Post-scrimmage talk with UMass coach Walt Bell

On Monday, UMass conducted a scrimmage as the team prepares for its season opener with Rutgers just a few weeks away.

We spoke with Minutemen coach Walt Bell on a few topics regarding his team afterward. Here is what he said.

(On the dog days of camp and if Bell is seeing the effects of it)

WB: I thought we had a really good day. Obviously, there are things we have to clean up, and we've got to improve upon. The good news is we've got more than two weeks to do that. Were we at our best and moving at our crispest pace of fall camp? No. I think a little bit of that is camp legs. A little bit of that is mental fatigue.

But human nature alone makes it really hard to be highly successful every day. So we've got to cultivate that mindset about, you've got to be a champion before you ever become a champion. For us, we've got to keep cultivating that mindset.

Today was really good. I thought we got a lot of quality reps. We got somewhere around 120 plays. We've got a lot of tape to watch and evaluate, and hopefully we can start shuffling guys around and putting together a football team.

(On the quarterback situation)

WB: We're still completely undecided. This scrimmage, when we get inside and watch the tape, I think that will really give us a chance to at least start narrowing down the competition hopefully. Hopefully there's separation there in terms of the decision making and managing the line of scrimmage. But we've got to get in and watch the tape first.

(On what he is looking for out of the quarterback candidates)

WB: I'm looking for somebody that can minimize risk, somebody that can manage the line of scrimmage and run the offense efficiently. We're not there yet. We've got a little bit of a ways to go. But the good news is we've got two weeks . . .  and somebody will be taking the first snap against Rutgers.

(Wn which players stood out in the scrimmage)

WB: Yeah, (sophomore safety Joseph) Norwood created a turnover, had a big interception there when we were driving. I thought our offensive line as a whole has gotten better every day during camp. We had probably for the first time since we've been here, 15 spring practices and now 10 fall camp practices, we probably ran the ball a little bit more explosively than we have.

Some of that had to do with the fact that we held a few guys on defense just to make sure that we were healthy. We've got some guys that have some bangs and bruises. But Norwood had a good day, and I think our O-line played pretty good.

(On the front seven physicality and depth)

WB: Yeah, the biggest thing is we're going to have to develop depth on the run. We've got two older (defensive) tackles that have played a little bit of football, and then behind them we're really, really, really young. So we're going to do a lot of learning on the fly. We all know what it's like to play with a bunch of young people in the trenches, and that can be tough, but nobody cares about our problems, and most are glad we have them.

(On if true freshmen like Everett's Wilson Frederic and Mashpee's Xavier Gonsalves are part of that equation?)

WB: Absolutely. All those young d-linemen, there's a possibility they have to play.

(On the excitement level by the team for the opener?)

WB: We're in the middle of the tunnel right now. The light we had going in is gone, and we can't really see the light at the end of it yet, so we're kind of in the middle of the dark days. You've usually got to get sub-10 days to really start feeling the excitement. I think we're just really more focused on ourselves, trying to find a way to get better every day.

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