Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass spring football notebook: Ross Comis excited for quarterback competition, Marquis Young looks to build off last season’s late season surge

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

With the upcoming graduation of Blake Frohnapfel, Tajae Sharpe and Rodney Mills, among others, the Massachusetts football team is left with noticeable holes on offense entering 2016.

Perhaps the biggest question mark looming as the Minutemen continue their spring practices is who will take the leap and establish himself as starting quarterback as a replacement for Frohnapfel, who finished his two-year stint at UMass with 6,264 passing yards and 39 touchdowns.

Four quarterbacks return for the Minutemen in 2016 in addition to Andrew Ford, a pro-style JUCO transfer who was a 4-star recruit coming out of Pennsylvania and part of UMass’ 30-man recruiting class.

The most realistic option under center for the Minutemen after three practices into the team’s spring season remains rising redshirt sophomore Ross Comis.

Comis played in six games last season in relief of Frohnapfel and finished 15-of-21 for 171 passing yards and two touchdowns as a dual-threat quarterback.

“It’s definitely different because I think last year helped me out a lot and gave me confidence and gave these guys confidence in me, so I’m excited to keep this thing going,” Comis said after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s been a good three practices. It feels different, but it feels good.”

Comis said the game experience gained from last year – which included an 8-of-8 passing performance in historic South Bend against Notre Dame – has helped with his development this season as he enters unfamiliar territory with the opportunity to start on the line.

“I’m definitely comfortable, the games are a lot slower. From being in camp to this year in spring, everything is slower,” Comis said. “I feel more comfortable out there on the field and in the film room. I know what I’m doing a lot more.”

Comis enters his third season in UMass coach Mark Whipple’s system, which Whipple sees as an advantage as he competes for the starting job.

Joining Comis and Ford at quarterback next year are redshirt freshmen James Sosinski and Randall West and redshirt junior Austin Whipple.

“(Comis can) handle more things offensively, you can put more on his plate. He’s a smart kid and he’s a different guy than (Frohnapfel) so we’ll find out things that he’s more comfortable with,” Whipple said. “Just more control. Same with James (Sosinski) who’s had a year, Randall (West) who’s had a year.”

Comis said he’s welcoming the competition this spring and into next year, especially with the addition of Ford to the mix.

“I’ve had to prove myself many times so I’m not too worried about this,” Comis said. “I’m just ready to compete.”

Marquis Young looks to establish himself as feature back in UMass offense

Marquis Young’s 240 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a 31-26 win against Buffalo on Nov. 27 was an uplifting boost to end a disappointing season for the Minutemen.

Now, five months later, the rising sophomore enters spring practices as the top returning rusher (960 yards) and an established vocal leader of the offensive unit.

“It’s kind of hard, kind of rough talking to grown men out here and everybody older than me like the junior and senior class,” Young said. “But everybody knows being out here means business and I just try to respect everybody like a man.”

Comis added: “He’s definitely one of our leaders. When he talks, they listen.”

Young said his main focus this spring is to work on improving his pass blocking skills as well as his pass-catching technique to make him a more reliable every-down running back.

“I know I can run the ball but I have to protect my quarterback more and I have to be a third down player,” he said. “Everyone knows I can run, but can I protect?”

Young and fellow rising sophomore Sekai Lindsay, who appeared in six games before being sidelined the remainder of the season with a leg injury, appear set to lead UMass’ ground attack in 2016 while three other running backs were added on last month’s signing day.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

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