Chris Ferguson began the University of Maine’s preseason training camp as a dark horse in the four-man competition for starting quarterback.

When the Black Bears resume practice Sunday afternoon, he’ll be with the first unit.

Ferguson, a redshirt freshman from Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, was named Maine’s starting quarterback Saturday by Coach Joe Harasymiak. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Ferguson beat out redshirt junior Drew Belcher, senior transfer Max Staver and freshman Isaiah Robinson with a consistent performance throughout training camp and two scrimmages.

“It’s just the body of work,” said Harasymiak. “Chris has done a really nice job throughout the spring and obviously this camp. He’s done what is expected of a redshirt freshman, to take the next step.”

And now Ferguson will be behind center when Maine opens the season Aug. 31 at New Hampshire.

“This means everything to me,” said Ferguson. “I’m just excited to really get to lead the team and take this team to places it’s been before. I want to get back to those places, compete for a national championship, beat UNH, be in the playoffs. This is everything I’ve dreamed about.”

In camp, Ferguson not only displayed the physical ability to lead the Black Bears – he was by far the most impressive quarterback in the two scrimmages – but the confidence and leadership needed at the position.

“The biggest thing about Ferg is that he’s always been a leader, he always has the attention of the team,” said Liam Coen, Maine’s offensive coordinator. “I’m excited about things moving forward.”

When Harasymiak and Coen told Ferguson the job was his, he reacted exactly as they hoped.

“He looked us dead in our eyes and said, ‘I got this,'” said Harasymiak. “He didn’t react like this was a gift. Chris has a great deal of confidence, which is what you need in a quarterback. He’s got to go out there knowing he can get it done. He has something about him, some people might call it moxie. To me he’s a winner. We believe in him, which is why we recruited him. I think he’s got something in him that gives us the best chance to win.”

Ferguson, 19, led LaSalle Academy to the Philadelphia Catholic League 4A championship as a high school senior. He never thought of himself as being low on the depth chart at Maine. Still, entering training camp he knew what was being written – that the competition was likely between Belcher, who has started nine games for the Black Bears, and the strong-armed Staver.

“I knew what guys were saying and that keeps you going,” said Ferguson. “I appreciated all the doubt.”

He said sitting out last year as a redshirt certainly helped his development. He learned not only the Maine offense, but what was expected of him as a college athlete and student. In June, he spent a week in California working out with Tom House, the quarterback guru whose clients include Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

Those four days, in which the staff broke down his mechanics and worked on developing a consistent delivery, were invaluable.

“It was a great experience and I learned a lot,” said Ferguson. “They give you a lot of information, and it definitely was one of the key factors going to camp that I needed.”

Coen said Ferguson really picked up his performance the last two weeks to earn the starting bid.

“All the guys competed their tails off and did a great job,” said Coen. “At end of the day, he did too much the last couple of weeks to not make this decision.”

Ferguson looks at this team, coming off a 6-5 season that fell short of the playoffs after a last-game home loss to New Hampshire, and sees a lot of potential.

“I’m in a prime position,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good wideouts, a great offensive line, great running backs and a great defense. There’s a lot of guys around me, supporting me, helping with our success.”

After he got the news, Ferguson contacted his family. His father, Pat, “was a mess, but a good mess.” And his mother, Mary, was elated. Then he sent text messages to his siblings. Ferguson is the second youngest in the family, which includes one brother and nine sisters.

“We’re going to have big crowds at the games,” said Ferguson. “I can’t wait.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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