UMass football: Offense has ‘shown real progress’ in offensive coordinator Steve Casula’s second spring 

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 04-25-2023 2:59 PM

AMHERST – Steve Casula examined every aspect of the UMass football team’s offense in the offseason.

The Minutemen finished last in the country scoring just 12.5 points per game and were third from the bottom gaining just 265.8 yards per contest. They gained the second-fewest first downs in the country (175) and had the fourth-worst third-down conversion percentage.

“We took a long, hard look at the things we did a year ago, and we gleaned what was good about that stuff and what wasn't from the most rudimentary level A through Z,” Casula said. “We had really healthy offseason conversations as coaching staff to say, ‘how are we going to put ourselves in better situations to be successful, A as a team, because that's what matters most, and B as an offense,’ and how are we going to constantly constantly improve?”

The offense’s mantra this spring has been, “What are you doing today to make UMass football better?” The idea is that improvement can come from anywhere, whether that’s the coaching staff fine-tuning a scheme, transfers adding talent or experience or returning players getting better through repetition and effort.

“Our program’s vision about how games are won won't change. We haven't changed, we've evolved,” Casula said. “We know that there's things that we need to do better, more or less of, whatever, to improve, but I still believe and (UMass) coach (Don) Brown still believes that the pathway to success here at this university and in this part of the country is still the capacity to run the ball to win games, without a doubt, but we have to improve on all the other areas that come with that, and that's something we've worked tirelessly at.”

For the third year in a row across two administrations, the Minutemen are in the midst of a quarterback competition. Incumbent starter Brady Olson, Georgia Tech transfer Taisun Phommachanh and Western Carolina grad transfer Carlos Davis have all split time with all of UMass’ offensive groups, while early enrollee freshman Ahmad Haston is gaining experience when most people his age are preparing for prom.

“They're fun to coach. They're challenging to coach because they're very into football. And I mean as a compliment. They're talented, and they have a wide array of experiences,” Casula said. “We’ve got to have, compared to other people, a ton of experience.”

Both Casula and Brown are still evaluating the quarterback group from individual drills to competition periods against the defense. They’re keying on metrics like completion percentage, touchdown to interception ratio, third down conversions and their contributions to the run game.

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“Then obviously, broad scope decision-making stuff, but it's got to be the guy that gives us the best chance to get first downs and then ultimately to get touchdowns and is mindful protecting the ball and gives our team the best chance to win,” Casula said.

Wins have bene hard to come by recently. UMass has won just three games in the past four years.

“We've shown real progress. The guys have had a great attitude, good mentality,” Casula said. “That doesn't always mean that it's easy, or that it's fun, difficulty’s a part of that, but I like where we're at.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>