UMass released its depth chart (See: pg. 12) for this weekend’s game against Miami, and a few things stick out.
The “OR” is Gone: For the first three weeks of the season, there was an “OR” between Mike Cox and Chris Burns regarding who would start at running back. After a good performance against Michigan, coach Charley Molnar has removed the “OR,” and Cox is the slated starter. This weekend will be a good litmus test for UMass’ running game. The Redhawks have been porous against opposing ground attacks so far – allowing more than 100 yards in each of its first three games. That includes a a 154-yard performance by FCS opponent Southern Illinois.
Second Chance at Punt Returner: Brian Dowling is getting another chance to prove himself as UMass’ punt returner. His position was in question after he fumbled a couple of punts against the Wolverines and was replaced, mid-game, by Trey Dudley-Giles. After the game, I advocated for Dowling to keep his spot. I think what we saw against Michigan is an isolated case of nervousness. Now that the New Jersey native has seen big-time football, I think he will shake off Michigan and show UMass fans why he was considered a great high school returner. Also of note: Dowling is slated to be a starting receiver this weekend. More on that to follow.
Slight Maneuvering on Defensive Line: It appears that defensive tackle Galen Clemons will be out this weekend with a head injury. Clemons has started all three games for UMass this season. Replacing Clemons will be Hafis Williams, a grad student transfer from Notre Dame who has had a good year for the Minutemen so far. Williams and Stanley Andre are tied for most tackles on the defensive line with 12 apiece. Brandon Potvin will back up Williams at tackle. Potvin is a tough kid and has played both defensive end and tackle during his time with the Minutemen.
No Love for Deion Walker: After putting together his best game as a Minuteman, Deion Walker is still listed behind freshman Tajae Sharpe. This is particularly surprising considering that Marken Michel, the team’s most tenured receiver, appears to be out this weekend after being limited in practice. The starting three are: Alan Williams (filling in for Michel), Dowling and Sharpe. Of course Walker will see the field and get his targets, but I think it’s a little odd that the team’s leading receiver (87 yards) isn’t a starter … on paper.
Keep an Eye on Stephane Milhim: Any football fan knows the importance of the left tackle. Stephane Milhim has done a pretty good job at the position this season, but might not be 100 percent this weekend. Milhim was limited in practice this week with an apparent ankle injury. He is still listed as the starting left tackle, but UMass fans should be ready to see Tyrell Smith, a 6’5, 285-pound true freshman out of New Jersey.