Coaching staff relishing 'unbelievably awesome' chance to build up UMass football

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AMHERST — In putting together his first staff, University of Massachusetts football coach Walt Bell brought in assistants from eight different states.

Most of Bell's staff were not totally familiar with UMass and with the Amherst area. For one assistant, safeties coach Jason Tudryn, it's coming home.

That's because Tudryn played at Northampton High School for his father, Hall of Fame coach Frank Tudryn, then went on and played at UMass in the 90s, and also spent some time on the staff at American International College.

At UMass, he played with standouts like Rene Ingoglia and Khari Samuel, playing for former coach Mike Hodges.

"It's surreal," Tudryn said. "To be able to come here as a little kid and watch practices with Jim Reid and Dick MacPherson back in the day. I think I was around for some of those, and Bob Pickett."

Jason Tudryn's father coached for 29 seasons at Northampton, and ended his coaching career in Florida before cancer took his life at 62 back in 2010.

Tudryn, Bell and the rest of the staff are midway through training camp. The Minutemen, who were 4-8 last year, open the 2019 season on Friday night, Aug. 30, when they travel to New Jersey to play Rutgers.

Jason Tudryn comes to Amherst after spending five seasons as the director of High School Relations at the University of North Carolina. He also was a successful high school coach in North Carolina and early in his career, worked for his father at Miami Coral Park High School.

"I pinch myself pretty regularly, because I'm pretty thankful," Jason Tudryn said. "I was a high school coach for a long time and got into college football five years ago at UNC after a long high school, 16-year career. To be able to come back to a place that you grew up at, you played here.

"I'm extremely thankful."

For the assistant coaches on Bell's staff, their UMass tenure can, so far, be described in two words.

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"It has been unbelievably awesome, for lack of a better term," new quarterbacks coach Angelo Mirando said. "It has been awesome because we're all in this together, we're trying to turn this thing together."

Most of the staff has between 5 and 10 years of coaching experience. Running backs coach Fredi Knighten has three years as a graduate assistant, while run-game coordinator Jim Jackson has been an assistant for 15 seasons. And most of them seem to come from a similar family tree.

"The connections throughout are really amazing," Mirando said. "I think Walt has really hired a bunch of guys that he trusts, that he knows will do what he wants and do their job at a high level, recruit at a high level and care about their kids at a high level."

Mirando has his history as a Division III quarterback, having graduated from Case Western Reserve back in 2008. He has worked at Florida and Mississippi State and came to Amherst after three years as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Eastern Kentucky.

"We can bounce ideas off of each other, and nobody has any ego," said Mirando, who grew up in Ohio. "It's the best staff dynamic I've ever seen, I've ever been a part of."

Aazaar Abdul-Rahim came to UMass after spending three years as the secondary coach at the University of Maryland. He worked with Bell at Maryland. Abdul-Rahim played football at San Diego State and in the Arena Football League.

"It's been a breath of fresh air," Abdul-Rahim said of his time in Amherst. "I think Coach Bell did a great job of hiring like-minded individuals, who have his core beliefs. It's been great for me, just being around the new staff. I was at the same place for three years prior.

"It's always good to be around fresh people and learn some new things."

Like the other members of the UMass staff, Abdul-Rahim comes to Amherst without any preconceived notions of the past, or the present of UMass football.

"I had no idea what to expect. Walt gave me a call, and his words were 'Just come up and check this out,'" he said. "I came up for a day. The minute I got up here, I kind of knew that this is what I need to do."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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