The UMass Minutemen lost their top wide receiver from last year in Dion Walker and return just three players who had double-digit catches in 2012. However, as the second week of training camp has gotten underway in Amherst a darkhorse has flown to the top of the depth charts in the form of recruited walk-on Shakur Nesmith.
The 6-foot-5 Pennsylvania product came to UMass by way of Milford Academy in New York and was a three-star prospect coming out of the prep ranks. He had previously committed to Temple but after failing to pass the NCAA clearinghouse decommitted and took this opportunity to earn his way on the UMass roster.
That opportunity has given way to another opportunity as he has been able to take a ton of snaps with the first-team offense with sophomore Tajae Sharpe sidelined with a shoulder issue. Head coach Charley Molnar has been pleased with what he has seen in his new big target after the Minutemen's morning practice on Monday, according to Maroon Musket.
"He's really taking advantage of the last two practices with Tajae being out. He's done really well every day at practice. We didn't really know what to expect, but so far, so good," Molnar said.
Incumbent starter Mike Wegzyn echoed that sentiment.
"To be able to have big targets that you can count on, I love that as a quarterback," he said. "They are all athletic and have speed, and I can count on them to catch it when I throw it to them. That's something any quarterback would love."
Sharpe was unavailable for the afternoon practice - which I attended - as well, giving Nesmith more opportunity to work with the first-team offense and, with his impressive physical gifts, is an impossible player to miss. Nesmith was seen getting plenty of attention from receivers coach Allen Suber as they worked through particular assignments during their walk though before some 11-on-11 work.
The Minutemen's first team offense had some serious height during Monday's afternoon session, even with 6-foot-4 Rob Blanchflower sitting out the walk through and 11-on-11 work. The 6-foot-5 Nesmith was lined up with 6-foot-4 Derek Beck for many of the first team reps, broken up only when 6-foot-4 Ricardo Miller spelled Beck. A huge group of skill position players, all with the athleticism you look for at the FBS level.
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