Sunday August 19, 2012

AMHERST

Mike Kruczek graduated from Boston College in 1975 and has finally returned to New England. It took an assistant coaching job at the University of Massachusetts to bring him back.

Kruczek, who was an All-American at BC in 1975, is Charley Molnar's offensive coordinator at UMass.

"It's kind of funny, standing in this stadium," Kruczek said during Wednesday's Media Day. "I was at BC -- I was a freshman and couldn't play varsity. I had an opportunity to play them three times."

Kruczek last set foot on what was grass at Alumni Stadium in 1974, when the Eagles demolished the Minutemen 70-8. His BC teams were 3-1 against UMass, with the 28-7 game in 1972 the only UMass win. Kruczek was a freshman then and didn't play.

Now, he's back at what is now McGuirk Alumni Stadium. Kruczek will only be patrolling the stadium for practices because the Minutemen, who are now part of Division I-FBS and the Mid-American Conference, will play their home games at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

"BC is kind of a bad word with UMass. I don't bring it up very much," Kruczek said. "We had some pretty good success against this team. I think that will change as we move along."

As a pro, Kruczek had some pretty good success. He was drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1975 and won two Super Bowl rings.

"I got lucky," he said. "I go down there and I'm playing with 10 Hall of Fame football players, eventually.


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I was very fortunate that we won two more Super Bowls."

Kruczek started six games as a rookie, leading the Steelers to six consecutive wins. I have long argued that the 1976 Steelers team was the best of that era. They won nine straight games to close the regular season, pitched five shutouts in that run and held teams to a combined 28 points in those nine wins.

"It wasn't just the Hall of Famers," said Kruczek, deflecting some of the success to the entire roster. "Playing in Pittsburgh, the Steeler fans were second to none."

After finishing his playing career in Washington, Kruczek has coached in college and in the United Football League. He was the head coach at Central Florida from 1998-2003.

Now, he's at UMass, where he is bringing a group of young quarterbacks along. The preseason starter is redshirt freshman Mike Wegzyn and his backup is true freshman A.J. Doyle. The Minutemen are running the spread offense that Molnar supervised under Brian Kelly at Notre Dame.

"I think they're doing a great job," said Kruczek. "Obviously, we've had a head start in the spring, introducing the spread concepts we're doing. It's a high tempo offense and it's completely different than the pro, West Coast type of stuff they were accustomed to."

It's going to be football school for these young quarterbacks, and Kruczek is ready for the teaching.

"It's always a challenge, especially when you haven't been around them a long time. I just got here in February," said Kruczek. "Mike Wegzyn has done a great job. A.J. Doyle, for a true freshman, has done remarkable because he just got here in July. Hopefully, Kellen Pagel is available this season.

"We've got some really good quarterbacks. This is just a different system. You have to work fast, you have to be able to make reads very quickly. We want the play snapped and get the defense tired."