Last year, the UMass Minutemen did not have what some may consider a productive year. Winning just one game in a tough MAC division, there was still plenty of talent on the team. As a whole, things look much better this year at nearly every position so let’s take a look at who will be playing defensive back for the Minutemen this year.
As a whole, the Minutemen have an experienced core of defensive backs. Eight of their defensive backs are upper class-men and thankfully just one is a senior. This year and next year should be productive years for the backfield, but thankfully there are plenty of reinforcements as there are nine underclassmen in the program as well. Naming starters should be simple and in a basic four defensive back scheme as most of them come from the great state of Massachusetts.
A returning veteran for the Minutemen, redshirt junior cornerback Randall Jette will start again for the team for the third season in a row. The Martha’s Vineyard native lead the team in pass break ups last year with 12 while picking a ball off. He recovered three fumbles while forcing a pair and blocked a PAT attempt showing the type of hustle coaches look for. On a daily basis Jette not only does what is asked, but he goes above and beyond the call of duty. 2014 will be a big year for Jette as he will try to catch the attention of scouts while hopefully having a breakout year this year.
Another Massachusetts native as well as a starting safety for the UMass Minutemen last year is Joe Colton. Colton who is a graduate of Xaverian ranked fourth on the team last year recording 65 tackles in ten games, nine of which he started. He definitely is a great tackler making plenty of stops including a total of 11 against Maine in week two last year. In addition the junior doubled as a kick returner returning nine kicks for 175 yards adding to his versatility. If he can play every game this year, Colton should have a highly productive season. As long as he continues to hit people and hit them hard, Colton is a valuable contributor the the team.
A third defensive back from the Bay State, Khary Bailey-Smith is an early favorite to win the other safety job. Despite limited playing time the Weymouth native came up big in one game last year. Against Miami (OH) Bailey-Smith had the best game of his career racking up ten total tackles while picking off a pair of balls taking them 25 yeards. On the year in nine games he recorded 27 tackles but his hot performance in the team’s only win last year definitely gives him an edge over the rest not tho mention the fact that he started in four games as a true freshman. A full season as a starter would definitely do Khary Bailey-Smith some good as he would finally have a chance to prove he can rack up interceptions on a consistent basis.
Finally a non Massachusetts native, Trey Dudley-Giles is returning to the UMass football team for his third year as a starter. The true junior tackled a total of 42 men and broke up three passes last year while starting nine games and playing in a total of 11. In addtition to starting at cornerback, the Florida native was the team’s kick and punt returner averaging 22.3 yards on kick returns and 12.25 yards on punts. Of course he lead the team in all-purpose yards and will be taking his role back again this season. His best game on defense last season came against Ohio when he recovered a fumble and racked up ten tackles on the day. This combination of speed and strength should make Dudley-Giles a successful defensive back this year.
Whether or not he starts is up for debate, but there is no doubt D’Metrius Williams will be seeming plenty of playing time this year. The Virginia native started in a pair of games for the Minutemen last year at cornerback recording 29 tackles in all while breaking up a pair of passes. The rising Junior led the team deflecting six passes his freshman year which makes it hard to imagine him not being in the picture this year. Odds are Williams could play both corner and safety but corner is his better position but he should be playing both as the year drags on.
Overall, the Minutemen look set at defensive back. There is plenty of veteran experience on the team as all of the starters appear to be juniors. Of course there will be many young guys playing as well, but the sophomore class impressed last year in the backfield which is why most of the playing will be done by juniors this year. Hopefully the juniors work well with the freshman and help develop their games so that the future is bright for the Minutemen and there is more talent to come in the future.