UMass football: Minutemen cultivating a ‘good environment’ in spring practice

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 04-11-2023 2:01 PM

AMHERST – Tuesday’s spring practice gave UMass football coach Don Brown an extra spring in his step.

“I like the way our guys are working. I like the way they're interacting with one another,” Brown said. “People call it culture and attitude, whatever the hell you want to call it. I just liked the way we're going about our business. We've had several people visit campus and they couldn't be more gracious. We’ve got a good environment.”

That took time to cultivate. Last year’s team was a mishmash of many brand new players learning a new coaching staff and new systems. Players were unsure of each other and what would happen. Now, a year later, the Minutemen have built systems that welcome in transfers and integrate them.

“Especially when you have so many new faces, but in the culture of college football now, if they don’t welcome in transfers and so forth, you’re in trouble. The teams that do, will,” Brown said. “Last year we had so many new guys and we had more veteran types, but now we’re just new. That coupled with the veterans has taken hold.”

Receivers and defensive backs pat each other on the back after battling in team drills. Players on the sideline laugh and joke with each other in between periods.

“I’ve been in school for a while, and I’ve seen some ‘I think we’ve got it,’ but this is a different look,” UMass running back Kay’Ron Adams said. “I really feel like we’ve got it right here.”

TAKING UP THE MANTLE – UMass’ running back room features many of the same faces as last season with one notable departure. As Ellis Merriweather prepares for the NFL Draft and a potential pro career, the Minutemen are building the collective that will try and account for his production over the past three seasons.

Kay’Ron Adams, Greg Desrosiers and Tim Baldwin all featured in games as the primary ballcarrier during games Merriweather missed with injury. UMass also added transfer backs Jalen John from Arizona and Jackson Paradis from Buffalo.

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“I think we’ve addressed the position,” Brown said.

UMass hasn’t thrown crabs in a barrel, however. Each back knows they won’t have to shoulder the load alone with how much Steve Casula’s offense requires running the football well to function.

“The next guy can take the load, and the rest of our group can uplift each other,” Adams said.

All of the running backs’ lockers are adjacent to each other. They spend time together outside of practice and pick each other’s brains about their paths to Amherst and different techniques they’ve learned.

“The more we keep coming in and pushing each other we’ll get better. We’ve got a good group that can keep pushing and keep getting better as a collective,” Adams said.

Offensive coordinator Steve Casula won’t use any of the remaining backs in the same way he deployed Merriweather. He constantly has wrinkles and tweaks for the offense that the backs absorb.

“I can see it, it’s really coming together. He’s been on us. He’s stressing ‘don’t think you know the offense’ there’s always something new and something that can be fixed,” Adams said. “I like where we’re going. I like how we look. This is only the spring, so I’m ready to see how we get into camp because that’s when it’s go time. He’s not satisfied at all.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>