Matt McCall, Chris Berman will be UMass’ celebrity spring game coaches

  • FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2016, file photo, Chris Berman introduces former Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith during his jersey retirement ceremony at halftime of an NFL football game, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Berman isn't disappearing from in front of the cameras or from behind the microphones.He's simply stepping to the side a bit. The longtime ESPN fixture is giving up his regular on-air NFL and baseball spots for a new role at the network.(AP Photo/Bill Wippert, File) AP

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

UMass will have familiar and famous faces all over its sidelines at its annual spring football game Thursday at 7 p.m. at McGuirk Stadium.

The growing national trend of celebrity guest coaches matching up in spring games comes to Amherst. New Minuteman men’s basketball coach Matt McCall will coach Team Maroon, while Team White will be helmed by ESPN’s Chris Berman, an old friend and Brown University classmate of Minuteman coach Mark Whipple.

On Twitter, McCall, a Florida alum from the Steve Spurrier era, promised to channel the ol’ ball coach.

“Fun&Gun! Get ready for a lot of play actions! May need to get @SteveSpurrierUF on the horn. Help me dial up a few ball plays!”

Former NFL players/UMass alumni Marcel Shipp, Kole Ayi and Brandon London will all be in attendance. James Ihedigbo, whose wife is pregnant, was a late scratch. He coached one side last year.

“He did a great job last year so we’re building on the tradition,” Whipple said.

The game itself will be similar to last year.

Whipple and new defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham will watch and evaluate from the sideline, while the rest of the staff splits up to aid McCall and Berman.

There will be 10 minute quarters with live action, except for on punts and place kicks, where there’ll be no rush.

“Some of the older guys we might pull out as we go,” Whipple said. “We might have to have some guys play on both teams or flip around at halftime.”

The defense will be a little short-handed as Ali Ali-Musa, Da-Sean Downey, Sha-Ki Holines and Shane Huber will all miss the game with injuries.

Injured quarterback Ross Comis will also sit out.

SPRING WRAPUP — Overall Whipple was happy with what his team accomplished during the spring session.

“I’m real pleased. It was a really good spring. I wish we had more time,” he said. “But we got a lot done on both sides of the ball and special teams.”

Quarterback Andrew Ford was looking forward to the spring game.

“I’m really happy with the progress we made as a team with chemistry coming together,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night and wrapping it up on a good note. It’s really competitive from the coaches on down. You want to go out on a good note. If you’re competing and there’s a winner, you want to be on that team.”

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