Arguably no player had more pressure at the start of the University of Massachusetts’ football season than Nick Speller. Speller had to replace Vlad Ducasse, an All-American left offensive tackle who’s now a rookie for the New York Jets.

It’s been a smooth adjustment for UMass and Speller, a former Edmondson High standout. Speller will be back home Saturday night as the Minutemen play Towson University at Unitas Stadium.

“I know what number 72 means here,” said Speller, a redshirt sophomore told the Massachusetts Republican. “I want to fill Vlad’s shoes as best I can, and maybe make it better for the next 72 that comes here.”

The Minutemen is ranked No. 8 in both the Sports Network/ FCS Top 25 and FCS Coaches Poll. UMASS’ only loss is a 42-37 decision at Michigan.

With Speller, who transferred from Syracuse, part of a revamped offensive front, the Minutemen is averaging 461 yards a game (sixth among FCS programs). Speller has started all four games.

He started 10 games for Syracuse last season before deciding to leave the Big East program. Speller was a member of Edmondson’s 2006 Class 2A state championship squad, which became only the second Baltimore City school to win a football title.