The good, the bad and the ugly from UMass’ first scrimmage

  • University of Massachusetts linebackers Jarvis Miller, left, and Chinedu Ogbonna practice with the Minutemen at Warren P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Thursday. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 8/12/2019 9:26:17 PM

AMHERST — It’s a tie.

More accurately, there really wasn’t a winner in the UMass quarterback race after the first scrimmage of the summer on Monday. All three major contenders for the job — Andrew Brito, Michael Curtis and Randall West — had their good moments and their not-so-good moments during their turn to lead the offense.

There is far more tape study to be done to figure out which quarterback had the best performance, but the eye test didn’t particularly favor one over the other.

All of them struggled to accurately judge the touch required when looking further than 15 yards down field. All of them were forced to improvise due to poor protection and it resulted in broken plays. And all of them had throws they’d prefer to have back.

They all had different bright spots during the scrimmage, too. Curtis excelled in red zone situations, tossing a touchdown and rushing for a score in his two tours inside the 20. West made good decisions most of the day and didn’t take any unnecessary risks. Meanwhile, Brito was decisive with his quick-strike attacks, firing passes on the shorter routes with excellent precision.

On what coach Walt Bell described as “moving day” for most position groups, the quarterbacks didn’t seem to provide any separation for themselves.

“There was some good and some bad,” Bell said. “We had one really poor decision on third-and-long ... had a turnover we could have avoided by just throwing the ball away. The other interception was a little bit of a miscommunication and poorly run route, but I thought it was pretty solid. In live (action), nobody’s out there helping you, so we’ve still got a lot of growth that we’ve got to make in the next however many days it is until we’ve got to play.”

OVERALL IMPRESSION — Monday’s scrimmage was overall a cumulative exam for the players, testing them mostly on the basic principles that have been installed since the start of training camp 10 days ago. The schemes on both sides of the ball were very basic and the defense wasn’t even looking to diagnose plays as much before the snap.

Bell said there were very simple goals for the day, many of which will need to be evaluated Monday night before Tuesday’s film session.

“In a first scrimmage, we’re only looking to make sure we eliminate as many pre-snap penalties as we can, communication and ball security,” Bell said. “The rest of that, we’ve got to see on video. Were we assignment sound? Did we take great first steps? Did we tackle well in space?”

There was an actual crew of officials on hand to adjudicate the Minutemen’s scrimmage, and it was a fairly clean affair, according to the flags thrown. UMass was penalized for three false starts, a pair of offsides and two holds during normal play as well as one block in the back on special teams.

“I’ve been a part of a couple of scrimmages where there were 10 or 12 of those (holding and false starts),” Bell said. “I’m sure there were a few they didn’t catch or they felt so bad for us they just didn’t throw the flag.”

KEEPING IT HOT — UMass has practiced in the evenings for the most part during training camp, but Bell decided to test his players by moving up practice three hours to one of the warmest parts of the day.

“We practiced in the hottest time of the day on purpose to try and make these guys as fatigued as possible,” Bell said. “We tried to make it disadvantageous for these guys.”

KICKING IT — The good news for UMass fans is that a decision seems to have been made at kicker. The bad news is that it might be another season of fans holding their breath during kicks.

Cooper Garcia booted four field goals during the scrimmage with Mike Caggiano working as the holder. However, after nailing the first two kicks, Garcia missed the final two to the right from inside 45 yards.

PLAY OF THE DAY — There were several explosive plays for the UMass offense, but none surpassed the third play of the day.

On a first down from the opponent’s 30-yard line, West noticed one-on-one coverage by redshirt freshman cornerback Donte Lindsey on sophomore wideout Samuel Emilus. West underthrew the pass to Emilus down the left sideline, but Emilus fought through Lindsey to reach over and snatch the ball for a 23-yard gain.

Another contender came midway through the scrimmage when Zak Simon had a one-handed grab down the left sideline on a pinpoint accurate throw from Curtis to the back shoulder.

RISING STOCK — It wouldn’t be a surprise if freshman Kevin Brown ends up being the starting running back this fall. The Everett native ripped off a monstrous run to begin the scrimmage, one of three long runs on the day.

Brown weighs 40 pounds heavier than Bilal Ally, but has similar quickness and agility to the redshirt junior. Ally also had a good day rushing, but Brown’s potential and raw skills could make him UMass’ leading rusher this season.

FALLING STOCK — The competition to play right tackle is still wide open after Monday’s scrimmage. Redshirt sophomore Brian Abosi ran with the first team, but struggled to protect the quarterback during his reps.

He was flagged for holding and a false start, and didn’t contain the pass rush well enough. On one play in particular, he was beat so badly that the defensive end forced a fumble by blindsiding West shortly after the snap.

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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