Improving the defense and finding quality recruiters are among the top priorities for UMass football in 2019.
New head coach Walt Bell may have just checked both boxes with his newest staff appointee.
Azzaar Abdul-Rahim is set to become the new defensive coordinator in Amherst. Abdul-Rahim comes over from Maryland, where he served as defensive backs coach for the past three seasons.
Bell previously coached with Abdul-Rahim at Maryland in 2016-2017.
Prior to Maryland, Abdul-Rahim served as assistant director of player personnel and defensive analyst at Alabama. Previously, Abdul-Rahim also helped found the Friendship Collegiate Academy’s (Washington D.C.) inaugural football team in 2004 and build them into a prominent high school squad.
The D.C. native is also a highly-regarded recruiter, who many believe was among the best in the Big Ten. He was recognized by Rivals.com and 247Sports in recent years as being among the top recruiters in the assistant coach ranks both in the Big Ten and nationally.
He is also founder of “Cover One Inc.”, an offseason training camp academy for defensive backs.
According to the academy’s website, Abdul-Rahim is described as someone who “preaches discipline, mental toughness and consistency on the field of play and in life.”
‘D’ looks for a fresh start in 2019
Abdul-Rahim will need to breathe new life into a defense that finished this past season 127th in points allowed (42.9 per game) and 123rd in yards allowed (485 per game).
The Terrapins finished tied for fifth in the country in interceptions (18). The Minutemen managed 12 last season, but will need to replace the production of seniors Lee Moses and Brice McAllister, who tied for the team lead with three.
Look for Abdul-Rahim to lean on junior starter Isaiah Rodgers in the secondary in 2019.
He will also need to find a leader on the defensive unit to replace Bryton Barr, whose 141 tackles, four sacks and bottomless pit of energy will be missed.
The Minutemen defense was previously run by Ed Pinkham, who also stepped in as head coach for one game last year for the suspended Mark Whipple. Steve Costello has been the defensive backs coach for the previous five seasons.
It’s unknown at this time whether either coach will be retained.