ORONO – If 2008 was the year of the running back for University of Maine football, then 2009 was the year of the passing game.

If things go as planned, 2010 will be the year both propel the Black Bears back to the postseason.

Five days into preseason football camp, Maine players and coaches spent Wednesday sharing expectations for the 2010 season at the team’s annual media day.

Among the players on the field:

A healthy Jared Turcotte, the team’s leading rusher in 2008, who spent 2009 injured.

A pair of talented quarterbacks competing for the starting job: Warren Smith, who is coming off a foot injury, and former Portland High standout Chris Treister.

And 17 returning starters, for a total of 41 players who saw significant playing time.

“We will be more of a complete football team this year,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove, whose team went 5-6 last season, 4-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association. “I swear I got more compliments off our 5-6 than 8-3 the previous year. It’s entertaining. But we’re going to run the ball. We’ll be more complete.”

Maine opens the regular season against Albany at home Sept. 2.

Competition for several starting positions will unfold in the next three weeks, quarterback being the most notable.

“There’s no timetable. We’ll let them battle,” said Cosgrove.

“We like Warren’s makeup and development. He had to battle through that foot (injury). We put Treister out and he hits 41 of 45 passes (against Rhode Island). That’s hard to do in a room playing catch.

“It will work itself out.”

Some eight to 10 players will be whittled down to five on the offensive line, a unit that struggled to find a starting five last year.

“I feel like competition is the best thing for us,” said tailback Derek Session. “It brings the best out. It’s a big battle.”

The return of Turcotte, who rushed for 625 yards in 2008, is expected to give Maine a boost.

“A good running game opens up the passing game,” said Smith. “Last year defenses just backed up and took our options away. Now we might throw less, but pick up more yardage.”

Maine returns significant experience on defense. All four defensive backs, three linebackers and four linemen started games last year.

“As a team our expectations are very high,” said cornerback Dominic Cusano. “Last year things went south but we are almost the same team, but with more experience.”

Ultimately, Maine players believe they are more experienced and willing to grind this season.

“We went into last year thinking we were entitled to things,” said Turcotte.

“This year guys are willing to put the work in. We realize nothing is going to be handed to us. You can see everyone is on the same page.”

Maine has a tough schedule but will play some key games on home turf.

The Black Bears host Football Championship Subdivision semifinalist William & Mary on Sept. 25, nemesis New Hampshire on Oct. 2, and defending FCS champion Villanova on Oct. 16.

These games come after a second trip to the Carrier Dome to face Syracuse on Sept. 18.

“To be the best, you have to beat the best,” said Turcotte. “We’re trying to win a championship. We’ll play anybody on any day.”

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]