McCarthy: Analyzing UMass’ quarterback situation heading into its home opener

Film review of Gino Campiotti, updates on the potential game plan against Stony Brook

Video from ESPN+/ Edited by Colin McCarthy

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

Two weeks into Don Brown’s first season back as head coach of the Massachusetts football team, there are still many questions left unanswered about the personnel. Perhaps the biggest area of uncertainty lies at the quarterback position.

Gino Campiotti was the primary option under center in week two against Toledo, and despite an extra emphasis on the passing game, there wasn’t a lot of success to speak of through the air. Campiotti completed 5-of-14 passes for 27 yards. That isn’t to say there weren’t positive aspects of his performance, though.

Campiotti’s dual threat nature is something opposing defenses respect. He makes an impact on the run game as UMass’ leading rusher, which also opens up more lanes for the running backs to slip through. Combining that with a motion-heavy offense means there are three potential options in the run game alone on any given play.

Still, there is a severe lack of passing and too much pressure on the Minutemen’s run game through two games. Although Steve Casula’s offense is averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground, they are accomplishing that on about four yards per carry. Defenses are stacking the box and daring UMass to pass the ball, and for good reason. Against Stony Brook, the Minutemen need a more balanced attack, and they may go back to the multi-quarterback system to accomplish that.

It doesn’t feel like we’ve seen the last of Brady Olson this season; the UMass coaching staff has a lot of faith in the sophomore QB. He just didn’t fit their game plan for Toledo, and therefore only saw time late in the fourth quarter. But, if the Minutemen want a better air attack, Olson is likely still their best option.

In five minutes of playing time against the Rockets, Olson threw for 21 yards, only six yards less than Campiotti threw for over the rest of the game. Toledo and Tulane both boast far better defenses than Stony Brook, so if Olson gets a chance to sling the rock over a longer duration, he may be able to showcase the accuracy and arm talent he has.

Based on conversations with Brown on Tuesday, Olson and Campiotti might not be the only quarterbacks set to take snaps on Saturday, either. Zamar Wise’s name was thrown around as a player who could come into the fold.

All throughout training camp, it seemed that Wise was hanging in the competition with Olson and Campiotti, but he didn’t see any game time in the first two weeks. That will likely change soon, but what capacity Wise fills is yet to be seen. He’s the fastest and most explosive option UMass has at quarterback currently, and if Brown and Casula are set on running the ball with such high volume for the rest of the season, Wise would be a solid alternative to Campiotti.

The Minutemen really could use both Wise and Campiotti as runners and add to their depth on that already deep level. Using four capable running backs and talented slot receivers alongside a pair of talented runners at QB would give UMass countless options on the ground. Week three may be the first time Wise gets game reps this season, but it likely won’t be the last.

The Minutemen may well cycle all three of their top quarterbacks on Saturday, and the level of success they have with that strategy could vary drastically. But, if it culminates in a UMass win, that’s all that matters.

The Minutemen take on Stony Brook on Sept. 17 at McGuirk alumni stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.