UMass spring football: OC Steve Casula building Minutemen’s offense from the ground up

  • UMass wide recievier Onuma Dieke skies for a catch over defensive back Josh Wallace at UMass spring football practice Thursday in Amherst. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass quarterback Brady Olson throws a pass during spring football practice Thursday in Amherst. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/31/2022 8:53:37 PM
Modified: 3/31/2022 8:52:43 PM

AMHERST – Steve Casula’s résumé may as well have a line that says “architect.”

The UMass football team’s new offensive coordinator has made a career of building and designing offenses from scratch. He helped Davenport (a Division II school) start its program in 2016. Casula aided Michigan's offensive installation when he joined the Wolverines in 2019.

He worked with UMass coach Don Brown in Ann Arbor, Mich., and aided then-offensive coordinator Josh Gattis with installing Michigan’s offense.

“The hardest part is always putting yourself in the place, as a coach, of taking nothing for granted,” Casula said. “Everything’s got to begin from the ground up. You can’t assume guys know the little intricacies so you’ve got to be very thorough in your teaching of the principles, but it really begins with the fundamentals and details. That’s our starting point.”

He’ll serve as the quarterbacks coach in addition to the offensive coordinator, his first time in that role since 2018 at Ferris State. Casula grew up in Delaware and attended the University of Delaware. His only connection to UMass was playing and coaching against them. He still followed Brown to Amherst.

“I’m here because of Coach Brown. We spent every day together for two years (at Michigan) and worked super closely even though I was on the other side of the ball,” Casula said. “He’s a mentor of mine. I’m here because I completely believe in him. We see not just football but a lot of things about life the same way, and I have great faith in him.”

The Minutemen will tailor their offense to the strengths of their quarterback, which is still very much being decided. Last year’s starter Brady Olson, junior college commit Gino Campiotti, freshman early enrollee Chase Brewster, dual threat Zamar Wise and quarterback-turned-tight end-turned quarterback Josiah Johnson all have taken reps behind center in the first two days of spring practice.

“We want to put as much stress on the defense as possible,” Casula said. “We’re really fortunate that all the guys that are playing for us right now have a very wide, varied skill set.”

Despite being on the roster last year, Johnson, Olson and Wise are starting from the same place with the playbook as Brewster and Campiotti. UMass is also integrating wide receiver transfers Isaiah Holiness (San Jose State) and George Johnson III (Michigan).

“In a lot of ways it's been easier in the sense that we're treating everybody that way. It's not like there's a group of guys in the room that have been in the system for three years and they don't need to hear the very base foundation,” Casula said. “It's honestly easier. We've treated everybody the same and have built from the ground up.”

CHANGE PLACES – Kay’Ron Adams, a Rutgers transfer that played running back last season until an injury ended his year, switched to No. 19 and will play defense this season. He spent most of Thursday’s practice in defensive groups and wore a maroon jersey. Offensive players wear white, and quarterbacks have black jerseys.

Johnson, who came to UMass as a quarterback, took snaps at quarterback but also experienced tight end drills. He’s listed as both on the roster.

LINE WORK – The defensive line controlled much of the team’s 11-on-11 portion Thursday, giving quarterbacks little time to throw or operate.

The position group is being coached by former UMass standouts Ben Albert and Valdamar Brower, both new additions to the staff.

PUT THAT ON SPORTSCENTER – For the second practice in a row, wide receiver Onuma Dieke made a highlight-reel catch. He jumped over a defensive back and took the ball away from him Thursday during the “thunderstruck” no-huddle period.

“He’s definitely proven to us that if we throw it up, he’s gonna get it,” Olson said.

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