ORONO – Health problems have plagued Maine’s offensive line this week, putting the unit’s depth to the test.

The offense entered last Saturday’s game at Syracuse with injuries to the Spearin brothers: Josh, the starting left tackle, and Matt, the backup left guard. Both are former Bonny Eagle High standouts.

Just one play into the game, left guard Matt Barber was taken off the field and may need knee surgery. His injury will be reevaluated over the weekend.

“That was not good for him and us,” said Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove. “Had Matt (Spearin) been on the trip, he would’ve been in the game there. Those two have been battling at guard.”

Cosgrove said Matt Spearin has been practicing all week and is likely to return to the lineup on Saturday against No. 8 William & Mary in Maine’s Colonial Athletic Association opener.

Josh Spearin is less likely to play in the game, but should return soon.

“We’ll have him at some point, but I don’t anticipate this weekend,” said Cosgrove.

That provides a chance for several backups who battled during preseason to get significant time.

“You have to psyche yourself up and be ready,” said Steve Shea, who filled in for Barber at guard against Syracuse. “I think everyone on the offensive line does as much as they can.”

As a team, said Shea, Maine needs to be prepared.

“We definitely have to step our game up,” he said. “From here on out it only gets harder. William & Mary has a very solid defense with great athletes.”

Maine lost 38-14 to Syracuse, its only Football Bowl Subdivision opponent of the season.

The Black Bears appeared headed for an upset until poor execution plagued the offense to close the first half, followed by discipline problems in the secondary during the second half.

“We’re coming off a disappointing loss, but 24 hours later we were bearing down on our next opponent,” said Shea.

Maine now plays eight straight conference games, with New Hampshire, Delaware, Villanova, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Towson and James Madison on the schedule after William & Mary.

Six of the eight are ranked in the top 25 in the Football Championship Subdivision.

NOTES: This week’s team captains are Jared Turcotte, Dom Cusano and Levi Ervin. … The game will be the first meeting with William & Mary since Maine’s 21-20 loss at Alfond Stadium in 2007.

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

[email protected]