Year four of the Hugh Freeze era gets underway with a road trip to Southern Miss on Sept. 3. Today, we continue our early look at Liberty’s 2022 schedule as the Flames head north to take on Massachusetts in early October.
WHO: UMass (1-11)
WHEN: Oct. 8, TBD
WHERE: McGuirk Alumni Stadium (17,000)
SERIES: Liberty leads 2-1
WHAT’S NEW: After just 25 games, UMass moved on from head coach Walt Bell and have hired Don Brown to take over the Minutemen. Brown returns to the place where he was last head coach when he led UMass in 2004-2008. Brown and the Minutemen saw a lot of success as they won a combined 23 games in 2006 and 2007 while finishing as a top 10 team in the FCS each year, including a runner-up finish in 2006. Since that time, Brown has been a defensive coordinator at Maryland, UConn, Boston College, Michigan, and Arizona.
WHO TO WATCH, OFFENSE: Ellis Merriweather is one of the most underrated running backs at the FBS level and he is back looking to lead the way for UMass on the offensive side of the ball. Last season, Merriweather had seven 100-yard rushing games and finished the year with over 1,100 rushing yards as the workhorse back for the Minutemen.
WHO TO WATCH, DEFENSE: The defense should be much improved under the defensive minded coach Don Brown. He will turn to the likes of nose guard Billy Wooden and corner Josh Wallace to help lead the unit.
OUTLOOK: Hopes have been dim in Amherst the past several years. Since moving to FBS, the Minutemen’s best record has been 4-8. They were just 2-26 over the past three seasons, being outscored by an average of 47-16.
They took a lot of lumps on the chin the past three years, but Walt Bell played a lot of freshmen as he was building towards this year. Now, the defensive coach Don Brown takes over a veteran team that is now bigger, faster and stronger. They added 18 transfers to the roster and should be better on both sides of the ball. It will be an uphill battle to get to bowl eligibility this season, but the Minutemen should be able to improve on last year’s 1-win.
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