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UMass’ Tajae Sharpe wants role of No. 1 receiver

FILE PHOTO
University of Massachusetts sophomore wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, right, wants to be the team's No. 1 receiver.

FILE PHOTO University of Massachusetts sophomore wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, right, wants to be the team's No. 1 receiver.

By MATT VAUTOUR @GazetteUMass
Thursday, September 12, 2013
(Published in print: Friday, September 13, 2013)

AMHERST — Tajae Sharpe knows that when Kansas State coaches look at the game tape and the stat sheet from the University of Massachusetts’ loss to Maine, they’ll likely pay him a little added attention as they prepare for Saturday’s game.

The sophomore wide receiver was one of the few offensive highlights for the Minutemen. He caught 11 passes for 85 yards and one touchdown after making just one catch for 13 yards against Wisconsin.

“I felt like I had a pretty good game and I expect to continue that headed into Kansas State this weekend and the rest of the season,” Sharpe said. “My role is the leading receiver on this team. I try to embrace my role. I’m definitely ready for it.”

A year ago, Sharpe was a true freshman trying to find his way. Now he’s a young veteran surrounded by players in the same place where he was last season.

“It’s a long road learning the offense and getting used to the practice tempo and stuff like that,” Sharpe said. “I definitely understand where some of their struggles are coming from, but they’re doing very well.”

UMass coach Charley Molnar said the Minutemen need other players to elevate their play alongside him.

“There’s other guys we can rely on. We just didn’t get the ball to them for whatever reason,” Molnar said. “It’s always good to know that you have more than one guy on gotta-have-it downs. Once they take him out of the game, you’re lost. We’re working on developing guys. They’re young and when they’re young it’s hard to have the confidence in them. Last year he made some really nice catches in practice and some in the games, but was inconsistent. Now he’s become very consistent.”

Sophomore Bernard Davis, who caught UMass’ other touchdown pass against Maine, could be the next player ready to step forward.

“Bernard arguably has the best hands on the team,” Molnar said. “Catching the ball, he’s got really, really good hands. He’s gotten better since he’s been here.”

THREE OUT, ONE MAYBE — Senior tight end Rob Blanchflower remains a game-time decision for Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at Snyder Family Stadium. Junior running back Jordan Broadnax (knee), freshman Shakur Nesmith (shoulder) and freshman linebacker Steve Casali (undisclosed) won’t make the trip to Manhattan, Kan.

MORE WOODLEY — Molnar said highly touted true freshman running back Lorenzo Woodley was healthy enough to increase his workload in practice this week.

“He played in the first game. He was battling a (foot) injury leading into the first game. He was injured (undisclosed) for the second game, barely practiced so he was not ready to play” against Maine, Molnar said. “I would like to have played him but he just was not ready. He had a very good week of practice, perhaps his best as a Minuteman.”

Molnar said Woodley’s presence would help starting running back Stacey Bedell.

Woodley “definitely get reps Saturday. You can run Bedell more knowing you have a guy you can put in,” Molnar said. “It’s hard to run a guy every down, run him up inside when that’s the only guy you want to give the ball to on a consistent basis. Now we have another guy we feel good giving it to.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.