ORONO, Maine — Chris Ferguson was a key component in leading the University of Maine football team to its first appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals a year ago.
The quarterback completed 56.3 percent of his passes for 2,372 yards with 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as the Colonial Athletic Association-champion Black Bears went 10-4. He averaged 197.7 passing yards per game and ran for two touchdowns.
As a result, the junior was one of 40 players named on a preseason watch list as a candidate for the College Football Performance Awards FCS National Performer of the Year Trophy.
“It’s a good honor,” Ferguson said following UMaine’s preseason scrimmage Wednesday at Morse Field. “It’s definitely cool, but it’s just another thing. You got to worry about what you’re doing, and that’s all I’m worrying about.”
Ferguson completed 54.6 percent of his passes two years ago as a redshirt freshman and first-year starter with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while throwing for 2,064 yards.
“He had some struggles his freshman year but he stuck with it. He works harder than anyone on the team,” junior center Chris Mulvey said. “He has come into his own. I think he’s going to have a tremendous year. He deserves to be one of the top 40 players. He has a lot of arm talent, he’s very smart and he really wants to perfect his craft.”
Ferguson is focused on continuing to make progress.
“With consistency comes accuracy,” he said. “I’ve got to put the ball in the right place. We’ve got a lot of playmakers out there, and they’re going to be open a lot of times. When they aren’t, I have to put the ball where it will allow them to make a play sometimes. I’m working on that.
“And I’ve been trusting the guys up front, letting them do their thing [while I’m] being able to get through my progressions and reads and make the right play.”
Ferguson would like to improve his completion rate by 10 percent while reducing his interceptions.
“Every year, you want to keep knocking that number down as far as you can,” he said.
UMaine head coach Nick Charlton expects big things from Ferguson.
“I look for him to be an elite player in this conference and in the [FCS],” Charlton said. “He is a tremendous passer and a tremendous leader. He gets better every single day. There are high expectations for him and that’s the way Chris wants it.”
Ferguson missed two games last season after injuring his throwing shoulder but said he is 100 percent healthy and has added 15 pounds to his frame to bring him up to 230 pounds.
“God has been good. He has been taking care of me,” Ferguson said. “I got healthy this offseason. A lot of work went into it. I’m ready to go. With my shoulder, I needed some more weight, some more muscle. I have a little more body fat than last year fat, but I was pretty skinny a year ago. I wanted to add that weight to protect myself. I’m still as fit as I was.”
The Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, native threw a pair of touchdown passes to Old Town’s Andre Miller during Wednesday’s scrimmage.
“He made plays today. We’re developing that connection,” Ferguson said. “We’re getting it down.”
Miller also feels Ferguson is worthy of being on the preseason FCS watch list.
“He’s a very, very good quarterback,” Miller said. “He works hard, he does everything right.”
Ferguson said training camp has a different feel for him.
“I can relax more,” he said. “You have your guys around you. The coaches trust me and know what they’re going to get out of me. I want to keep improving for them and keep showing everybody who I am,”
BLACK BEAR NOTES: Absentees from the scrimmage due to injury included senior running back Joe Fitzpatrick (back), senior wide receiver Earnest Edwards (hamstring), redshirt senior safety Jeremiah Dadeboe (ankle), senior linebacker Taji Lowe (shoulder) and sophomore running back Jordan Rowell (knee). Rowell is the only one who will definitely miss the season opener at home against Sacred Heart on Aug. 30.
Junior Kenny Doak, the incumbent placekicker and true freshman Cameron Carson each kicked field goals in the 45-yard range. Carson also drilled several kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Carson is a left-footed kicker. “We have some depth there,” Charlton said.
True freshman quarterback Joe Fagnano was informed after practice by Charlton that he has earned a full scholarship. Fagnano was impressive as a passer and runner during the scrimmage.
Members of the coaching staffs from Colby College, Bowdoin College and Leavitt Area High School in Turner Center were among the spectators on hand watching the second of UMaine’s three preseason scrimmages. The final one will be at 10:05 a.m. Wednesday.