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We’re working our way through the list of questions we’ve gotten, which makes covering college football during the dog days of summer more interesting. Today we’re talking offensive line.

Today’s question came via Jim, who reached out via e-mail.

If you have any questions about UMass football, the Musket or anything else, don’t hesitate to send us an e-mail at (MaroonMusket [at] gmail [dot] com).

How is the offensive line coming along?  Specifically, how does Cameron Mock look and does he appear to be a starter?  I was looking forward to seeing him last year but, as we all know, he was held up due to injury.  He’s a big boy and would provide some much needed protection up front. 

Speaking of size, it seems that Coach Molnar went out and recruited dudes no less than 6’5”, 270lbs  for the O line.  How does our starting line compare to other BCS schools?  I’m sure that you remember the “Hogs” from the Redskins a few years back.  Is that what Molnar is looking to do here?

As many around here know, Cameron Mock is my so-called “Great White Whale” for a number of reasons. Without going through the entire story again, my intrigue in Mock is two-fold: 1) He is already one of the biggest offensive linemen on the team, as a freshman, and 2) he’s from New Mexico, a state that hasn’t historically sent its football players to Amherst. So, when I didn’t see him roaming the sidelines last year, I was a little confused.

With all that being said, I think Mock will eventually be a contributor for this team, but I’m not sure if fans should expect to see him early next season. My understanding is that that the 6’7, 310-pounder is still in the process of getting back up to speed, and that might take a little while. Even when he’s back to 100-percent efficiency, he has to catch up with the other lineman regarding the various blocking schemes that Charley Molnar uses in his offense. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mock redshirts next season, finishes his rehab, and spends time watching video and hitting the weights. By 2014, if all goes well, I can see the big guy breaking into the two-deep at offensive tackle.

Regarding the rest of the line, it too is a work in progress. While UMass was an FCS program, it systematically had one of the bigger offensive lines in the subdivision. When the Minutemen almost pulled off the impossible at Ann Arbor a few years back, it was the push from the big guys up front that helped Jonathan Hernandez run for more than 100 yards.

After Molnar took over, a few guys left the team, some got hurt, and others, frankly, just weren’t good enough to play football against FBS opponents on a weekly basis. So, during his one-and-a-half recruiting cycles, Molnar went out and went big.

In 2012, with limited time to get things done, Molnar signed Michael Boland, Mock, Tyrell Smith and Matt Sparks. That class has gone through its share of lumps. Boland played a lot but is retiring from football due to an injury, Mock never made it to campus after sustaining an off-season injury, Smith was hurt early and redshirted, and Sparks made it through and will likely see a lot of snaps at center this season. The 2012 class’ tough luck, coupled with paper-thin depth up front, led to a long season for the offense.

While the book on 2013 hasn’t been written, there is reason for optimism when looking at what Molnar and staff brought in. Aside from Terrel Correia, who will probably redshirt to put on some weight, each offensive lineman has the size to step in and help out right away. There is little doubt that Josh Bruns and Sam Zeff – both of whom were on campus in the spring – already have a leg up and will see a lot of time early. Tyshon Henderson has FBS size (6’7, 315 pounds) and will be one of the biggest guys on the roster the day he shows up. Jordan Page is a high-quality prospect, and also comes equipped with built-in size (6’5, 300 pounds). Richard Queen – a two-star prospect from the Garden State – also looks ready to contribute right away at either guard or tackle. Then there’s Fabian Hoeller, who is honestly a bit of a mystery to me, but he did play for the German National Team, for whatever that’s worth.

UMass is not yet up to speed with the rest of MAC when it comes to size up front. Many of its conference foes have big, Rust Belt-bred linemen who have more size/experience than the Minutemen. However, UMass is making maneuvers to catch up with the rest of the pack. Currently, UMass is going after a number of linemen, including some big guys from deep in enemy territory.

The Minutemen are also reloading by way of the walk-on. Many who follow the program remember that Al Leneus was a frequent contributor up front and will likely get some snaps next year to spell Sparks at center. If anticipated walk-ons show up next year, UMass will have guys like Costa Toubekis, Will GiggiAaron OberstJoe TyoChris Sotir, and others who will be asked to provide a little depth. I assume most of these guys will redshirt, but with the lack of depth on UMass’ roster, you can anticipate that at least one will crack the depth chart.

It will take a few years to get up to speed, but the Minutemen are chipping away.

Follow Bob on twitter: @BobMcGovernJr

21 Comments

  1. Mark W says:

    Kinda surprised to hear that Correia would be the one out of the group to red-shirt. At 6’7″..275, he sounds ready. But if I’m not mistaken, didn’t he spend his high school days as a tight end. The redshirt will help him learn the ins and outs of interior OL.

