Depin: Grading every position for UMass Football through September

Minutemen finish month 1-3

Dylan+Nguyen%2F+Daily+Collegian

Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian

By Johnny Depin, Collegian Staff

In the month of September, the Massachusetts football team did exactly what it was expected to do, beating the lone FCS team it faced in Stony Brook, while losing to Tulane, Toledo, and Temple.

While the Minutemen (1-3) have done exactly what was expected of them, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. All four games for UMass have been blowouts, regardless of what side of the coin it finds itself on. Some positions have performed better than others, and one has dragged down the team by a considerable margin.

Quarterbacks: D-

Gino Campiotti and his individual run game raise this grade quite a bit, as the passing game this season has been just short of abysmal. With one passing touchdown to six interceptions, it’s no wonder that the average passing yardage per game sits at 62.5. Campiotti has rushed for over 60 yards a game, dragging this position group from downright abysmal to slightly serviceable.

Running Backs: B-

With Campiotti having a high average rushing yardage total, the running backs have taken a bit of a back seat in the run game. The play of Ellis Merriweather and Tim Baldwin Jr. elevate the running backs group as a whole, with Merriweather just behind Campiotti in total rushing yards, sitting at 219 yards in the early stages of this season. Baldwin Jr. has been the team’s most explosive back, averaging five yards per carry.

Wide Receivers: D+

The receiving group hasn’t been used much in the offense up until this point, but when they’ve been utilized, it’s been a mixed bag. Cameron Sullivan-Brown leads the team with 10 receptions for 109 yards, but he and George Johnson III (who has 78 yards) make up over 84 percent of the yardage for wide receivers in the early goings of the season. Part of this low yardage is due in part to the offensive scheme, but consistent drops on passes that would have given UMass big yardage are a common sight once or twice a game.

Tight Ends: N/A

Tight ends have been somewhat of a non-factor in the offensive scheme in the early parts of the season, so it would be unfair to give them a grade.

Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line is a bit of an enigma, as yes, they’ve allowed just four sacks on the season, but that is related to the run heavy style of offense that the Minutemen employ. I looked more at the average yardage per carry, where the aforementioned Baldwin Jr. excels. Merriweather averages just under four yards per carry, which can be attributed to how often he is running the football. The offensive line does a great job of protecting the quarterback and clearing space for the running backs, giving them the highest grade on the offensive side of the football.

Defensive Line: B-

Like their offensive counterparts, the defensive line was another tough grade to come up with. UMass definitely applies pressure, as they totaled seven quarterback knockdowns in its previous game, along with a sack. What’s hampering this grade from being higher is the average yardage of opposing rushers, which for now sits at 4.7 yards per carry. Besides that, this group has been good at making opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable and rush through their motions.

Linebackers: B-

Linebackers are another tough position to grade, because of how they affect both the run and pass game. Regardless of this fact, the Minutemen defense overall is ranked 55 in the country, which almost puts them in the top third of all FBS programs. The pass defense has been exceptional, while the run defense has been serviceable, giving linebackers a B- grade.

Cornerbacks: A

Jordan Mahoney came out of nowhere this season and established himself as one of the best defenders that UMass has. With two interceptions and a forced fumble in the past two weeks, he’s making sure people are saying his name. That combined with the consistent and steady hand of Josh Wallace (who also has an interception in the past two weeks) gives the cornerbacks the highest grade of any positional group.

Safeties: B

With the No. 33 passing defense in the nation, a lot of that can be attributed to the safeties. The only thing holding this group back from a B+ or an A is their slight tendency to fall behind the opposing receivers on go routes or posts which can lead to big yards for the opposition. This was seen in UMass’ game against Temple where two big pass plays set up easy scores for the Owls (2-2). You don’t become the No. 33 passing defense for no reason however, and this safeties group has done a great job so far.

Special Teams: D-

The only thing keeping the special teams unit from receiving an F is they have been comparatively better at returning punts and kickoffs than they have been at kicking and punting the ball. They’re returning kickoffs for an average of 15.71 yards, and punts for an average of 9.67 yards. Punting has been dreadful for the Minutemen in September, with punts going for an average of 32.32 yards, with a net average of 27.88 yards. It’s been improving though; punts averaged 38 yards in UMass’ previous game. Even with those improvements, special teams have been hampering the potential of the Minutemen.

Johnny Depin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Jdepin101.