Five years ago, the names Cole and Wasilewski meant little to fans of University of Maine football.
And yet those were the names scrawled on two of the faxes that arrived on the Orono campus in February 2009, and defensive end Michael Cole wound up setting a school record for sacks while quarterback Marcus Wasilewski wound up leading the Black Bears to their first outright Colonial Athletic Association championship last fall.
On Wednesday, the first day a high school senior can sign a binding national letter of intent to play football at an NCAA institution, the university’s compliance office received signatures from 16 more future Black Bears.
“Across the board we were excited about the quality of the young man and the player that we recruited,” said Coach Jack Cosgrove, whose team is coming off its second NCAA tournament quarterfinal appearance in three years. “We were hoping to reap the benefit of the success we had in the fall, as it related to recruiting, and I think what was pleasing was when we evaluated and listed the young men by position, a lot of the guys at the top of the list were guys that ended up committing to us.”
The incoming class includes two from Maine – quarterback Ben Lucas of Cony High and South Paris defensive tackle Dexter Turner, who prepped at Cushing Academy after playing at Oxford Hills High.
Lucas, at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, is the most prolific high school quarterback in state history, having thrown for 7,700 yards and 89 touchdowns in three seasons.
“He’s a guy that’s been on our radar for a couple years now,” Cosgove said. “He had a fine junior year and came up and played in our seven-on-seven tournament this summer. … This was the place he envisioned himself, where he could see himself succeeding, and we agree with him.”
The Black Bears signed two quarterbacks last year and are bringing in another, besides Lucas, in this year’s class: Drew Belcher of Reading, Mass., who led his team to an unbeaten season in 2012.
Cosgrove and his staff considered Turner a year ago when he was at Oxford Hills but decided he wasn’t yet ready for Division I football. After putting on 20 to 25 pounds at prep school, Turner made a better impression this year.
“Not only with his play,” Cosgrove said, “but with his (desire) to be at Maine. To us, there’s a value in that. You want them to be here. With our system, the competitive nature of this place can spit you out. If you’re not fully committed, you won’t last. I could feel from Dexter that he wanted the challenge of being a Division I football player and he wanted to represent his state institution.”
Only one player from last year’s recruiting class of 22 saw game action in the fall, meaning the rest have four years of eligibility remaining.
Cosgrove said he’s excited to have that group competing for playing time in the fall, based on how well they did with the scout team.
“One of the top reasons for our success was how we practiced,” Cosgrove said. “I get a sense reading post-Super Bowl stuff on Seattle that they went out and practiced in a very spirited way during the week (leading up to Sunday’s victory) and that was true for us as well.”
Spring practice begins the second week of April and continues until the annual Jeff Cole Scrimmage on May 3. The current recruits bring Maine’s roster up to 92, three shy of the NCAA limit.
The rest of the incoming recruits, in alphabetical order: RB Darian Davis-Ray (Harrisburg, Pa.), DB Angelo Dawson (Egg Harbor Township, N.J.), DT Jamil Demby (Vineland, N.J.), DB Sinmisola Demuren (Mitchellville, Md.), DB Jeffrey DeVaughn (Folcroft, Pa.), DT Uchenna Egwuonwu (Union, N.J.), DB Darrius Hart (Toms River, N.J.), OT Cody Levy (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.), DB Mozai Nelson (Uniondale, N.Y.), OT Christopher Okupski (West Long Branch, N.J.), DT Andrew Stevens (Camden, N.J.), DE Connor Walsh (Milton, Mass.) and WR Micah Wright (Newark, N.J.).
Each of the 16 recruits paid a visit to campus in January.
“We don’t sign them unless they pass the Orono test,” Cosgrove said.
“They have to walk around in the cold and the snow and not complain about it.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: