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2013 Massachusetts Preview – Defense
Posted Jul 9, 2013 2013 Preview - UMass Minutemen Defense

UMass Minutemen

Preview 2013 - Defense

- 2013 UMass Preview | 2013 UMass Offense
- 2013 UMass Defense | 2013 UMass Depth Chart
What You Need To Know: The starting 11 should be fine with a good base of talent to work around, starting in the secondary with a nice corner tandem of Trey Dudley-Giles and Randall Jette. Throw in a decent-looking starting linebacking corps, especially on the outside, and all of a sudden the defense that was ripped to shreds on a regular basis has potential. The pass rush has to be better and the line needs to strengthen up against the run, especially in the interior, but the results should improve. However, there’s no developed depth whatsoever and there might be several steps taken back before making any leap forward.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Kassan Messiah, 65
Sacks: Kevin Byrne, 2
Interceptions: Khary Bailey-Smith, Randall Jette, 2

Star of the defense: Sophomore LB Kassan Messiah
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DT Galen Clemons
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB John Robinson
Best pro prospect: Sophomore S Khary Bailey-Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Messiah, 2) Robinson, 3) CB Randall Jette
Strength of the defense: Corner, Outside Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Depth, Tackle

Defensive Line

The defensive front was ripped to shreds by anyone who could run the ball with any regularity, and now the Minutemen have to start in the interior at tackle. 6-2, 275-pound senior Galen Clemons started out his career at Central Michigan but was a spot starter throughout last season making 19 tackles. He might not be an interior pass rusher, but he has a decent base and enough experience to do more. While he’s not massive, he’s bulky compared to 6-2, 230-pound junior Daniel Maynes, a plugger who spent most of his time on special teams and now will work more on the line after making 11 tackles in six games of work. While those two will need to be active, 6-1, 300-pound Robert Kitching has to bring the bulk and the toughness against the run after making just two tackles as a true freshman. The Brooklyn native has the size, and the line needs it.

The anemic pass rush could use more production from 6-3, 290-pound senior Kevin Byrne, a tackle-like end who started every game making 27 tackles with two sacks and four tackles for loss. While he’s not a blazer off the ball, he’s a hard worker with a great motor. The former offensive lineman quickly grew into a key part of the defensive front, and now he has to serve as an anchor. On the other side is 6-2, 240-pound senior Stanley Andre, a 12-game starter and leader who came up with 41 tackles with a sack and four tackles for loss. Unlike Byrne, Andre is fast off the ball like a linebacker playing on the end, but now his athleticism has to translate into production into the backfield.

Adding more speed to the equation is 6-4, 231-pound sophomore Trey Seals, a good-looking athlete out of Columbia, South Carolina who made ten tackles with a tackle for loss in his limited role as a backup. Extremely strong for his size, he has the power to do even more for the line against the run. Also in the rotation will be 6-1, 262-pound senior Brandon Potvin, an athletic veteran who made 36 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore, but he struggled last year making just ten tackles with a sack. With his size, he can work inside or out.

Watch Out For … Shane Huber and Peter Ngobidi, two of the team’s best recruits. The 6-2, 260-pound Ngobidi could be used at linebacker or end with pure pass rushing skills and the upside to be a dangerous hybrid, while the 6-3, 235-pound Huber is a linebacker with a bigger upside up front. A pure tackler who flies into the backfield, he’ll be a key performer either on the outside or at middle linebacker.
Strength: End. The tackle situation is a concern, but there’s leadership and experience on the end. Byrne and Andre might not be killers, but they should know what they’re doing.
Weakness: Pass rush. The run defense is the bigger overall issue, but the Minutemen need to start getting to the passer after generating just 12 sacks on the year with not enough coming from up front. This group has to be more disruptive.
Outlook: The line has to be a big part of any turnaround. The woefully undersized tackle situation could be a gigantic problem if injuries strike early, while the ends have to do far more on a consistent basis.
Unit Rating: 4


Sophomore John Robinson has to be ready to handle himself in the middle after seeing time as a true freshman making 11 tackles with a recovered fumble. While he’s only 6-2 and 225 pounds, he’s strong for his size, very smart and extremely physical. He has the range and the instincts to be one of the team’s leading tacklers and statistical stars in place of Perry McIntyre, who made 132 stops and a team-leading three sacks.

6-4, 215-pound sophomore Kassan Messiahis a decent veteran on the outside with good speed and great hitting ability making 65 tackles with a sack in just nine games of work as a true freshman. He grew into a starting role, and now he should be a top pass rusher when he’s turned loose with his experience and quickness.

