ORONO – The University of Maine football team is weaker at one of its typically strong positions entering Saturday’s game at James Madison.

Black Bears Coach Jack Cosgrove said tight end Derek Buttles, who injured his knee in a 31-15 win Sept. 17 at Albany, underwent reconstructive ACL surgery Wednesday.

Buttles, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound redshirt senior, will miss the rest of the season.

“It’s a huge loss for us,” Cosgrove said.

Buttles is the second tight end Maine has lost this season. Jeff Falvey, a junior, missed Maine’s first four games because of an ACL injury.

Redshirt sophomore Justin Perillo and freshman Cody Simcox are Maine’s remaining tight ends.

“(Tight end) has gone from one of our main strengths to still one of our good positions, but our depth has been compromised,” Cosgrove said.

Buttles played in 11 games in 2010, catching 27 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown, and was an all-Colonial Athletic Association second-team selection.

This season, he played in three games, making 10 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown.

In four games this season, Perillo is second on the team in receiving with 14 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown. In last Saturday’s 31-17 win over No. 13 Delaware, he caught four passes for 62 yards.

Perillo is expected to start Saturday when Maine, ranked 19th in the nation in The Sports Network/Fathead.com top 25 poll, plays at No. 7 James Madison at 3:30 p.m. in Harrisonburg, Va.

“For Justin, it puts a burden on him as far as reps go,” Cosgrove said. “But Justin has really emerged as a really important piece of the offense, sooner rather than later.

“Now, Justin’s got to be the guy at tight end. That’s an important part of our offense. Cody Simcox gets advanced even faster and, quite honestly, I don’t know of any freshmen who are playing in that position in our league.”

Cosgrove would not comment on whether Maine would petition the NCAA to grant Buttles a sixth year of eligibility.

“It’s kind of a wait-and-see thing,” Cosgrove said. “It’s not automatic.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into that.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: rlenzi