UMass week continues with an interview with Frank of UMass Football Blog. He was gracious enough to sit down and talk 2011 UMass Minutemen football.
BC Interruption: The biggest news in Northeast football this winter was the news that UMass will be moving to the MAC conference. From a UMass perspective, tell us a little about what that means to the program.
UMass Football Blog: It means a number of things for Minutemen fans. First and foremost, it means a stable revenue source for UMass football. In the past, during economic downturns, which now seem to occur every four years or so, funding for UMass athletics has been cut. UMass football in particular has lost coaches and scholarships. By going FBS we can now schedule a couple of "money" games each year and cover most of the real costs of the program. Last year, we lost to Michigan by five points and received $450k. Ball State played the Wolverines the next week and were hammered ---and received $1.1 million. In addition, the MAC has a modest, but profitable TV and Bowl package. Currently, the CAA has to pay out funds for TV games. BTW, if BC fans missed it, the UMass-Michigan game tied for the top Nielsen rating for the Big Ten Network last year. The move to FBS means UMass athletics would hold its income stream in its own hands, and that will be a big improvement from the current situation.
It also may be a means to an end of acquiring a new campus facility. UMass is a government entity and so could pay for upgrades with a bond issue, but we would need political support to do so. If we end up as a successful MAC program, it may be possible to parlay support into a stadium upgrade. We will continue to keep our relationship with Mr, Kraft and Gillette as that is too good a deal to let go.
BC Interruption: I am going to claim ignorance here and say that I don't know anybody on the UMass football team. Can you give us a brief primer on players we should be aware of?
UMass Football Blog: When UMass and Boston College last played in in 2007, the Minutemen were one of the top defensive clubs in FCS football. With Coach Morris, we have done a 180 degree turn and are now a offensive oriented team. Last year in the CAA ,the UMass offense was #1 in both passing and total offense. It seems that trend will continue this year as 20 of 26 2011 UMass recruits were on the offensive side of the ball.
As for players to watch, Tyler Holmes 6-0 220 SR LB has been named to numerous FCS 1st team All-American squads. Last year he was Phil Steele FCS Defensive Player-of-Year. Read his bio for more awards.
Jonathan Hernandez, 5-11 190 SR RB has career totals of 346-1,545 17 TD's 4.4 AVE. He ran for 114 yards against Michigan and averaged 4.4 yards a carry against Delaware, who went to the FCS Championship Game and had one of the top defenses in FCS.
Emil Igwenagu, 6-1 240 SR TE has totals of 37-446 and 12.05 AVE/catch. He was slowed by injuries last year. We are hoping for a big year from him.
Julian Talley is our "X" receiver. He's a 6-1 185 pd SR. Talley has totals of 102-1,331 yards and 7 TD's.
On defense, we return 9 starters and have a new Defensive Coordinator. While we will not be at the level of our 2007 team, we hope to improve over last year.
BC Interruption: BC fans usually immediately write off the UMass game, how do UMass fans view this game?
UMass Football Blog: UMass fans will not be writing off the BC game. We have not beaten the Eagles since 1978 (I was at that game). While UMass is ineligible for both the CAA Championship and FCS playoffs because of our impending move, beating Boston College would make our year. UMass and Boston College should sign an annual series, and that appears likely, UMass fans hope to quickly become more than a "write-off game" for Eagles fans.
BC Interruption: What part of BC's game do you think UMass will have the hardest time with?
UMass Football Blog: Well, as I have said, UMass appears to be offense-heavy. We have moved the ball against FBS teams in the past. I think we can score on the Eagles. For UMass to be competitive against Boston College, our defense will have slow down the Eagle offense. The Minutemen defense did hold Michigan's Denard Robinson to 104 net yards rushing. Not many teams did better, so there is hope. BC has always had big and good offensive lines. The BC power running game may be our biggest challenge.
BC Interruption: What are expectations like for UMass this season?
UMass Football Blog: After three years of near .500 ball, the UMass faithful are getting restless. In 2010 we lost two games on virtually the last play of the game. The big wild card is we will have a new QB this year. Quarterback play influences the whole team. If either RS Fr. Brandon Hill or Bowling Green transfer Kellen Pagel plays well, I think we have a chance to go 8-3. If they don't, it could be another year of mediocre football.
BC Interruption: Appalachian State in 2007. James Madison in 2010. UMass in 2011? (in terms of FCS teams beating FBS teams)
UMass Football Blog: It could be a good year for FCS and CAA teams against the ACC. I think Appalachian State against Virginia Tech, James Madison vs. North Carolina, William & Mary (my pick for CAA Champions) against Virginia and Richmond vs. Duke all have a chance for an upset. I predict the CAA wins at least one of those games. Boston College should be a solid favorite over the Minutemen, but we'll play the game and see what happens.
BC Interruption: Thanks for joining us, Frank.
For more on the UMass Minutemen football team, stop by the UMass Football Blog.