November 8, 2013

UMaine football coach committed to conserving talent

Good things might come to freshmen football players who wait.

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ORONO — Ten weeks into the college football season, Jack Cosgrove looks over a depth chart pockmarked with injured players and then, several afternoons each week, sees healthy young men flying around the turf of Morse Field during practice, full of youth and vigor.

MAINE (8-1) at Albany (1-8)

WHEN: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

WHERE: Bob Ford Field, Albany, N.Y.

RADIO: WLOB-AM 1310

LIVESTREAM: UAlbanySports.com

MAINE OUTLOOK: The Black Bears are coming off a hard-fought 19-14 victory over Stony Brook in which they were outgained 313-258 and converted only 3 of 14 third downs. Still, they remain the CAA leader in that category with a 51.5 percent success rate. Maine has won 10 straight FCS games, dating back to last November. Another victory would make this the best start in program history. The last time Maine was 6-0 in league play it belonged to the Yankee Conference, in 1989. With at least three games remaining, QB Marcus Wasilewski has 2,251 passing yards, ninth on the school’s single-season list. He needs 872 more to break Warren Smith’s high-water mark, set in 2011. DE Michael Cole’s two sacks against Stony Brook gave him 28 for his career, surpassing by one half the mark set by Mike Denino ‘89.

ALBANY OUTLOOK: The Great Danes have won three of the past four meetings with Maine, including a 30-20 victory last fall in Orono and a 3-0 shutout two years ago, also in Orono. The Danes’ lone victory came against Colgate, 37-34, in the season’s second week. QB Will Fiacchi averages 203 passing yards. His favorite target is WR Kevin Chilis (40 catches, four TDs). RB Omar Osbourne (100.7 per game) is third in the CAA in rushing average. Albany is last in the CAA in third-down conversion rate (31.2 percent) and has given up a league-high 219 first downs. Opponents are averaging 469 yards of total offense. Coach Bob Ford is retiring after this season, his 44th at Albany.

– Glenn Jordan

The temptation to plug a hole or two with a freshman is real, but Cosgrove nearly always resists.

“It takes a tremendous amount of discipline not to play guys in the first year,” said Cosgrove, in his 21st season as head coach at the University of Maine. “Because as you get to the later part of the season, we’re pretty bare bones here. But you put a kid out on the field for one play, and he loses a season.”

Under NCAA rules, players are eligible for four seasons of competition, and usually have five years in which to exhaust that eligibility. The core of the team that has lifted Maine to such lofty heights this season – an 8-1 record, 5-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association and a No. 8 national ranking – is a group of seniors in their fifth fall on campus.

Quarterback Marcus Wasilewski, receivers Derrick Johnson, John Ebeling and Justin Perillo; offensive linemen Jeff Gakos, Joe Hook and Tyler Patterson; defensive end Michael Cole, linebacker Troy Eastman and defensive backs Kendall James and Jamal Clay all matriculated in Orono in 2009 but did not play a down their freshman year.

“You’re used to being on the field on both sides of the ball,” said freshman tight end Dakota Tarbox, who helped Thornton Academy win the Class A state title last November. “Now you’re only playing one side of the ball, and you’re not even getting on the field on Saturday.”

For home games, Tarbox suits up in his No. 45 jersey, warms up with the team and watches from the sidelines. When the Black Bears hit the road, as they will this Saturday against Albany (1-8), Tarbox and his fellow freshmen remain in Orono.

“It’s frustrating, but I’m definitely enjoying it,” Tarbox said. “I expected to come here and get myself on the field. It takes a while to realize that’s not how it works.”

The first rung of the college football ladder is the Scout Team. At practice, players gather behind an assistant coach holding up the diagram of a play favored by the upcoming opponent. They then run that play against Maine’s starting defense. The Scout Team defense also uses opposing schemes and coverages against Maine’s starting offense.

“That’s probably one of the reasons why we’ve been so successful, because the Scout Team has been giving us great looks,” said junior wide receiver Damarr Aultman.

Cosgrove and his staff are quick to praise Scout Team effort and quick to correct any lack thereof. Not only do the Black Bears recognize an outstanding player of the game on offense, defense and special teams after each victory, they honor a Scout Team player in each category.

Get used to this name: Vassili Grigorakos. He’s a freshman fullback with four Scout Team awards.

“Sometimes they give us a better look than we see in the games,” said junior strong safety Khari Al-Mateen. “It’s definitely a team effort, more of a team effort than people realize who are looking from the outside in.”

Upperclassmen make sure the Scout Team is celebrated rather than ostracized.

(Continued on page 2)

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