    1. SJGMoney says:

      My guess is at 6’7″ he should be in the 320-340 range. A year to eat and lift will do him good

      1. Mark W says:

        Agree…I just remember at the signing event at the ABC, Correia was one that Coach Molnar actually sounded excited about. I had asked him if he planned on using him as a tight end, and without batting an eye, coach said “no..he’s a hand in the dirt lineman”

      2. LOEP says:

        Yes, it is unusual for a lineman to come straight out of high school fully developed. It’s like farming, you have to give your crop water, the right fertilizer and cultivate it properly. You plant the best crops suited for your growing season and area of weather so they have the best chance to mature. By doing these things properly in the beginning, you build a good root system. Even if unexpected winds or storms come through you have the chance of getting the best possible yield. By doing these things over time you eventually have a good rotation of crops from year to year.

        1. SJGMoney says:

          If you keep this up we are going to change your username to Chance the Gardner!!

          1. LOEP says:

            I’m sorry, I can’t help it! I am the first generation on my father’s side not to be a farmer. Dad’s still farming. I still live on the farm where I grew up. It’s like Bubba’s mother in Forest Gump: My dad is a farmer, his dad was a farmer, his dad was a farmer, etc. And on my mother’s side: Ranchers. So don’t get me started, I might have to tell you how the cow eats cabbage!

  2. NJUMASS08 says:

    I think the biggest key for the new O-Line to be successful is to study, study, and study some more. If they know all of their calls perfectly and can read the defenses/blitz’s, I think they’ll be able to do well. They have to be careful of the penalty bug. Too many holding and false start calls will kill us.

    1. SJGMoney says:

      I disagree. The most important thing for them is to be like Ice Cube in Boyz In The Hood when he was in prison, all he could do was pump iron and eat!!

  3. SJGMoney says:

    My prediction is that Page contributes quite a bit. He’s the sleeper in the group if you ask me. We all know about Zeff, Brun, TWW etc but not much talk about him (or Queen for that matter). I think our depth and size is going to be better than last year and thus our results.

    1. Umike says:

      When can the frosh start practicing on campus?

      1. SJGMoney says:

        I think some are there already working out with the strength and conditioning coaches and probably doing their version of captain’s practices. Others will be joining them soon. I think I saw on Woodley’s twitter he’s heading up July 1st or thereabouts. Coach Molnar and his staff aren’t allowed to do anyting with them until Aug 1 I think.

      2. SJGMoney says:

        LOEP would probably know best, hopefully he’ll chime in on when TWW will be back on campus, if he isn’t there already, and what they are doing during this time.

        1. Umike says:

          Sweet, I’m excited to see how these kids can contribute. A lot of high hopes for these kids early on.

        2. LOEP says:

          TWW came home on May 8th. It is my understanding that everyone got to take off as soon as their finals were finished during that week. On Memorial Day, the 27th, they had to move into summer dorms at 6 pm and football team check in at 8 pm. Up to today’s date they have been attending summer classes, strength and conditioning, watching film and attending OTA’s under o-line captain Anthony Dima. Yes, you are correct, they are not working with the coaches right now. Also doing some community service activities. I understand there are a few incoming freshmen there but have learned more from you guys on that. I have been told a few names but don’t know how many. All of this is on a voluntary basis until I think August 1st, but not positive. Good question to ask.

          1. umass1991 says:

            How is he feeling?

          2. LOEP says:

            Did surgery one week ago today. Besides meniscus tear, PCL was also torn. Already walking on it, going through rehab with trainers. Says the pain from time of injury till surgery is gone. Thanks for asking.

          3. SJGMoney says:

            Make sure you tell him his Unofficial Fan Club is wishing him a speedy and successful recovery.

  4. Hurricane Hal says:

    Don’t forget that a MAC offensive lineman, Eric Fisher, was selected #1 OVERALL in this years NFL Draft!! I’d say we are making great progress, but it’s going to take an entire recruiting cycle of 4-5 years to catch up to the rest of the MAC.

  5. Joe says:

    No mention of Rich Queen? Who is a scholarship player and currently on campus taking summer courses and from a great high school program?

    1. Bob McGovern says:

      Yea – that was my mistake. No insult meant by the omission. That’s what I get for being the reporter/editor/publisher around here. Please note that I added him today.

      Thanks!

  6. John says:

    Interesting how according to ESPN UMass was apparently in the MAC when almost upsetting Michigan…







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