Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
August 29, 2013Follow @JohnVeldhuis
After months of waiting, Wisconsin's 2013 football season is just around the corner. The Badgers will host the Massachusetts Minutemen this Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium, but it's hard to know what to expect from UMass after they went 1-11 in their first season at the FBS level.
Fortunately, Matt Vautour from the Daily Hampshire Gazette is back again to fill us in on what to expect from the Minutemen this week when they roll in to Madison. Matt was gracious enough to give us a quick preview earlier in the summer, and I'm thrilled to bring him back for another five questions with the game so close.
What were some of the story lines you were following during fall camp? Did any players come out of nowhere to win starting jobs?
Matt Vautour: The offensive line might have been the biggest story line and it's still on-going. Left tackle Anthony Dima is easily the best player on it. Everyone else is a question mark with potential. Rutgers fifth-year transfer David Osei (RT) could be a key addition and sophomore center Matt Sparks is promising, but Saturday will be a big test.
True freshman wide receiver Shakur Nesmith might be the surprise player of camp. He was a late addition to the program as a walk-on, but he's a former Temple signee and will eventually have a scholarship. He could end up starting Saturday.
Offensively what kind of scheme should we expect UMass to use against the Badgers? Do you expect their offense to improve after a dreadful showing last year?
MV: UMass' offense is actually younger and less experienced than a year ago, but in the long run might be more talented. Running back Michael Cox was a key piece last year and is currently trying to stick with the Giants as a seventh round pick. His would-be replacement Jordan Broadnax is out with a knee injury. Senior captain Rob Blanchflower, a tight end, is out too with an undisclosed injury.
Quarterback Mike Wegzyn, a sophomore starting for the second straight year, should be better, but he'll need players around him to catch up fast. The unit as a whole could be better by the end of the year, but Saturday could be a struggle.
Same question, but for the defense this time. What will Wisconsin's offense be facing on Saturday?
MV: The UMass defense was better than its numbers last year. It was just on the field too much. The unit is loaded with sophomores that played a lot last year. They have a chance to be pretty good if they're not constantly on the field again.
Who are the key players on this year's UMass team? Do you expect them to help lead this team to a better finish than last year?
MV: Wegzyn certainly. At least one of the wide receivers needs to step up and be a reliable threat. I'd guess Nesmith or Tajae Sharpe, but there's a handful of freshman that could emerge once they get acclimated.
On defense I'd say safety Khary Bailey-Smith and corner Trey Dudley-Giles have shown a hint of play-making potential that could go a long.
Complete this sentence for me: "The Minutemen will have had a successful trip if _____ ."
MV: The obvious answer is "nobody gets hurt." Beyond that: if there are some positives to build off of. They want to sustain some drives and keep the score reasonable. If playing Wisconsin is like swinging a weighted bat in the on deck circle and everything seems easier after that, then it was valuable. If it's a confidence-crushing blowout, it could be the start of a long year.
Thanks again to Matt for updating us on the Minutemen. Check out more of his work at the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.