A mere 1,482 miles separate Manhattan, Kan., from Amherst, Mass. Given the distance and the fact that one program competes in FBS and the other in FCS, it's not surprising that K-State fans don't know a whole lot about the Massachusetts Minutemen. Sure, we know we beat them back in 2003 when Ell Roberson was hurt, but that's probably about the extent of most K-State fans' knowledge on the subject.
So, as the title says, when you don't know something, you ask. That's where Ron Chimelis, the UMass beat writer for The Republican. Mr. Chimelis was gracious enough to take a few minutes and answer some questions about the Minutemen for us.
BOTC: Given the distance between the two programs, K-State fans know very little about UMass (and probably vice versa). Can you give us some background on what type of offensive and defensive systems the Minutemen run?
BOTC: K-State recently faced an FCS team (Illinois State) that had a receiver who now plays for the Atlanta Falcons. Does UMass have anybody on its roster who could play on Sundays?
RC: UMass is playing its first game under coach Kevin Morris, who was offensive coordinator under Don Brown, who is now the defensive coordinator at Maryland.
There is a new QB, Kyle Havens, a junior college transfer from California. They also have a go-to back in Tony Nelson, a senior who is 8th all-time in UMass rushing. They like to run a lot of play-action stuff, they don''t run a spread but do show some spread-type formations, and have a pretty deep receiver corps to do it.
Ideally, they shoot for about a 50-50 run pass ratio. How Havens does may determine how well they will be able to sustain that plan.
RC: Their top NFL prospects are left OT Vlad Ducasse and DB Jeromy Miles. Hard to say which others might get at least a look, though UMass usually sends 3 or 4 guys to NFL camps, mostly as free agents. Ducasse is projected as a probable draft pick, perhaps by the third round or so, and I would make Miles at least a 50-50 bet to be drafted.
BOTC: Three years ago, Montana State defeated Colorado in Dan Hawkins' first year in Boulder. What does UMass need to do on Saturday to pull the upset?
RC: I think they have to control the ball. If they can't establish the run, it could be a long day because I don't they can pass well enough to eat up clock.
They also have a rebuilt defensive secondary, with Miles as the anchor but an otherwise new cast. How they contain K-State's passing game could say a lot as to whether they can get to the 4th quarter with a chance to win.
UMass nearly beat Boston College 2 years ago when BC was ranked in the top 15, so this is a quality program for their level. How Havens handles a hostile crowd of 50,000 in his first college game is part of all this, too, though Havens and his team say that will not be a factor.
BOTC: UMass had a disappointing season last year by standard Don Brown has set in Amherst. Can they get back to competing for the Colonial Athletic Association championship this season?
RC: Yes, though it is hard to tell if this will be the year. This is a very deep year for the CAA....at least seven teams, including UMass, have Top 25 goals. One advantage for UMass is that the North Division, while solid, is not the stronger division this year and they do not have Villanova, one of the league's best teams, on the schedule.
This year, more than most, UMass will not go in as one of the top 2 or 3 CAA favorites. I think they might be a year away, but if Havens develops quickly and teams can't key too much on Nelson, that could change.
Thanks for the answers, Ron. If you're coming to Manhattan, we hope you have an enjoyable visit.