Aliberti: Minor takeaways from UMass football’s spring game

Defense defeats offense 20-3

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Sophia-Zoe Schreyer

Sophie-Zoe Schreyer/Daily Collegian

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

It’s always interesting to see what a team looks like during the spring game, especially when that team fired its head coach and has a completely new staff. At the same time, it is spring. The college football season is four months away, and a lot will be figured out by Massachusetts football head coach Don Brown and his staff over the summer.

With that being said, I’m going to mention a few things of note from UMass’ first spring game under Brown.

The quarterback situation

Just as the title reads, it’s a situation. Four quarterbacks (Brady Olson, Zamar Wise, Gino Campiotti, Chase Brewster) took snaps today. Of those four Wise took the first snaps, but with the exception of Brewster, who is an incoming freshman, the snaps were fairly balanced.

We probably won’t have a good idea of who the starting quarterback is until late in the summer, one thing we can expect is that whoever the quarterback is will run more than Minutemen quarterbacks from a season ago. The combination of Wise getting reps and me saying the quarterback will run more gives the sense that he will be the start. This could be true, but Campiotti and Olson have speed too. Olson didn’t run a ton last season, but he did a fair amount in the spring game, which gives me the idea the quarterbacks are more encouraged to run than they were under previous coach Walt Bell. None of the quarterbacks were too impressive during the spring game, so this job is wide open for the taking.

Defense

This isn’t shocking since Brown is known as a high-level defensive coach, but this defense will be better next season. UMass let up 44.7 points and 511 yards per game last season, which were second and third worst in the nation. The Minutemen also allowed the most yards per play with 7.5. The defense added 18 players that include Power-5 transfers and a good amount of high school recruits, headlined by linebacker Aaron Alexander. This defense isn’t all the sudden going to lock teams down, but it won’t be a bottom-10 defense, which couldn’t be said the past few years.

The defense won 20-3 Saturday afternoon. And while the defense tends to be in a better place than the offense of a football team during the spring, this is not a defense that looks nearly as disheveled as it did in the prior three years.

Fast, new offensive weapons

Everybody knows Ellis Merriweather, the 1,100-yard rusher from last season and Rico Arnold, last year’s leading receiver. Newcomers George Johnson III (receiver), Greg Desrosiers (running back) and Jamir Roberts (receiver) will add much-needed depth to UMass’ skill positions. Roberts technically isn’t a newcomer, but he didn’t play last year, and he received a fair amount of snaps Saturday. Roberts along with Johnson III bring more speed to the wideout spot, and Casula didn’t hesitate to use both players in jet sweeps to get the ball in their hands.

Merriweather is the team’s best skill player, but he won’t need to be relied upon for 30 or more touches every single game this season. Desrosiers didn’t play as a freshman at Louisville, but he joins Kay’Ron Adams, who is still recovering an injury, as two reliable running backs behind Merriweather. Desrosiers also adds speed to the backfield, pairing well with someone like Merriweather that is known for his strength and power.

There is much ways to go before the season and this team is ready, so don’t look too far into anything yet, but after watching the spring game I know this team is at a better place than it was a year ago.