Charley Molnar begins UMass football fall camp with tug-ofwar http://w w w .masslive.com/umassfootball/index.ssf/2012/08/charley_molnar_begins_umass_fo.html
August 10, 2012
AMHERST — There is an unmistakable sound to a football practice — even one that doesn’t include pads. The thud of footballs being punted, the whoops of players encouraging teammates and the shrill punctuation of a coach’s whistle followed by guttural yells of his displeasure provide a steady soundtrack to the first practice of fall camp at the University of Massachusetts. “Concentrate! Eyes up!” yells coach Charley Molnar as his team warms up at the beginning of practice. After stretching, he asks them as a group “Who wants to compete?” This isn’t metaphorical competing either. A group of assistant coaches are dragging a rope out to mid-field. For a moment, fall training camp is going to resemble summer sleep-away camp — just without the mud or the war paint. Practice begins with a tug-of-war. Molnar screams the names of the first group, three from the offense and three from the defense. The competition begins. If you’ve never seen six highly trained athletes participate in a tug-of-war while surrounded by 70 other highly trained athletes hooting and hollering the entire time, it’s quite the sight. When the defense wins the first round, the boys in black jerseys erupt in cheers. The offense, though, would win the next three, but that really isn’t the point. The point is the exuberance. The point is the emotion. The point is that UMass is happy to be on the field as a team with its coaching staff as it prepares for its first season in the FBS and Mid-American Conference. “After a hard, long summer, it’s very exciting to actually get a chance to come out here and play,” senior safety Darren Thellen said. “That’s what we wait for — we love to play and compete with each other. “ It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. There were plenty of mistakes, and plenty of coaches’ slightlymore-than-gently pointing them out. Molnar was quite hoarse in his post-practice interview (“It gets nothing but better from here,” he said of his voice), but everyone kept things in perspective. It’s just day one. “The first day of camp is always going to be rough, but it wasn’t as bad as what you would think,” Thellen said. “We just have to work out the little kinks, other than that we’ll be fine.” There were incompletions against no defense (“UConn is going to have more guys out there than that,” Molnar reminded the offense), blown blocking assignments and other blunders that drew the ire of the coaching staff, but Molnar also saw some things he did like. Namely, the one he said earlier in the week he was looking for: An improvement in conditioning from the spring game to fall camp. Don Treeger “We had to do less driving them and they ran more on their own gas. Certainly they didn’t do it for three hours — toward the last half-hour they started to fade as the heat and the helmets caught up to them — but they were much, much better than they were in the spring from that standpoint,” Molnar said.
they were in the spring from that standpoint,” Molnar said. PAGEL SITS DURING TEAM DRILLS No. 1 quarterback Kellen Pagel did not participate in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 team drills during Friday’s practice, but he is still the starter, and he is healthy, Molnar said. It was just a matter of getting the other signal callers some reps. “The plays that we just ran, we’ve seen Kellen do that lots of times,” Molnar explained. “I was really interested in watching the freshmen get some work, and then the other thing is we have two upper class backups that got very little work in the Running back Michael Cox and quarterback Kellen Pagel talk on the sideline during the first day of practice at McGuirk Stadium on Friday.
spring.” Redshirt freshman Mike Wegzyn appears to have the early lead on the No. 2 quarterback slot, as he took the reps with the first team. Pagel threw for 1,725 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions last season in seven starts. TRANSFER UPDATE Wide receiver Deion Walker and defensive tackle Hafis Williams, who both transferred to UMass this season from Notre Dame, along with Michigan transfer running back Mike Cox, all took some reps with their respective first teams Friday. Walker appears to have started No. 1 one on the depth chart at wide receiver, while Cox split carries with Jordan Broadnax and Chris Burns during first-team offensive drills. Williams took most of his snaps with the No. 2 defense, but did a see a few plays with the No. 1 squad. Walker was wearing No. 3 on his jersey, Williams had 96 and Cox had 5— the former number of UMass top two all-time rushers Marcel Shipp (6,250 yards) and Steve Baylark (5,332). UMass plans to release a complete updated roster in the coming days, which will include number changes for 2012 and numbers for freshmen.