University of Massachusetts sophomore defensive back Trey Dudley-Giles practices Wednesday, August 7, at McGuirk Stadium. KEVIN GUTTING
AMHERST — University of Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar knew when he put cornerbacks Randall Jette, Trey Dudley-Giles and D’Metrius Williams into the lineup a year ago that the then freshmen would likely take their lumps getting acclimated to Bowl Subdivision football.
But as the trio showed both promise and youth in 2012, he hoped the experience they gained would be valuable in 2013.
“Those guys are playing like vets,” Molnar said. “Those guys have made a ton of plays (in camp). Trey Dudley-Giles, D’Metrius Williams and Randall Jette have been very hard to beat all camp.”
New secondary coach Greg Burns didn’t see the corners in action last year, but he thought they seemed further along than most sophomores.
“Rarely are you going to get a chance to get that many reps as a true freshman or even as a redshirt freshman,” he said. “Because of that, it’s almost like having a seasoned sophomore going into his junior year.”
UMass was ranked in the middle (seventh) of the Mid-American Conference in pass defense last year, allowing 234.8 yards per game. The 26 touchdowns allowed were tied for eighth. The trio believes they can be better.
“Techniquewise, we’re not perfect as a unit yet, but we’re all on the same page,” said Jette, a redshirt sophomore. “We’re all somewhat veterans. We’re making the next step we need to make.”
Trey Dudley Giles agreed.
“I feel like we’re more comfortable going to practice every day. We’re trying to treat every practice rep as a game rep,” the true sophomore said. “We have a better feel for what other receivers are going to run, or throw at us. We have a lot to improve on. We have to get better at our techniques. We’re working each and every day as a unit.”
Williams, also a true sophomore, warned against underestimating the Minutemen.
“We’re young so people are probably going to try to pick on us, but we’re going to show people that we’re sound corners and that we can make plays,” he said. “Age doesn’t matter. We can play with the best of them. Everyday we’re trying to work hard trying to be the best. We have the potential to do it. We just have to put in the work in order too be the best.”
Jette is the oldest member of the trio and its most vocal leader. He said their cohesion is better on and off the field.
“Last year there was some uncertainty knowing who was going to be here with off-the-field issues. Everybody who is here right now, is here to stay,” he said. “This is the closest unit I’ve worked with. We’re all friends. There’s way more chemistry back there. We’ve been through the trials and tribulations together. It’s going to feel good when it really translates” to success.
The coaching staff is counting on stronger corner play.
“If you bring your safeties down, you better make sure your corners can do things one-on-one,” Molnar said. Defensive coordinator “Phil (Elmassian) really likes to see our safeties involved in the run game, like everybody does. ... A year ago we weren’t as anxious to do it because our corners were so young. Now that they’ve become a veteran presence on our team, we can involve the safeties in our run defense.”
RUNNING BACK INJURIES — True freshman Lorenzo Woodley missed time Tuesday with an ankle sprain, while redshirt freshman Stacey Bedell missed time Tuesday with a cracked toenail and foot blisters. Both are expected back soon.
“Stacey couldn’t push off it. He can’t do anything. ... He needed to do something to strengthen his nail. It was a bloody mess,” Molnar said. “Woodley had just a mild ankle sprain, but just enough that we wanted to hold him for a day until it clears up.”
Junior tailback Jordan Broadnax was slow to get up after being tackled at the sideline during a 2-minute drill simulation late in Tuesday’s practice.
Molnar called the injury minor.
“It was little, not even a stinger,” Molnar said. “I was thinking we don’t have any running backs left.”
Sophomore Jamal Wilson and true freshman Daquan Mack got added carries due to the injuries.
LUCAS LONG — In the same 2-minute drill, sophomore kicker Blake Lucas made the only two field goals he attempted, from 52 and 49 yards. They were both longer than the 39-yarder he made against Buffalo last year, his career long.
Molnar adjusted how long he’d let Lucas try a kick from after Tuesday’s performance.
“I know at least 52 yards after today,” Molnar said. “That’s a nice kick.”
MISCELLANEOUS — Wednesday will be UMass’ second two-a-day practice. The second practice (3:15 p.m. to 5:15) is expected to be more viewer friendly with scrimmage elements than the morning practice (8:45 a.m. to 10:45).
Western Michigan wide receiverJaime Wilson suffered a broken ankle in practice Monday and could miss the entire season. Wilson, who was the MAC freshman of the year with 67 catches for 792 yards, had four receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown in WMU’s 52-14 win over the Minutemen. The Broncos are at UMass on Oct. 26.
CBS Sports.com ranked UMass No. 121 out of 126 teams.