UMass football opens training camp with full 110-player roster

View Photo Gallery
  • University of Massachusetts defenders drill on the first day of football training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts quarterbacks drill on the first day of football training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. From right are graduate Tyler Lytle, redshirt freshman Garrett Dzuro, freshman Brady Olson, freshman Zamar Wise and redshirt freshman Luke McMenamin. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts head football coach Walt Bell leads the first day of training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts freshman Eni Falayi (17), a graduate of Williston Northampton School, drills with other tight ends on the first day of football training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. Joining him are, from left, redshirt freshman Jacob Orlando and freshmen Ryan Mosesso and Nathan Fraser. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • UMass head football coach Walt Bell leads the first day of training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts freshman quarterback Zamar Wise drills on the first day of football training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • UMass freshman defensive back Osei Dixon, right, takes part in a drill with other Minutemen on the first day of training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts freshman quarterback Brady Olson drills on the first day of football training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts graduate quarterback Tyler Lytle drills on the first day of football training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • UMass graduate student Tyler Lytle, right, drills with other quarterbacks including redshirt freshman Garrett Dzuro (9) on the first day of training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday. Also in the drill were freshman Brady Olson, freshman Zamar Wise and redshirt freshman Luke McMenamin. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts quarterbacks drill on the first day of football training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. From left are redshirt freshman Luke McMenamin, freshman Brady Olson, graduate Tyler Lytle, redshirt freshman Garrett Dzuro and freshman Zamar Wise. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts freshman quarterback Brady Olson (12) drills with other quarterbacks on the first day of football training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts linemen, freshman Nick Lundeberg, left (63), and redshirt freshman Hunter Salmon (62) take part in a quarterbacks drill on the first day of football training camp at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 8/6/2021 7:22:42 PM

AMHERST — Nobody was more excited to get back on the practice field on Friday than UMass football head coach Walt Bell.

Bell had just 75 guys in camp his first season in 2019 and in 2020, the Minutemen got in a mere 10 practices before their first game with COVID-19 completely throwing a wrench into their offseason.

Now in his third year, Bell had 110 players on the turf at McGuirk Alumni Stadium during the first team practice of the season with the hope that a full offseason will pay dividends once the season begins 29 days from Friday against ACC foe Pittsburgh.

“It was a typical first day,” Bell said. “Kids were really excited, maybe a little too excited, maybe a little too nerved up knowing we have a lot of newcomers and first-timers in the program. It felt great to have 110 bodies, to have a real roster to operate with. This year to have 110 able bodies, the amount of time we had prepare in June and July, we feel great. I’m excited for day two.”

UMass was just in helmets for the first day, doing individual drills before some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work to close out the session.

Colorado transfer Tyler Lytle split reps with Zamar Wise, freshman Brady Olson and Luke McMenamin at quarterback while Garrett Dzoru was sidelined with an injury.

“We had Tyler in the spring, Garrett was held back a little with a shoulder deal but he’ll be fine moving forward,” Bell said. “Zamar had a good day and Brady Olson got his first taste of real football as a freshman. A lot of young guy things, you want come out there and do your best but sometimes you put so much self pressure on yourself that you can’t do the things you’ve been doing all summer. It’ll be great to go inside, watch the tape and get those guys better.”

Bell is eager to see his defense in action this season, with that side of the ball having more depth than in years past.

“We’ve got great depth at all those positions,” Bell said. “We have eight scholarship ’backers now, 16 scholarship [defensive backs]. We feel great from where we are from a personnel standpoint. This will be the best group of defensive personnel since we’ve been here.”

While the coaching staff was thrilled to be back on the field, the players had a chance to showcase all the work put in throughout the summer.

Grad student tight end Taylor Edwards — who’s been with the Minutemen since his freshman year in 2016 — has seen the improvements he and his teammates have made and is looking forward to showcasing it on the field.

“The first day of practice was really good,” Edwards said. “Everyone got their first-day jitters out, everyone got to showcase what they can do and all the hardwork they put in. It was a good day. The full offseason is doing absolute wonders for us. That’s going to be the difference this year. We’ve had a full season to train, a full season to build chemistry. That’s going to translate this year.”

Unlike last summer when the team couldn’t get together to practice, Edwards and his fellow pass catchers got together with the quarterbacks a few times a week this offseason to develop chemistry.

He feels that has given them added confidence headed into camp.

“Our confidence is through the roof,” Edwards said. “I’ve been here for a while but I can tell you our confidence is really through the roof. We feel, look, everything is great right now. We can’t wait for the first game.”

Last season didn’t have the results UMass wanted — going 0-4 — but with such a young team, Bell feels that even though he has a young team, they’re experienced and will be ready to go this year.

He believes the team will looks much different than it did this time last season.

“Last year’s deal was so outside the realm to what’s normal,” Bell said. “To have a full roster, a real roster of guys that have been developed, even though we’re still really young we have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football. For two years, they had to play well before they were ready so we’re excited. You’re excited to go see the improvements you’ve made as a roster. We’re fired up.”

Not only does Bell feel last year’s games will help the team this year, but the players feel that way as well.

“They were super valuable,” Edwards said. “It was Coach Bell’s second year, so him bringing in all his new guys and giving them a chance to play with a free year they got back was awesome. All these young guys are ready. They’re vets, they’re still young but they have something under their belt.”

To make up for the lost time developing players in 2020, Bell went as far as to change the coaches’ vacations to assure they spent as much time as they could with the players during the summer.

“We took our vacation in May,” Bell said. “With a young group, missing last spring and only getting four games and only having 10 practices before those games, we took our vacation in May. We were with our players all of June and July to really make up for lost time with a lot of our young defensive players and newcomers on offense. We’re much further ahead. Mentally with our X’s and O’s and those things on the chalkboard we’re way ahead but we have to come out and learn the execution and skill.”

UMass will continue practicing in just helmets for five days before they can put the full pads on as they prepare for the trip to Pittsburgh on Sept. 4.




Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy