I get asked a lot of questions when I'm out on the streets of Berkshire County. The only one that has me stumped is whether the University of Massachusetts football program will be a success.
I do believe head coach Charley Molnar will build a successful football team. I am not, however, convinced that the Minutemen will be bowl-worthy or have a winning season this year. Whether or not you decide to support that team is another question for another day.
Why do I believe a coach of a 1-11 team will be successful? It's because I am convinced Molnar came into Amherst understanding just what was ahead of him. And it's the not believing in an instant transition that will help the Minutemen, whose season starts Aug. 31 at Wisconsin.
"I wouldn't wish a transition on anybody. Once you go through it, you understand the difficulty of it," Molnar said. "You just go into it. You work hard each and every day. You understand the task at hand. You don't talk about it. You just work hard with the guys you have."
It's that kind of focus that has me convinced that Molnar will win a good number of games at UMass.
"One thing we stressed last year is that we were laying the foundation. Each and every day, we talked about the foundation going in," Molnar said during a webcast from the MAC Media Day in Detroit. "This year, we're talking about putting up the framework.
"We want to see some results. People on the outside want to see some results.
Positive results were few and far between in 2012 for the Minutemen, who made the jump from the Division I-Football Championship Subdivision to the Division I-Football Bowl Subdivision and the MAC. Last year, UMass' only win was at Akron.
In the preseason MAC media poll, the Minutemen were picked to again finish last in the East Division. Ohio University was the media selection to win the East, with Bowling Green second. Out west, Northern Illinois was the pick, with Toledo second.
Molnar said that the Minutemen should be improved in 2012. It might not take a lot to be improved. Not only did the Minutemen lose 11 games, but they were outscored 40.2 points per game to 12.7 points per game. The first-year MAC team was last in the conference in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and passing offense. The defensive woes could be attributed in part to the inability of the offense to make much happen in Molnar's spread, up-tempo offense. Much of the offense's problems stemmed from an offensive line that was a revoving door of players.
No team can be successful without good quarterback play, and that was a problem for the Minutemen all season. Mike Wegzyn started as a redshirt freshman, and true freshman A.J. Doyle also got time. Wegzyn was 10th in the conference in passing, completing only 52 percent of his passes. Wegzyn threw only six touchdown passes and had 10 interceptions.
"This spring, he was a completely different quarterback," said Molnar. "He's light years better than he was a year ago. Is he going to be an All-MAC quarterback this year? I don't think he is. He's got some work to do.
"He's good enough to win a lot of football games."
In 33 days, we'll find out if that will start this year.
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