University of Massachusetts tight end Ricardo Miller looks for the ball during preseason practice at McGuirk Stadium. Miller will start at tight end in the season opener Saturdy at Wisconsin. KEVIN GUTTING
AMHERST — During Monday’s Mid-American Conference coaches conference call, University of Massachusetts coach Charley Molnar was still optimistic about tight end Rob Blanchflower’s chances of being ready to play in Saturday’s season opener at Wisconsin. By the end of practice at 5 p.m., that optimism was gone as he ruled his senior captain out for the game.
“We’re going to rule him out for Saturday,” Molnar said. “He’s not going to play. After talking to him today and where he’s at, it’s just not worth it. We have goals in mind for the season. Blanch is part of us reaching those goals. We’re going to have to go without him.”
Senior Michigan transfer Ricardo Miller will start in his place and sophomore Derek Beck will see added playing time as well.
“Derek Beck and Ricardo have both practiced well,” said Molnar, who said both Miller and Beck would play tight end and receiver. “They both do the same jobs. They’re both up to the task. Neither one is Blanch, but they both have other skills that Rob doesn’t have, so at the end of the day I feel pretty good about both of those guys going in.”
Blanchflower is the second projected starter ruled out for the game as running back Jordan Broadnax is out with a knee injury.
Miller, who played sparingly at Wisconsin, was eager to make the most of the opportunity.
“Ever since I’ve been here I’ve wanted to make a positive impact. I can make it more, now that unfortunately Blanch is out,” Miller said. “I’m ready to take the position and make the most of it.”
Miller said despite playing against another Big Ten team he had nothing to prove to Michigan.
“I want to let my play speak for itself,” he said.
STAVE STARTING — The official Wisconsin depth chart still lists starting quarterback as Joel Stave or Curt Phillips, but according to BadgerNation.com, a Scout.com site that covers Wisconsin, Stave, a sophomore, will be the starter on Saturday.
FRESHMAN ON BOARD — True freshman Lorenzo Woodley was back at full speed Monday and will be back in action.
“He practiced today and he feels really good,” Molnar said. “I feel pretty good about where’s he’s at right now.”
Woodley is one of at least 10 freshmen who will make the trip to Madison. Molnar said there could be more, but on offense receivers Shaq Harris and Shakur Nesmith and offensive linemen Tyshon Henderson and Fabian Hoeller will all dress and likely play. On defense, linebackers Steve Casali and Shane Huber, defensive backs Arthur Williams and Jackson Porter and defensive linemen Peter Angeh are expected to see action.
Molnar allowed for the possibility that other true freshmen could be on the field on special teams.
WIN TOTAL? — On the conference call, Molnar said while he wouldn’t judge progress on wins and losses he did “have a number in my mind that I think we can attain if everything goes right.”
Pressed about what that number was at practice, Molnar used a phrase from the school yard.
“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” he said.