September 13, 2007

Ford Looks to Build on Success, Lead Offense

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With the Red searching for its first Ivy League title under Jim Knowles’ four-year tenure as head coach, it can take solace in the fact that the most important position on the field — quarterback — is in good hands. Junior Nathan Ford will return as Cornell’s starting quarterback in 2007 after putting up solid numbers throughout his sophomore season. Ford is an exceptionally gifted athlete who has the arm strength, accuracy and elusiveness in the pocket to potentially earn All-Ivy honors.
After playing sparingly during his freshman season behind first team All-Ivy quarterback Ryan Kuhn, Ford took over the starting spot as a sophomore and quickly proved himself as an athlete and decision-maker. Overall, he threw for 1,417 passing yards, completed 55.4 percent of his passes, ran for 345 yards and scored a combined 14 touchdowns (eight passing, six rushing). He led the Red to a 5-5 (3-4) overall record and a fourth place finish in the Ivy League.
Ford ranked 57th nationally in total offense (176.2 ypg.) and 58th in the country in passing efficiency (118.53). But his athletic prowess does not end there. Last spring, he also starred on the baseball team as a third baseman and catcher, earning second team All-Ivy honors.
“I think you’re going to see Nathan blossom this year,” said head coach Jim Knowles. “He is a special athlete and a special kid.”
Perhaps even more importantly than Ford’s own talents, however, are the pieces that have fallen into place around him. Cornell instituted a new, explosive West Coast style offensive system under first year offensive coordinator Bruce Barnum, which, according to head coach Jim Knowles, should play to Ford’s strengths as a player.
“He is very cerebral and is a throwing quarterback by nature. So I think he is going to do very well under this system.”
Ford agreed with his coach, claiming that he is more comfortable in the new system.
“The new system is awesome; I’m really excited about it because I’m more of a drop back guy than a runner,” he said. “I actually grew up running the West Coast offense in high school, so I guess it is my bread and butter. … I like to make quick, short passes and let my wide receivers make plays.”
Ford’s accuracy — completing 55.4 percent of his passes last season — coupled with senior Like Siwula’s running abilities should give the Red’s receivers a chance to make more plays than ever. This is especially true given that Steve Liuzza, last year’s backup quarterback and one of the team’s most dynamic and exciting playmakers, has made a transition to wide receiver for 2007.
According to his teammates, Ford’s intangibles as the leader of the offensive unit seem to be progressing as well.
“He has started to take over the huddle more and has a little bit of a swagger now,” said four-year starting center Ted Sonnenberg. “I like to see that out of him.”
Sophomore wide receiver Bryan Walters agreed with his teammate.
“I wouldn’t pick any other quarterback in this league to lead us down the field,” he said. “He’s our leader out there.”
If Ford goes down, Cornell will rely on sophomore Ben Ganter, who led the junior varsity team as a freshman. An All-State pick at State College Area HS in State College, Pa., Ganter possesses all of the athletic tools and the intelligence to lead the Red if needed.
“Ganter has improved a lot from last year; he is right there,” Ford said.