UMass freshman tackle Tyshon Henderson impressing during first-team work at camp

Matt Sparks (left) started three games last year and is in the mix for more in 2013 with an improved unit. - Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

The 6-foot-7, 315 pound behemoth left tackle has been getting his share of reps at left tackle for the minutemen while Anthony Dima has been sidelined with blisters.

One of the first things many people noticed about the UMass Minutemen in their first FBS season in 2012 was how much smaller they seemed, on the whole, compared to many of their opponents. Thanks to a strong recruiting class and an even stronger summer in the weight room, much of that difference has been mitigated with freshman tackle Tyshon Henderson serving as the embodiment of that paradigm shift.

Henderson stands an imposing 6-foot-7 and weights in at 315 pounds, but those measurables don't even do the young man justice. Even when standing with the other lineman he appears to be on another level physically and that advantage has seen him get plenty of work with the first team offense while senior Anthony Dima deals with blister issues, according to Bob McGovern of Maroon Musket.

Charley Molnar likes the young man's size and has seem him progress every day of training camp.

"[Henderson] is a little bit ahead of the rest of the guys, and we expected that he would be. He's doing an excellent job, but when you're running with the first unit, the expectations are a little higher," Molnar said. "He still has numerous errors, but he's reducing them every single day."

Earlier in the week, when the blister issues began to bother Dima, Henderson was taking all of the first-team reps during walk-through and 11-on-11 work. Dima, an Outland Trophy candidate this preseason, is still the clear choice at left tackle but having someone like Henderson in the back pocket never hurts.

He isn't the only freshman in the running for some serious playing on the offensive line, though. McGovern said that Sam Zeff, Rich Queen and Cameron Mock got some goal line reps and I observed Fabian Hoeller running with the first-team offense during drills on Monday afternoon. Mock and Henderson are the biggest at 6-foot-7, but each player is at least 6-foot-4 and can move.

The future of the offensive line seems to be in capable hands and that will go a long way to ensuring offensive success for Molnar and the Minutemen.

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