Umass notebook: Coordinator Ed Pinkham begins to rebuild UMass defense
AMHERST — Ed Pinkham has a reputation for quick turnarounds earned during 30-plus years of coaching defense.
UMass’ first-year defensive coordinator was busy implementing a new system based on a 4-3 scheme during the second day of spring football practice yesterday at McGuirk Stadium.
“It’s been a fast four weeks trying to get settled in and trying to put in a new defense and a new terminology,” Pinkham said. “Everywhere I’ve been, you start off that first year and it is a long learning curve, and you try and keep it simple enough that it doesn’t get too complicated.
“It can be like organized chaos, and it’s hard to figure out for many of them where they fit. The simpler we make it, the quicker we can digest it all and understand what we are trying to do.”
Pinkham and UMass coach Mark Whipple have shared the same sideline and also been in opposite camps during the decades. Pinkham’s latest success was rebuilding the Western Michigan defense the past three seasons.
Pinkham helped guide the Broncos to a 13-1 season, the MAC championship and a trip to the Cotton Bowl last season. Western Michigan ranked 15th in scoring defense, 26th in total defense and 18th in turnovers.
“Eddie and I go way back to New Hampshire, and I followed his track and I know he is a great football coach,” Whipple said. “Their scenario at Western Michigan was not much different than ours, and it was a no-brainer call to bring him in.”
Pinkham believes he has the pieces in place to upgrade the UMass defense, but it will be a major undertaking. The Minutemen gave up 426 points (35.5 per game), which was a big part of their 2-10 finish as an FBS independent.
The Minutemen gave up 2,317 yards on the ground and 3,115 in the air. Whipple understands his team’s defensive deficiencies and has given Pinkham the autonomy he needs to apply the right fix.
“I think we have some (strong side) linebackers who can run really well, and that gives you the opportunity to do some things,” Pinkham said.
Ford fits in
Quarterback Andrew Ford is in a better place than he was a year ago.
The Virginia Tech transfer did not participate in spring ball in 2016 and spent training camp and the early stages of the season learning the system on the job.
“At this time last year, I was at home lifting and not sure what was going on in spring ball,” Ford said. “It’s a much better feeling for me to be out there with the guys in my second year where I know the offense and I know the speed coach Whip wants from the offense.”
Ford played in 11 games with nine starts and completed 222-of-365 passes for 2,665 yards, 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. His two primary receivers — tight end Adam Brennan and split end Andy Isabella — are back. They combined to make 132 receptions for 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns.