After a 2-10 season, the UMass Minutemen have hired a new defensive coordinator. Ed Pinkham comes over from Western Michigan, where he held the same position, under noted catchphrase enthusiast PJ Fleck.
Pinkham has over 30 years coaching experience, and was Western Michigan’s defensive coordinator since 2013. While WMU’s defense was often overshadowed by the explosive offense, Pinkham’s units improved every year, and during Western Michigan’s 13-1 season, they emerged as one of the best defenses in the country. Western Michigan’s defense ranked 15th nationally in scoring defense, 26th in total defense, 8th in defensive touchdowns, 18th in turnovers gained and 22nd in interceptions forced, as the Broncos went undefeated in regular season play and won the MAC Championship before losing 24-16 to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.
UMass’ defense last year, conversely, ranked 108th in scoring defense, 99th in total defense, 99th in turnovers gained, and 126th in passes intercepted. In other words, they struggled a little bit. However, the Minutemen do return eight starters on defense, including redshirt senior inside lineback Steve Casali, who led UMass with 105 total tackles, and senior outside linebacker Da’Sean Downey, who led the team with eight sacks.
Sophomore cornerback Isaiah Rodgers also shows quite a bit of promise after emerging as the best playmaker in the UMass secondary during his freshman year. Rodgers led UMass with two interceptions and seven passes broken up, and added a forced fumble and a blocked kick as well.
Pinkham will also have a talented group of freshmen to work with, including multiple three star recruits: linebackers Chinedu Ogbonna, Claudin Cherlius, and Michael Ruane, safties Brian Roberts and Tyler Hayes(who’s a JUCO product), and cornerback Christ Hunt. All in all, the pieces look to be in place for Pinkham to improve the Minutemen defense in 2017.
In a press release, Pinkham said, "I'm extremely excited to be back in New England and renewing relationships with coaches I've worked with in the past at previous stops," Pinkham said. "I coached against UMass so I'm aware of the strong football tradition that exists here. I'm excited to play a role in achieving the goals that we set as a staff and as a program."
Pinkham’s previous experience coaching in New England includes stops at University of New Hampshire and (noted tailgate capital of the world) College of the Holy Cross.