Sophomore Jovan Santos-Knox started eight times as a true freshman making 32 tackles with four tackles for loss. The 6-2, 235-pounder is a pure hitter with the toughness to play in the middle if needed and just enough flash to push behind the line. Consider it a shocker if he’s not one of the team’s top five tackles now that he has a bigger role.

Watch Out For … Steve Casali, the team’s only pure linebacker recruit. The 6-2, 225-pounder is a terrific tackler with excellent quickness, running for 3,697 career yards with 41 scores.
Strength: Messiah and Santos-Knox. The strength of the defense could be on the outside with two excellent sophomores who scratched the surface and showed what they could do in their first seasons. They have the potential to put up huge numbers.
Weakness: Depth. There isn’t any. The coaching staff will rely on a slew of untested options to form a rotation. It’s going to be a problem if any injuries hit or if the sophomores don’t get the job done.
Outlook: This could be a positive if Robinson does what he’s supposed to do in the middle. Messiah and Santos-Knox will be excellent, but there’s nothing to rely on behind them.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Defensive Backs

Is Ryan Carter going to be 100% and ready to play? Injured last year, he was only able to play in one game, but he came up with 19 tackles two seasons ago with a pick. The 5-11, 188-pound senior has enough quickness and athleticism to be used in a variety of ways, including as a kick returner, and now he’ll have to shine as the starting strong safety. He’ll combine with sophomore Joe Colton, an undersized 5-8, 188-pounder who saw a little bit of starting time making 49 tackles with a pick. He might not be big, but he’s active, extremely quick and he can hit.

Sophomore Khary Bailey-Smith has great range and excellent upside after starting four times as a true freshman. The 6-2, 190-pound free safety is a playmaker with wide receiver skills and a nose for the ball making 35 tackles with two picks and a team-leading two recovered fumbles. Extremely athletic, he plays even bigger than his excellent size.

5-11, 175-pound sophomore Randall Jette was one of the team’s key starters finishing fourth on the team with 53 tackles with two picks. A tough, physical tackler for a corner, he’s a baller who can jump out of the stadium to go along with his excellent cutting ability. On the other side is sophomore Trey Dudley-Giles, a seven-game starter with good toughness and leadership skills even at his young age. While he didn’t pick off and passes, but he broke up four throws and finished with 43 tackles. Also fighting for time at safety is 5-11, 170-pound sophomore D’Metrius Williams, a good looking smart player who made 17 tackles and led the team with six broken up passes. At the very least he’ll be a nickel and dime defender.

Watch Out For … Arthur Williams. At 6-3 and 185 pounds, the tall, athletic safety out of Florida is big, tough and can become a dangerous special teamer.
Strength: Corner. Jette and Dudley-Gilles took their lumps last season, but they’re strong, young options with good speed and quickness with a world of upside. The starting safeties should be fine, but the corners will be better.
Weakness: Depth. It’s an issue everywhere for the Minutemen, but there aren’t a lot of sure-thing options to play around with in nickel and dime packages. It might take a while to find the right rotation.
Outlook: The pass defense didn’t get any help whatsoever from the front seven and the pass rush, but that might change. If everything works like it’s supposed to, this should be one of the team’s biggest strengths with terrific sophomores surrounding a good senor in Carter.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

Sophomore Blake Lucas stepped in and did a nice job nailing 7-of-8 field goal tries, and while he didn’t show off big-time range, he didn’t get much of a chance. He should be a solid midrange kicker now that he has a year under his belt.

The punting game wasn’t anything special overall thanks to the miserable coverage team, but senior Colter Johnson has a big leg and came up with a big season averaging 43.8 yards per try with 16 put inside the 20.

Corner Trey Dudley-Giles averaged a decent eight yards per punt return, and while he has tremendous quickness, he didn’t bust off many big plays. Running back Jordan Broadnax did a decent job on kickoff returns averaging 21.2 yards per try including a 61-yarder.

Watch Out For … more from Lucas. He didn’t get any chances at a deep shot, but with an offense that’s going to sputter, cough, and look for points from everywhere, he needs to be a bigger factor.
Strength: Johnson. He has to do a better job working with his coverage team, but he has a huge leg and can get the team out of jams from time to time.
Weakness: Punt coverage. 13.8 yards per return and three touchdowns. The Minutemen aren’t good enough to give up field position on punts. They need to own this phase.
Outlook: Overall, the special teams were the team’s biggest bright spot. Some more pop in the return game would be nice, and the placekicking and punt coverage could stand to be stronger, but this should be a positive.
Unit Rating: 6
- 2013 UMass Preview | 2013 UMass Offense
- 2013 UMass Defense | 2013 UMass Depth Chart