Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Ford, Comis competing to win quarterback job for UMass football


AMHERST >> One quarterback was the Gatorade player of the year in Pennsylvania and a top-60 player at his position coming out of high school. The other quarterback had some major offers as a preferred walk-on, but only one Division I-FBS offer.

Andrew Ford and Ross Comis are, respectively, the men in question. University of Massachusetts football coach Mark Whipple will have to answer the question which one will take the first snap when the Minutemen open their season in three weeks.

Both quarterbacks have been on campus all summer in preparation for the season.

"Any time there's competition, as a competitor you're ready to go," Comis said. "You get excited and your juices flowing."

Comis has the D-I resume. The redshirt sophomore from Weirton, W. Va., backed up the now-graduated Blake Frohnapfel last year. Comis played in six games, and was 15-for-21 for 171 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and did not have a pass intercepted.

Ford was one of Whipple's 24 recruits who signed with UMass in the winter. Ford originally signed with Virginia Tech, but left there and played last year at Lackawanna College, a two-year school in Scranton, Pa.

Ford was a top-50 quarterback coming out of Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill, Pa., a Harrisburg suburb. He completed 56 percent of his passes and had 23 touchdowns with only six interceptions.

"I'm just in here doing whatever the coaches ask me to do, whether that's taking second, third or fourth-team reps," said Ford. "Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do it."

Both quarterbacks lead the brigade that Whipple, passing game coordinator Spencer Whipple and quarterbacks coach Scott Woodward will be working with. There is no doubt that Comis and Ford are the two who will battle to be under center when UMass heads to the Swamp on Sept. 3 for a non-league game with the University of Florida.

"Ross has been in the system. He's played and done a good job," said Whipple. "He's the starter and Andrew is right there with him. Randall [West] has really improved.

"I think it's the best situation we've been in since I've been here."

That doesn't necessarily mean that either Comis or Ford will put up numbers like Frohnapfel did in his UMass career.

Ford looks like your prototypical quarterback. He is listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. Comis is listed at 6-even and 200 pounds. At Madonna High School in West Virginia, Comis threw for 1,688 yards and rushed for 1,942 more.

During a media session after Monday's first practice, Whipple was asked about Comis' dual run-pass threat, and if that will change what the UMass offense may look like.

"Time will tell," said the UMass coach. "When he got into games, he threw the ball well in the pocket at Notre Dame and Colorado. He had a lot of practice time with 'Froh' being hurt. He didn't practice late in the year and that was a benefit to Ross."

One of many interesting things about this quarterback battle is that Comis and Ford are roommates at UMass.

"We live together, so we're cool," said Comis. "He's a great kid. It's good to compete with him.

"It's a healthy competition. We're out here competing against each other."

Ford said he and Comis spend lots of time together on and off the football field.

"That entire room needs to be one tight-knit unit, so spending as much time as we can as a group is really beneficial to the team," said the Pennsylvania native. "We go home each and every single night and talk about football to help each other out. But also to get away from football. This summer we went golfing.

"You build the football relationship, but it's also nice to have that personal relationship."

According to his biography from the Virginia Tech site, Ford was listed as the No. 26 pro-style quarterback in the nation and the 16th-best prospect in the state of Pennsylvania.

If Ford wins the job, the irony is that the Minutemen will play Boston College on Sept. 10 at Gillette Stadium, and the offensive coordinator at BC is Scot Loeffler. He recruited Ford to Virginia Tech.

"I think you go into every opportunity with the same attitude," said Ford. "You try to go out there with your best foot forward each and every day, and let the rest work itself out."

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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