On Wednesday, we got our first chance to take part in one of the UMass media availabilities. Minutemen coach Walt Bell spoke, as did quarterback Andrew Brito. We mostly stuck with questions for Bell. One of the major themes of Bell's interview was the team looking just bigger, faster, and stronger than it did a year ago. Any time you can get that, you'll take it, and it is a positive sign for the Minutemen. Here's a transcript of our conversation with Bell and Brito.
MassVarsity: Regarding leadership, who are some of the guys who are taking the reins a little bit?
Walt Bell: A lot of the usual suspects. Larnel Coleman (Malden/St. Clement) is an offensive lineman that's played an incredible amount of plays. He's everything you want a Massachusetts football player to be on and off the field: the way he works; the way he practices; the way he competes. (Defensive lineman) Jake Byczko (Auburn/Lawrence Academy), (linebacker) Cole McCubrey (Boylston/West Boylston/Tahanto), (cornerback) Josh Wallace is a guy that, even as a young player that played well before he was ready, that comes to work every single day. (Offensive lineman) Mike Sullivan (Norfolk/Nobles), tight end Jaret Pallotta. We've got plenty of leadership. Really excited about how we've grown there. That's something that we did classes on. Something that we spent a lot of time on trying to develop leadership within our group knowing that it is such a young team. Hopefully, by the time our older players, they can be great influences, and by the time our younger players are old, there will be a good bedrock of leadership within the organization.
MV: What players are standing out in practice?
WB: (Wide receiver) Sam Emilus has had a really good camp. Obviously, he made some plays for us last year. He's had a good camp. Again, (running back) Ellis Merriweather's had a good camp. Taylor Edwards, the tight end, again, he's really changed his body. He's doing a great job. Defensively, again, we're just really young, but (defensive back) Te'Rai Powell is going to be a really good football player. (Defensive lineman) Viczaril Alobwede as a pass rusher is going to have a chance to really help us. (Defensive back) Noah Boykin is going to help us. We're really proud of where our football team is now, knowing that we had a little bit of a crash course. Just from a physical development standpoint, we're so much further ahead, especially, as I mentioned earlier, on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
MV: Have you seen a faster team as opposed to a year ago?
WB: (Director of Sports Performance Matt) Shadeed, (Assistant Sports Performance Coach Joel) Reinhardt, our strength staff, that was a huge emphasis for us throughout the spring, especially for our guys outside the hash marks: sprinting; sprint volume; all those things. Really turning those guys into a little bit of a track program, and really squeezing every little ounce of juice that we can.
MV: Just how excited are the kids to be playing?
WB: I will say this. They've been unbelievable, especially with the amount of physicality we've had in seven practices coming off a little bit of downtime. They've been awesome: the way they work; the way they communicate; the way they compete, not just for themselves, but for each other. We're really excited. We just continue to recruit, continue to coach, continue to develop, and good things are going to happen.
MV: How did you notice the team being a little bigger, faster, and stronger than last year?
Andrew Brito: I really think it's this team's energy. When you truly want to be out here, and you truly love this game, and you love the guy next to you, you're just naturally going to play harder, play faster. Coach Bell and the rest of this staff, I can't lie, they did a tremendous job with recruiting. I remember the first day we showed up back here, and we saw some of those freshmen they got on the defense, and I was like, 'Wow, you guys look like juniors already.' And those guys really care. This whole team truly cares. When you really care about this game, you're going to come out here and you're going to give it your all.