The University of Massachusetts kicks off its second season in the Football Bowl Subdivision on Saturday afternoon with a visit to No. 23 Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. It’s a challenging way for the Minutemen to leave last year’s 1-11 finish behind — UMass is a 44½-point underdog.
This will be UMass’s fourth game against a Big Ten opponent in four years. In 2010, the Minutemen had a memorable 42-37 loss at Michigan, and last season UMass had back-to-back losses to Indiana (45-6 at Gillette Stadium) and at Michigan (63-13). This will be the program’s first game against Wisconsin.
UMass captain and senior tight end Rob Blanchflower and junior tailback Jordan Broadnax have been ruled out because of injury. Ricardo Miller, a graduate student transfer from Michigan, will start in place of Blanchflower, and redshirt freshman Stacey Bedell will start in the backfield. Bedell missed the final 10 games last season after suffering a shoulder injury. Look for freshman Lorenzo Woodley, sophomore Jamal Wilson, and freshman Daquan Mack to figure into the ground attack as well.
UMass coach Charley Molnar will have Mike Wegzyn back under center. Wegzyn started 11 games last season as a redshirt freshman, throwing for six touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
UMass was the youngest team in the FBS last season with 30 true and redshirt freshmen seeing game action, including 18 who started. While the team is still young, the Minutemen have depth in a few key areas, including tight end.
Blanchflower is one of the top tight ends in the Mid-American Conference. Molnar has called the Leominster native the unequivocal voice of the team.
The Minutemen also have some new faces on the coaching staff. John Bond is the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after spending five years in the same roles at Georgia State. The team has also added a strength and conditioning coach specifically for football, Mike Golden.
Other additions to the coaching staff include Greg Burns as defensive backs coach and Dave Johnson as offensive line coach.