AMHERST – Eyes are starting to turn to the season opener in the UMass football schedule.
The Minutemen began preparing for their first game in Pittsburgh on September 4 near the end of practice on Tuesday.
“We’re starting to turn the corner a bit,” UMass coach Walt Bell said. “We are already starting on Pitt and will continue to add a few more Pitt each day.”
UMass will be making their nightly visits to a grass field adjacent to the Gladchuk Field (home of the field hockey team), which will be painted to reflect Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field with NFL and college markings. The Minutemen train normally either at the McGurik Alumni Stadium, which has turf, or on the turf training ground behind it.
âBeing on the grass, being on the grass doesn’t bother me as much – but the reason it’s important that we are on the grass is with the NFL markings on the field knowing they will have the numbers of the NFL, college numbers checked off, maybe two sets of hashes, âBell said.
With 11 days to go, it makes sense for UMass to switch from full camp mode to preseason and match preparation. The Minutemen selected Travel Squads and Scout Teams and finalized the Depth to Two Depth chart.
Colorado transfer Tyler Lytle will start at quarterback, Bell confirmed Tuesday.
âTo this day. I still have to work, I still have to win,” said Bell. “All these kids are doing a good job. I promise you this – we will play Pitt, somebody will go over there to the quarterback. “
Lytle had not participated in training recently due to an injury. He was also left out of Sunday’s scrum in favor of some of the young developing players to see them in situations.
âTyler could have played, but we were more concerned with who was going to be the replacement,â said Bell.
He wasn’t at the forefront of every drill on Tuesday, but controlled the line of scrimmage, made quick decisions, and maneuvered effectively into the pocket when given his opportunities.
âThe few days he missed were, I think, really good for him, honestly. He met us, met the staff and was basically a coach for a few days, âBell said. âDidn’t really miss a beat. From a pitching volume point of view, you have to be careful there because he’s missed six or seven days, but he’s good to go.
RECONSTITUTED OFFENSE – UMass has scored just one touchdown in four games last year. The offense needed a makeover, and Bell ripped it up to the studs. He takes over as offensive coordinator this year in addition to his head coach duties.
âI think the most important thing is that it’s from scratch, start over,â he said. “We have to do a good job of putting our players in position to make plays, use our staff groups where we have strength and make sure we ask the quarterback to do things he can do well.” and having better quarterback play helps as well. “
Bell has more talent to work with than his previous two years. Power 5 transfers have strengthened the bodies of both running backs and receivers, and UMass has done well in recruiting, developing and converting tight ends.
âWe feel like we have good parts, we just have to stay healthy to be good for the long haul,â Bell said.
He came to UMass with a repudiation built around fast tempos. Bell thought that the brake can be just as important as the accelerator.
âWe just have to do whatever we have to do to win a game. Offensive philosophy: you have to be able to dictate the tempo of a match, âhe said. âAs fast as it takes or as slowly as it takes to be mindful of everything we need to do to win as a team. You have to be able to do everything. You have to be able to dictate the pace of the game, whatever the pace.
YOUNG DEFENSE, ONLY AGING – UMass’ defense is more talented than the last few seasons but also lacks experience.
âWe have depth, but we are still young. We have a long way to go. You have to coach them every day because they are still immature. We still have to prepare them to play a football match, âsaid UMass defensive coordinator Tommy Restivo. âWe have guys who are a lot more talented, the thing is to put them in the right direction and understand some of the calls and what we’re doing defensively. We are not there yet. Eleven days before kick-off, but we’re still a long way off.
The Minutemen’s experience focuses on the defensive line. They have six upper-class students, three of whom saw the pitch last season.
âI kind of lean on the D-line. These are the guys I rely on to stop the race and shoot double teams. These are the warriors up front, they have 600 game pounds after game, âRestivo said.
WHO’S IN THE BOX – Bell will coach from the sidelines fulfilling both roles, while Restivo will do much of his instruction from the press box.
âI did it both ways,â Bell said. âIt’s an advantage to be in the press gallery, you can see things a little better, things are moving more slowly. A little easier to see the defensive structure. On the pitch, you have direct communication with your players. On the pitch, and when you’re primarily responsible for quarterbacks and quarterback play, you’re able to see his eye spots and where his eyes need to go.
Kyle Grabowski can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.