Gazette Feature: Shultis To Compete For QB Job
By MATT VAUTOUR Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer
AMHERST - Ian Shultis didn't sleep much on the overnight flight from Los Angeles to Hartford, Conn., last week that brought the southern California quarterback to the East Coast for the first time in his life.
"It was exciting. I was tired. I didn't catch any sleep," the 6-foot-2, 200-pound, 19-year-old said Tuesday, sitting in the bleachers at McGuirk Stadium looking at the empty football field in front of him. "I was thinking about what it was going to be like."
He's hoping that field is the site of a promising future. The junior college transfer from Thousand Oaks, Calif., is expected to compete for the University of Massachusetts' starting quarterback job when preseason camp begins Sunday.
Until then he's settling in, meeting some of his teammates who are already on campus and watching tape.
"I'm just concentrating on the mental aspect of things right now. I'm a little behind because I wasn't here for spring practice. I'm watching film and trying to pick up stuff. I'm not looking too far ahead. I'm just ready to start camp," he said. "Everyone has treated me well. I'm happy. I've met a lot of good guys and we've thrown the ball around. It's what I expected it to be like."
Shultis didn't get much recruiting interest coming out of high school. At Thousand Oaks High School, Shultis piloted an offense that featured Hawaii-bound running back John Lister. The team's success running the ball limited the need to showcase Shultis' passing skills, but he led Thousand Oaks to at least nine wins in three of his four seasons as a starter. As a senior he completed 109 of 182 passes for 1,527 yards. He threw 14 touchdowns and four interceptions.
"He's a great leader. He's a first-one-in, last-to-leave type of kid," Thousand Oaks coach Mike Leibin said. "He's a vocal leader and he's one of the hardest workers, which makes it easier to be a leader."
Shultis opted for Moorpark Junior College, a southern California school, in hopes of improving enough as a player enough to earn him a Division I scholarship offer. He became the Raiders' starter in the fourth game of 2009, his freshman season, and produced standout numbers. He completed 214 of 399 passes for 2,243 yards, 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He broke school records for touchdown passes in a game (five) and passing yards in a game (432) along the way. He was an all-league selection in the Southern California Football Association.
But all of those numbers were dampened by the fact that Moorpark was winless, finishing the season 0-10 as the Raider defense allowed 43.9 points per game.
"I was just trying to play my game and to do my best. But I was frustrated every week," Shultis said. "In the end I broke a couple records, but our overall record was all that matters. I was disappointed. There wasn't a break after the season. We got started right after the season to get better."
He expected to be back at Moorpark for a second go-around before UMass coach Kevin Morris came calling. Because his high school grades and standardized tests were good enough to make him eligible for Division I coming out of high school, Shultis didn't need to complete his associates degree before transferring to a four-year college.
New Mexico State and San Jose State, both Bowl Subdivision schools showed interest in Shultis, but they encouraged him to return to Moorpark for another season. UMass offered not only a chance to enroll right away, but an opportunity to compete for playing time immediately.
"Coach Morris called me in the spring. We got talking and I liked what he had to say. He liked what I had to say I guess and it worked out," Shultis said. "I was looking for a good program that fit my needs that I would be excited about being at. UMass came along and it worked out."
The Minutemen were thin under center during spring practice with only two scholarship quarterbacks - Kyle Havens, who started 10 games as a junior in 2009, and seldom-used reserve Octavious Hawkins. Incoming freshman Brandon Hill is highly-touted but he'd be an unlikely starter as UMass hasn't played a true freshman at quarterback in over 10 years. At the end of the spring Hawkins elected to transfer further thinning the pool.
"When Octavious left we were looking for an older, more mature kid and Ian fit the bill," Morris said. "It was a good match. He's a sharp kid. He takes his academics seriously. He's very mature and well-grounded. Now let's see how he performs on the field."
Even before Hawkins' departure, the Minutemen were looking to at least add depth and perhaps create competition for the starting job with Havens, who struggled during his first season at UMass after transferring from Diablo Valley Junior College (Calif.). Morris said camp will start with no No. 1 quarterback.
"Every position is wide open and quarterback as well," Morris said. "We have to get better at quarterback. We have to improve the level of play at that position."