Ross Comis trying to get head start in UMass QB race

  • Team Minutemen quarterback Ross Comis (2) scrambles up the middle trailed by Team UMass linebacker Enock Asante (60) during the 2015 spring game at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. DAN LITTLE

  • Team UMass linebacker Enock Asante (60) wraps up Team Minutemen quarterback Ross Comis (2) during the 2015 spring game at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. DAN LITTLE

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

AMHERST — Ross Comis’ competitive juices were already flowing before UMass announced that junior college quarterback Andrew Ford, who’d been at Virginia Tech, would be joining the program.

Comis, last year’s second-string quarterback, already needed to hold off Andrew Sosinski and Randall West, who both redshirted last season.

“I’ve had to prove myself many times. I’m not too worried about this,” said Comis after the team’s third spring practice. “I’m just ready to compete.”

UMass coach Mark Whipple said the job was wide open.

Ross “is a competitor. They’re all competitors,” he said. “They want a chance to compete. The best guy will play.”

From the moment the 2015 season ended, Comis said his teammates started treating him like a leader.

“Right after the last game I had a lot of guys coming up to me saying ‘I’m excited for next year. You’re our guy, I’m ready to go,’” Comis said. “Going into spring workouts I’ve been the leader and ahead of the charge. It’s a good feeling, but I’ve just got to keep rolling out here.”

Spencer Whipple, UMass’ passing game coordinator, liked what he’s seen so far from Comis.

“He’s been great so far. In the winter workouts, he was getting the guys going throwing on their own and doing some of the extra stuff getting ready for spring practice,” Spencer Whipple said. “In terms of leadership, he’s been really good. I think the guys really respect him. That might be even more important (than how well he throws the ball). If those guys get in the huddle and feel like they can trust him, a lot more good things usually happen.”

Comis appeared in five games last year and completed 15-of-21 pass attempts for 45 yards. He threw two touchdown passes (one vs. Notre Dame, one vs. Bowling Green) and wasn’t intercepted. He said even his brief playing time made him feel more prepared.

“It’s definitely different. Last year helped me out a lot. It gave me confidence and gave these guys confidence in me to go out and lead,” he said. “I’m excited to keep this thing going. It’s been a good three practices so far. It feels different, but it feels good.”

He said his skills and understanding have caught up with the pace of the game.

“I’m definitely comfortable,” Comis said. “The game is a lot slower. From camp, to last year during the season to the spring, I feel more comfortable on the field and in the film room. I know what I’m doing.”

Mark Whipple said Comis is ready for more.

“He’ll have to handle more things offensively. We’ll put more on his plate. There’s time so he can make mistakes. He’s learning more football in general. He’s a smart kid, but he’s a different guy than Fro,” Whipple said. “I’ve got to find things he’s more comfortable with.”

Unlike Blake Frohnapfel, who was more of a traditional pocket passer, Comis is more comfortable rolling out and running. Whipple was reminded of his time as the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback coach.

“It’s like when Ben (Roethlisberger) was a rookie and we put a lot of scramble things in. He ran around and made some plays,” Whipple said. “Ross will probably (run) a little bit more.”

WILLIAMS RETURNS – Senior wide receiver Jalen Williams, who missed last season with leg injuries, returned to practice for the first time Tuesday giving the unit an experienced veteran presence.”

“(Jalen) is a guy who has played and made some big plays. He’s athletic,” Whipple said. “He was nicked up a little but it was good to have him back.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage