Culture change doesn’t happen over night in Division 1 football, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
Thankfully for UMass fans, the team and coaching staff hit the ground running this spring as the Don Brown era begins anew. On Tuesday, the Minutemen were finally out on the practice field for the first official spring ball practice.
With a brand new staff and a plethora of new faces from the transfer portal, surely there were some growing pains on the first day, right? Of course, but Brown insists it didn’t feel like the first day of practice, which means UMass is already ahead of the learning curve.
“I think the way we went about our business in winter workouts and some of the rule changes by the NCAA allowed us to play catchup, which is good from a concept standpoint,” Brown said in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon. “It didn’t feel like a first practice to me, let’s just put it that way.”
Brown has seen and been a part of a lot of “first days” and talked about just how different it is to end up having a day like the one UMass had on Tuesday. It felt like the guys had been together for months, not weeks.
“It’s pretty rare,” Brown said of the practice. “I think the kids have really bought in to what we’re trying to get done, I feel really good about that part of it. Their energy level has been really high and I think the change has been good for them.”
Brown noted that the camaraderie amongst the staff is what allowed UMass to immediately start being productive earlier this offseason and into the first day of actual football activities.
“For me, the good thing is a lot of guys on the staff have been with me before, so it was like old home week once we all get back together, it’s like getting the troops back together,” he said. “It does feel good to have guys that know your system, are really familiar with everything. Steve worked with me at Michigan, he’s doing a good job with the offense. Just feeling good about all the guys you go to work with every day is a good feeling.”
The UMass fan base doesn’t have to worry about the staff tempering expectations this year. Brown has said multiple times that he only knows winning with this program and he intends to keep that rolling. Still, there’s a balance early on of not overloading the players while also making sure progress is being made every single day.
“We’ve been able to teach some concepts through meetings, through run-throughs, things like that,” Brown said. “I think we’ve gotten a pretty good jump on it, so today just didn’t feel like the first day we’re doing football. Guys were running around, flying around and going with a purpose.
“I thought we did a good job with our preparation for these first few practices with the winter workouts.”
It was quite a busy day on the UMass campus as Brown went straight from practice to Frank Martin’s press conference where he was introduced as the new men’s basketball coach. There’s no guarantee that Martin or Brown are able to bring their respective programs to where they once were, but they’re both going to try like hell to make it happen. The two have known each other for a long, long time and the fan base will notice quite a few similarities between them on the hardwood and the gridiron.
“The one good thing about Frank and I, is we’re friends from back in our days at Northeastern,” Brown added. “There’s a lot of familiarity, a lot of similarity in our coaching style and our coaching philosophy. He’s just a great guy and I couldn’t be more happy that he was Ryan Bamford’s choice here at UMass.”
The fans agree, and if the early progress made by the football program is any indication of what life will be like for Minutemen fans moving forward, buckle up, have the bleep buttons ready & get ready to see a LOT of problems solved with aggression.