RB Jordan Fredericks makes impact with Minutemen

  • Jordan Fredericks, left, carries the ball as Leon Flanagan, Jr. aprroaches, right, during the annual UMass spring scrimmage. file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/12/2018 9:59:01 PM

AMHERST — Late in the first half against Boston College on Sept. 1, Andrew Ford turned around and handed the ball to Jordan Fredericks.

The play gained eight yards and the UMass offense ran to the line as part of a two-minute drill. It was a seemingly meaningless play in what was a 55-21 loss to the Eagles, but it was Fredericks’ first with the Minutemen. The redshirt junior, who sat out last season after transferring from Syracuse, said that moment was special for him.

Not only was it his return to the football field, but it provided a sense of accomplishment for Fredericks, who said he gained a lot of confidence by simply earning the trust of coach Mark Whipple in a short period of time.

“It’s a great feeling,” Fredericks said. “I’ve played football my entire life and to sit out for basically two years and get back out there and play for a team that’s really driven, it’s exciting.”

Fredericks made a splash in his first year at Syracuse in 2015, leading the Orange in rushing with 607 yards and an average carry for 5.7 yards. However, he slipped to third on the depth chart as a sophomore under new coach Dino Babers, whose offensive scheme didn’t fit Fredericks’ hard-nosed, physical running style. He ended up with just 28 carries in 2016 and elected to transfer to UMass that spring.

Last season, Fredericks was recovering from knee surgery, which also limited his participation this past spring. He wasn’t fully healthy for preseason camp, either, and was held out of UMass’ 63-15 win over Duquesne to open the season.

“It was a little bit frustrating to sit out an entire year and then eventually be here and have to sit out again,” Fredericks said. “But everything happens for a reason and if you’re patient, you’ll get your shot.”

Although he carried the ball four times against Boston College, three of those rushes ended up being with the second-string offense in the second half. His first real test came last week against Georgia Southern, where he was the true backup behind Marquis Young with Bilal Ally held out because of an injury.

Fredericks powered the Minutemen’s only touchdown drive of the game with runs of eight and seven yards to begin the series and then he scored on a one-yard rush. He finished with nine touches for 64 all-purpose yards. 

“He didn’t play a lot in camp so this is kind of his camp,” Whipple said. “(It’s good) just to see him practicing at a better level and just gaining confidence.”

Whipple called this year’s running backs the best group he’s had in his second stint at UMass, and Fredericks’ performance has only added to that depth this season. The Minutemen now have three reliable options in the backfield, and Whipple said both Nick Orekoya and Victor Santiago have practiced well this year, too.

The depth has created a very ambitious bunch who are both looking to earn more playing time, but also willing to help one another succeed to bring the whole team success.

“It’s a competitive room, we’re all here to compete,” Young said. “But we’re also all here to win, so we try our best to just do our jobs and help each other when needed.”

The challenge for Whipple and his staff is to now find ways to utilize the strengths that each of the three running backs bring to the table. The offensive coaches already have a general sense of the types of plays that best suit Ally and Young, but Whipple said they are still trying to fit Fredericks into the puzzle and expand his role as he becomes more comfortable with the system.

Fredericks is the Minutemen’s most physical back at 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds, but both Whipple and his teammates talk about the junior’s eyes and how well he uses them to gain the most on every run he has in a game.

“He’s a big guy and he helped us out in the pass protection,” Young said. “He has good vision and makes good cuts. He reads the hole and he always finds a way to be where he needs to be. He definitely can help us win.”

Fredericks is still enjoying his return to college football and the chance to suit up each Saturday. He said he doesn’t want to make his goals too large this season, but believes in the potential of this team to continue moving the program in the right direction and wants to do his part in helping revitalize the UMass brand.

“I’m trying to be an asset for the team and bring back the winning tradition to UMass,” Fredericks said. “The guys who are with me and we’re all working together to change the culture here. I really wouldn’t be anything without the O-line, they blocked tremendously last week and I’m excited for this weekend.”

Josh Walfish can be reached at jwalfish@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshWalfishDHG. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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