Football teams, at any level, can't win without good quarterback play. Kyle Havens said he's hoping to provide for the University of Massachusetts what he wasn't able do last year.
"It's my second year in the offense. That's huge for me," he said. "Last year, I knew what I was doing on every play. Now I know what everyone's doing on every play. Coach [Kevin] Morris talks about ‘owning the play,' and I feel like I'm really starting to get that."
Havens is the only veteran quarterback on Morris' roster and the second-year head coach said that the job belongs to Havens.
"If we started tomorrow, Kyle is going to be the starting quarterback," Morris said Tuesday, during UMass' annual preseason Media Day. "It's his team. We had our ups and downs last year, and he was at the helm when that happened. Now, he's got to mature from that and grow from that. He's a different kid coming in this fall than he was last year."
To say it was a long year for Havens was an understatement. Replacing record-setting quarterback Liam Coen, Havens came to the program after two years at Diablo Valley Junior College in California. He started 10 games, completed 55.3 percent of his passes, but had nearly twice as many interceptions (15) as he did touchdowns (9).
UMass finished 5-6 overall and 3-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Havens was 5-5 and 3-4 as a starter.
The shadow of Coen loomed large last year.
"Last year, we didn't even know who was starting the [Kansas State] game until the day before the K-State game," Havens said. "Right now, it feels really good to know that I'm the guy.
"I know I have the coaches' support. I know I have all my teammates' support."
Morris, beginning his second year as UMass' head coach and seventh year coaching here, said that it took his quarterback a little while to shake off the 2009 season, but that's all come to pass.
"I think in the winter, he was still figuring things out, trying to get going in our winter workouts," said Morris. "By the end of the spring and into the summer he started to get it. ‘I understand it, I know what you're expecting now. I know what the team needs me to do as a leader.' It's been a real positive fall."
Last year, Havens had competition from the graduated Scott Woodward. The numbers Havens put up in 2009 didn't guarantee him anything in 2010. Morris felt the same way because juco quarterback Ian Shultis was brought in this summer and he was going to compete with Havens. Three other freshmen quarterbacks are all on the roster, and Morris admitted that the job was really open before the start of preseason camp.
"The door was certainly open for Ian Shultis and [freshman] Brandon Hill and Raymond Pendagast to come in and take [the job]," Morris said. "If they came in and lit it up right away, they'd be the starting guy. Right now it's Kyle."
"I wasn't worried," Havens added. "I knew I needed to come out and play. This is a tough offense to learn. We do have some good young guys -- Brandon and Ian are good young quarterbacks and they are going to be the future of this program for sure. I wasn't really worried. I knew I had it under control."
If Kyle Havens has the season both he and Morris expect him to have, the Minutemen will be very good this year. If not, it could be a long season.
It's a season that opens with consecutive home games against William & Mary and Holy Cross. But Sept. 18 is circled on the calendar when UMass visits the Big House to play Michigan.
"It's going to be awesome," Havens said. "I'm just thinking about William & Mary right now. We have to win the first game before we win the third game."
To reach Howard Herman: