Summer camp opens with QB competition

  • UMass QB Andrew Ford, right, and center Derek Dumais warm up during the first practice of the season Sunday in Amherst. GAZETTE PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • UMass QB Andrew Ford, right, and center Derek Dumais warm up during the first practice of the season Sunday. GAZETTE PHOTO/ KEVIN GUTTING

For The Recorder
Monday, July 31, 2017

AMHERST — A year ago, Ross Comis was still part of an ongoing quarterback competition at UMass when his season was ended by a leg injury.

UMass coach Mark Whipple said Comis and Andrew Ford, who started nine games last year, will both compete for a spot atop the depth chart during preseason camp, which began Sunday at Gladchuk Field. Comis has clearance to practice fully.

“Ross was good today. He’s been good,” Whipple said. “He and Andrew will get even reps.”

Both Ford and Comis are juniors.

Junior-college transfer Michael Curtis, a sophomore, and redshirt sophomore Randall West are competing to be the No. 3 QB.

Whipple planned to rotate days off during camp for each of the four quarterbacks.

Comis completed 28-of-63 passes for 370 yards in four games (three starts). He had one touchdown and one interception.

Ford, a junior college transfer who began his career at Virginia Tech, completed 222-of-365 throws for 2,556 yards, 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

EARLY START — The Minutemen technically could have started practice sooner. They were already beginning earlier than usual. UMass’ Aug. 26 opener against Hawaii (6 p.m. McGuirk Stadium) is one of five games being played on the first day of competition, as most teams don’t play until the following week.

So when the NCAA announced in April that teams could start practice sooner to counteract the ban on two-a-day practices, the Minutemen had the option to open camp earlier.

But by that time, UMass had its summer schedule already mapped out for conditioning and weight training work as well as the players’ brief time to return home before the start of camp.

“We thought about it and talked about it. We already had the summer set. We didn’t want to change it,” Whipple said. “We don’t have a game for a month. Making it five weeks didn’t make any sense.”

Whipple didn’t object to the NCAA ending two-a-days, which used to be a preseason staple. Because most players stay on campus most of the summer and work with the strength coaches during that time, the players are already in shape at the start of camp.

“It’s a lot different,” he said. “Our guys were back May 21.”

The players were excited to be back.

“It feels great to be back with the guys,” junior tailback Marquis Young said. “We’ve been out there conditioning and working in the weight room, but it’s different when we’re running and doing things we love to do.”

Junior defensive back Lee Moses agreed.

“After a long summer of conditioning and working out, it feels good to finally put the helmet on at least,” Moses said “Everybody is excited about being back, but I was just focused on technique today.”

HUBER OUT — Linebacker Shane Huber suffered what Whipple called a knee “tweak” at the end of summer conditioning. Whipple said the senior, is temporarily out of practice as a precaution. Huber has a history of knee ailments including one that cause him to miss most of last season.

POSITION CHANGE — Tyshaun Ingram, who spent time at defensive back and linebacker as a freshman has moved to running back. The 6-foot-0, 208-pound Orlando native will join a unit that was low on numbers. It includes Young as the featured back, as well as Bilal Ally and Nick Orekoya.

Whipple said UMass has submitted a waiver to get Jordan Fredricks, a transfer running back from Syracuse eligible, but he wasn’t counting having him available.

KICKOFF TIMES — Other than the Hawaii game, which starts at 6 p.m., UMass announced last week that the other four games at McGuirk Stadium — Old Dominion (Sept. 9),Ohio (Sept. 30), Georgia Southern (Oct. 21) and Appalachian State (Oct. 28) will kick off at 3:30 p.m.