2014 UMass Preview: What You Need To Know
UMass QB A.J. Doyle
UMass QB A.J. Doyle
Posted Jun 26, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Massachusetts (Getty Images)

2014 UMass Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 UMass Preview 
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer

What You Need To Know About The Offense: Head coach Mark Whipple knows how to handle an offense, and he needs to pump some life into a dead attack that hasn't been able to score over the last two seasons and has struggled mightily just to get the chains moving. The quarterback situation has to be settled after so many problems with consistency and key plays, but it all starts up front. Three starters are gone from a line that was great in pass protection but failed miserably to do anything for the rushing attack. Fortunately, there's a great group of backs to work around in true sophomores Shadrach Abrokwah and Lorenzo Woodley, and No. 1 receiver Tajae Sharpe is back as the main man for the passing attack.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: The defense wasn't great, but it did what it could despite a woeful offense that never provided a break. The line has to undergo the most work, needing to be stronger against the run and needing to replace the front four. Defensive coordinator Tom Masella will play around with the alignment a bit, utilizing more of a hybrid 3-4 and with nickel packages to get more production and generate more bit plays. The pass rush that's been so miserable has to be better, and the takeaways have to come to give the offense more short fields. The back seven – or eight depending on the alignment – is potentially good with a nice corner tandem and good veterans, but again, the big moments have to come.

Players You Need To Know
1. LB Stanley Andre, Sr.
A leader and top defender as a lineman two years ago, coming up with 41 tackles with a sack and four tackles for loss, he played like a linebacker working up front. Last year he became a true linebacker, leading the team with 111 tackles with six tackles for loss. While he wasn't a pass rusher and he wasn't as disruptive, he was a tackling machine making 17 tackles against Northern Illinois, 14 against Miami University and 13 against Western Michigan. At 6-2 and 240 pounds he has the right size and he has a nose for the ball, but he's not necessarily going to fly around – he'll make every stop that comes his way.

5. CB Trey Dudley-Giles, Jr.
A veteran starter who turned into a starter as a freshman and ended up holding up well last year making 42 tackles with three broken up passes. The 5-11, 185-pounder from Florida is a terrific punt returner averaging 12.2 yards per try on his 12 attempts, showing great quickness and with the speed to burst once he gets geared up. While he's not going to erase a No. 1 corner, and he needs to start coming up with picks, he's a good, solid defender.

3. CB Randall Jette, Jr.
A good special teamer as well as a good defender on the other side of Trey Dudley-Giles, the 5-11, 180-pounder made 45 tackles with a team-leading 11 broken up passes and a pick with two recovered fumbles. A tough, physical tackler for a corner, he's a baller who can jump out of the stadium and cut on a dime.

4. WR Tajae Sharpe, Jr.
The hope was for the 6-2, 185-pounder to grow into the main man for the passing game last season, and he delivered with a team-leading 61 catches for 680 yards and four scores. He wasn't able to come up with anything deep, but he was reliable and was the team's one main weapon defenses had to figure out. He has great size and a physical style, and now he has to do even more to make things happen deep and do things with the ball in his hands on the move.

5. RB Shadrach Abrokwah, Soph.
While not quite as heralded as Lorenzo Woodley, the 5-9, 200-pound sophomore came in last season and did a nice job off the bench in the final two games, rushing for 93 yards against Central Michigan and 110 yards and a score on 31 carries against Ohio. Despite playing In just two games, he finished fourth on the team in rushing, and with his quickness and toughness up the middle, he'll get far more work.

6. RB Lorenzo Woodley, Soph.
A phenomenal recruit, the 6-0, 205-pounder out of Miami had several great offers from places like Florida State, Tennessee and Syracuse, and last year he showed off a little of what he could do finishing second on the team with 314 yards and two scores. Very, very quick, he has the ability and potential to be a big play performer, and he showed off glimpses of his potential with a 163-yard day on 38 carries against Northern Illinois.

7. OG Tyrell Smith, Soph.
A very good, very strong athlete, the 6-5, 295-pounder started at left guard but has the ability and quickness to move to tackle and be decent in pass protection. Better when getting on the move than he is when he has to blast away for the running game, he has the talent and upside to be the team's key blocker with a little bit of time. He got better as the year went on.

8. C Matt Sparks, Jr.
A starter for most of last year, he did a great job in pass protection but needs to do more for the ground game. At 6-4 and 290 pounds, the Hawaii native has nice size and good experience taking over a spot on the inside. It's a rebuilding line that needs to be better and stronger, and Sparks has to be the key veteran who leads the way.

9. S Joe Colton, Jr.
While he's not huge at 5-10 and 195 pounds, he's a good hitter and a decent veteran who came up with 65 tackles with a sack and three broken up passes. Active and extremely quick, he can hit and he can get physical when he has to as more of a strong safety than a playmaker when the ball is in the air. He'll provide the big pop when he gets the chance.

10. QB A.J. Doyle, Jr.
Is he going to get the starting job? He has to hold off several options, and even if he does he could quickly be replaced if he struggles right away. The problem is his penchant to throw picks, giving up eight in a limited time in 2012 and throwing 11 last year to go along with 1,274 yards and six touchdowns. He's 6-3 and 226 pounds with a good arm and good experience, but he'll be pushed hart by Blake Frohnapfel and Todd Stafford.

- 2014 UMass Preview