Trey Dudley-Giles has been through two tough years.
As the starting defensive back and return specialist for the University of Massachusetts Minutemen, not only did the 2012 Pasco High grad suffer through back-to-back 1-11 seasons for his freshman and sophomore years, but he also battled a groin injury in 2013. The latter hampered his playing time and endurance, but with UMass having begun preseason workouts, Dudley-Giles is not only healthy, but has renewed optimism.
“Its a pretty long season with an injury,” said Dudley-Giles, who as a senior that helped lead Pasco to the 2011 Class 5A state semifinals had 1,710 all-purpose yards and 21 touchdowns. “I was usually only able to play three quarters, but what grew out of that is I learned how to play through pain and now I just want to finish games this season.
“At first, it was a big adjustment coming up here from the heat to the freezing cold. I’d never played in 40-degree weather and I had to get used to that real fast. … Now, I am, and we all are ready to get this season started.”
Dudley-Giles and teammates head into this season with high expectations, despite the past seasons. Players are welcoming the return of Mark Whipple, who led UMass to the NCAA Division I-AA national championship in 1998 and given players a renewed hope.
“When coach sat down with me in the spring, he said that he sees me as a team leader,” Dudley-Giles said. “I’m not vocal when leading, but I just want to show it on the field. I let my game do the talking unless I need to speak up.
“Yeah, the past two years … they have been bad for us, but we can’t let what happened in the past two seasons into this one. We are taking it one day at a time and just focusing on (the season opener against) Boston College (on Aug. 30).
“We’re not thinking about the 1-11.”
Dudley-Giles, who played in 11 games last season and led the team with 816 all-purpose yards, also said adjusting to playing strictly defense took time. Focusing only on defensive drills was a “360-degree turnaround”, Dudley-Giles said, but it did produce 42 tackles, three pass breakups, three pat downs and two fumble recoveries.
“There was a learning curve for him,” UMass special teams coordinator Ted Daisher said. “He made great strides this past year, and we expect big things out of him. … He’s a tough kid and worked hard to get healthy. He’s looked good all spring.”
For a college football program that has been playing for 131 seasons, but one that scored only 140 points last year in its second season in Division I, the adjustment would take time. Daisher knows there’s no where to go but up, and Dudley-Giles will be part of that.
“He’s not a big talker on the field,” Daisher said, “but he leads by example and as a junior and a senior, he will become one of the leaders for us and he is going to be a big part of our turnaround.”
As for Dudley-Giles, its not only reversing records. It’s about making a bowl game and even becoming the MAC champions.
“We do have high expectations,” Dudley-Giles said. “I have high expectations. I just want to be practicing to make a bowl game and win the MAC. Those are the things I want and I think they’re realistic.”
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.