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 linebacker for the Minutemen this year.
As a whole, the Minutemen have some experienced linebackers giving fans some confidence in their depth at the position. Several linebackers saw significant playing time for the team last year and are returning this year. The biggest name and arguably the best player in the entire program, Stanley Andre is making a return for his senior year. They have the personnel to run a 4-3, 3-4, 4-4, or anything else for that matter which is a great sign plus there is enough depth so that the linebackers will always be well rested and play to their full ability. Let’s take a look and see who some of the men playing linebacker are this year.
Hands down the best player on the Minutemen defense, Stanley Andre is back for his senior year with the team. To keep it brief, the Boston native racked up 111 total tackles last year making him the heart and soul of the defense. When it is all said and done, Andre is the type of guy who could potentially end up playing in the NFL.
Despite his limited role with the team last year, Trey Seals could step up and see some significant playing time for the minutemen this year. He is in a position battle to win a starting outside linebacker job this year against Shane Huber. Starting four games last year and playing in a total of nine, the outside linebacker recorded nine tackles and forced a fumble. Back in high school he squatted over 500lbs which gives one an idea of how strong he truly is. Despite a lack of roles for the team in the past, this year might be the year he really goes out there and proves himself.
A rising junior, Jovan Santos-Knox could be a great will linebacker in a 3-4 or a 4-4. Starting in four games last year playing in a total of 12, the Connecticut native consistently played well collecting 32 tackles including 3.0 stops for losses. Arguably his best game came against Western Michigan last year when he collected a total of four tackles, two of which were assisted for a loss and another assisted one for a sack. Santos-Knox actually played more as a freshman back in 2012 when he started eight games but it is clear he is a much better player now than he was way back when. He along with Andre bring some valuable experience to the team as middle linebackers.
In the mix for a job as an outside linebacker, there is a great chance Shane Huber earns the job this year. The rising sophomore started in five games for the Minutemen last year playing in a total of eight while missing three due to injury. Collecting 16 tackles on the year last year while getting an assisted sack and tackle for a loss, Huber contributed to the team a lot for a true freshman. His best game came against Vanderbilt when he tackled five men on the day. Still an underclassman, Huber has plenty of promise and could be something special by his senior year if he finds consistent playing time throughout the next three years.
A good player with an even better name, Kassan Messiah has a chance to have a breakout year this year. His freshman year was quite impressive as he racked up 65 tackles including 16 against Bowling Green. Still effective, Messiah did not start last year but played in 11 games collecting 21 tackles. There is no doubt that the junior could score a starting job as an outside linebacker for UMass.
Even though there will be plenty of other men playing linebacker for the Minutemen this year, these are the men who likely will be playing the most for them. A core of Andre, Huber, and Messiah definitely is a great start for UMass with Santos-Knox as the fourth man in. There is plenty of depth and many guys who will step up when called upon making it look like this year will be better than last year.