Florida State offensive coordinator Walt Bell is the next coach at UMass, the school officially announced Monday afternoon.
Bell, 34, spent the 2018 season leading the Seminoles' offense under coach Willie Taggart. Prior to that, Bell spent two years as the offensive coordinator at Maryland and two more as offensive coordinator at Arkansas State.
"I am immensely excited for the opportunity to serve as the University of Massachusetts football head coach, and for my wife, Maria, and I to join the UMass family," Bell said. "I cannot thank athletic director Ryan Bamford, chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and the entire university administration enough for the opportunity to guide this program. I look forward to getting right to work with the young men on our team."
Despite his age, Bell is already highly regarded in the coaching industry and has accomplished a lot. In 2017 at Maryland, he led an offense that played four starting quarterbacks due to injury but still found a way to feed wide receiver DJ Moore for 80 catches and over 1,000 yards on his way to becoming a first-round NFL Draft selection. One year earlier with a healthier unit, Maryland averaged 199 rushing yards per game and had more than 2,500 yards rushing on the season and a quarterback that was the second-most efficient in the Big Ten.
At Arkansas State, Bell's unit averaged 40 points per game in 2015 and set a school record for total offensive yardage one year earlier.
"We are excited to welcome Walt Bell and his wife Maria to the UMass family," Bamford said. "Walt is a fantastic coach who has tremendous credentials as an offensive coordinator, recruiter and developer of talent. It is Walt's genuine interest in supporting the personal growth of his student-athletes, evidenced by his lasting relationships as a mentor and leader the last 10 years – that really resonated with us. He is a teacher, a motivator and an ambassador and we are fortunate to have him lead our Minutemen in to the future."
While the 2018 season was disappointing for Florida State, particularly on offense, there was marked improvement in the unit when Bell took over play calling duties from Taggart over the final four games. Quarterback James Blackman threw for 421 yards against NC State, and Deondre Francois passed for 322 yards in an upset win over Boston College.
The hire by Bamford delivers energy to a program that had gone 16-44 in its previous five seasons under Mark Whipple, who stepped down on Nov. 21 at the tail end of a 4-8 season ending his second stint as UMass coach.