketball I had nerves, every game of football in high school I had nerves. Bigger stage, but really right now we’re focused on the game plan, what Rutgers we’ll do and how we’ll combat that.”

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Amin_Touri.