UMass Football - Coach Molnar Taking First Steps

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  • http://w w w .boston.com/sports/colleges/football/articles/2012/08/04/umass_football_coach_molnar_taking_first_steps/ August 13, 2012

    UMass football coach Molnar taking first steps

    AMHERST Charley Molnar didnt get a lot of sleep the night before last. Friday morning was the firstpreseason practice for the University of Massachusetts football team, and he had that and a few other firsts big-picture ones on his mind. His first season with the Minutemen. The programs first year in both theFootball Bowl Subdivision and the Mid-American Conference. And, of most tangible significance, the seasonsfirst game just 26 days from now.

    Thats a lot to be excited for apparently too excited to lie in bed.

    I was up at around 4 this morning, said Molnar, the former offensive coordinator at Notre Dame with 18 yearsof college coaching on his rsum, all as an assistant. (So theres another first: head coaching job.) He gotdressed and left his room to go for a predawn run, and in the hallway he ran into freshman receiver TajaeSharpe. He was up before I was, said the coach with a smile that looked like admiration.

    Talk about making a strong first impression. Practice hadnt even begun, and Sharpe already was on thecoachs good side simply by being excited for the day to begin.

    Clearly, enthusiasm for undertaking this big step is going to be a theme for UMass. Once the players took thefield at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in 85-degree heat for their first drills since spring practice, the coaching staffhad them run plenty of plays over the three-hour session, but was on the lookout for something other than theembodiment of Xs and Os. Im looking to see what kind of effort the guys will give, said Molnar. I want to see ifwe have to drive them or if they will run on their own gas.

    That inner drive, the coach believes, is the essential fuel for the programs leap from the second-tier FootballChampionship Subdivision. The talent will not always be even when we step on the field, said Molnar, so wevegot to make up for that in other ways.

    In the past, UMass has given FBS teams such as Michigan and Kansas State all they could handle. But Molnarinsists this season will be a different circumstance. You can get away with one game where you win or you givethem one heck of a battle, he said. Your team can bring an A game. Well, when you play 12 games like that ina row, its totally different.

    Indeed, when the Minutemen leave the field after the season opener at Connecticut Aug. 30, theyll beginpreparing for a visit by Indiana to their new home, Gillette Stadium, the next week. You go from one very toughteam to another very, very tough team, said Molnar. And it goes on and on and on for 12 weeks.

    Kellen Pagel knows a little about those top-level rigors. The junior quarterback transferred before last seasonfrom MAC team Bowling Green. He had played sparingly in his one year with the Falcons, but last season wonthe starting job at UMass. Hes particularly excited for Oct. 30, when his former team visits Gillette, and he getsto show what he can do with Molnars spread-em-out attack. Its a great offense, Pagel said. Every day weretrying to get faster and faster.

    Pagels not alone in his motivation for the step-up season. Every UMass player from incoming freshmen toreturning starters who were recruited as to play in the FCS, the former Division 1-AA has something to prove.In high school, everyone wants to go to Division 1, said Darren Thellen, the fifth-year senior safety who had ateam-leading five interceptions last season. I feel like everyone at 1-AA feels like they were overlooked andthey should be a Division 1 player. Nows our chance.

    Copyright 2012 Globe Newspaper Company.

    http://www.printfriendly.com/print/v2?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.boston.com%2Fsports%2Fcolleges%2Ffootball%2Farticles%2F2012%2F08%2F04%2Fumass_football_coach_molnar_taking_first_steps%2FUMass football coach Molnar taking first steps