During spring football practice a year ago, University of Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove was dealing with five new assistant coaches, an unsettled quarterback situation and the final year of his contract.
Now, as the Black Bears prepare to wrap up 15 days of practice with the ninth annual Jeff Cole spring scrimmage Saturday at Alfond Stadium, the picture is clearer.
With the exception of defensive line coach Dennis Dottin-Carter, who took a job at Delaware under new Blue Hens Coach Dave Brock, the staff returns intact.
Marcus Wasilewski will enter his senior year as the incumbent quarterback after directing the Black Bears through a 5-6 season that included a 4-4 record in the Colonial Athletic Association.
In February, Cosgrove signed a three-year contract extension that will bring him into his third decade as head coach at his alma mater.
“Last spring there were a lot of questions marks,” Cosgrove said. “This spring we feel a lot better about going into the fall.”
Graduation will open big holes in the offensive and defensive lines, but Cosgrove likes what he’s seen.
Jeff Gakos and Joe Hook return on offense, and Bruce Johnson and Dan Carriker each saw action. On defense, veterans Erwin Roach and Mike Kozlakowski are joined by soon-to-be sophomores Darius Greene and Pat Ricard.
One position change has a Westbrook native, Trevor Bates, moving from end to middle linebacker.
“It’s a pretty big change,” Cosgrove said. “But he has all the attributes to play the position. He’s a big, thick, tall, athletic-looking linebacker.”
Defensive end Michael Cole, who led the conference in sacks last fall despite suffering a season-ending knee injury in his fifth game, is on track to return for his senior year.
“He’s not scrimmaging or anything but he’s way ahead of schedule,” Cosgrove said of Cole’s rehabilitation. “The reports from the training room and from the doctors are glowing.”
Cole has 21 sacks in his collegiate career, 61/2 shy of Maine’s all-time leader, Mike Denino, who played from 1986-89. He is not related to Jeff Cole, the former UMaine assistant coach who died in 2004 after a long battle with cancer.
Athletic Director Steve Abbott returned to Orono on Thursday from Naples, Fla., where he attended the American Hockey Coaches Association convention and the Hockey East annual meetings.
Abbott is working with a seven-person search committee to fill the vacancy created when the university bought out the last year of men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead’s contract last month.
“The Maine job has certainly garnered national attention,” Abbott said.
“It was on everybody’s radar screen.”
Abbott said he has reached out to potential coaches and has received inquiries, and the committee met Thursday to review what he described as a talented and capable pool of candidates.
The committee was given two months to winnow the field — “It could be two, it could be six,” Abbott said — but he expects a new coach to be in place before then.
One of those candidates is interim coach Bob Corkum, who earlier this week was named head coach for the U.S. under-18 team that will compete in the Ivan Hlinka memorial tournament in August in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Corkum, who played at Maine from 1985-89, has been an assistant in Orono since 2008. He was an assistant on the 2012 under-18 team and head coach of the 2011 under-17 team that won the Five Nations tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Next winter’s hockey schedule includes another Frozen Fenway appearance.
The Black Bears are scheduled to play Boston University at Fenway Park as part of a Jan. 11 doubleheader that begins with Northeastern against UMass-Lowell.
Catcher Mike Connolly is one of the 25 finalists for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award, bestowed annually by the College Baseball Hall of Fame on the Division I player who performs best on the mound and in the field.
Connolly is batting .333 with a home run and 12 RBI in 99 at-bats, also sporting a 4-3 record with a 1.65 ERA in 10 pitching appearances (seven starts), and holding opponents to a .202 batting average.
In Wednesday’s 11-1 victory against the University of Maine at Farmington, Connolly played all nine positions.
He started at second base before moving to shortstop, third base, first base, all three outfield positions, pitching to one batter in the seventh and catching the eighth before sitting out the ninth inning.
Maine (27-17) leads the America East standings by 11/2 games over Albany, where the Black Bears are scheduled to play three games this weekend.
Shortstop Michael Fransoso stole his 16th base in 18 attempts last weekend to become the school’s career leader with 70.
Mark Sweeney, who played from 1988-91 for the Black Bears and went on to become a major leaguer for 14 seasons, held the old record.
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: