Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove has surrounded himself with a team that understands what it’s like to play big-name opponents, including giving Pittsburgh a scare last season, and will be seeking its third NCAA playoff appearance in five years. The Black Bears open Saturday at Boston College.
ORONO - A long-standing tradition with the University of Maine football team is the Senior Will.
On offense: Maurice McDonald
On defense: Donte Dennis
THREE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE
Marcus Wasilewski, QB, junior, 6-1, 205: In 2011, only saw action on special teams. Trying to fill the void left by three-year starter and prolific passer Warren Smith
Maurice McDonald, WR, senior, 6-0, 180: In 2011, All-conference first team with 58 catches for 591 yards and five scores. In 2010, 12 catches for 135 yards.
David Hood, RB, sophomore, 5-10, 190: In 2011, rushed for 326 yards and five scores on 69 carries. Also caught four passes for 32 yards and made eight tackles on special teams.
THREE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE
Donte Dennis, LB, senior, 6-0, 220: In 2011, sat out as a medical redshirt. In 2010, was team MVP, starting all 11 games and leading team with 108 tackles.
Michael Cole, DE, junior, 6-2, 250: In 2011, started 13 games and made 49 tackles with 15 tackles for loss and a CAA-leading 11.0 sacks. In 2010, was team defensive rookie of the year.
Darlos James, CB, senior, 5-10, 175: In 2011, made 48 tackles and also had four interceptions. No relation to junior Kendall James, Maine's other returning starter at cornerback.
At the end of a season, a player who has used up his eligibility is expected to pass on to a younger teammate something tangible, something funny and something from the heart. Often the item is his jersey number.
"There's a tremendous sense of pride in who gets their shirt," said Coach Jack Cosgrove. "It's become a huge tradition."
So safety Jerron McMillian, now with the Green Bay Packers, bequeathed his No. 1 to linebacker Donte Dennis, the leader of this year's defensive unit.
Raibonne Charles, a Windham native who became a four-year starter on the defensive line, passed his No. 92 to Trevor Bates, an unheralded freshman from Westbrook who has yet to play a down in college.
On Saturday, Bates will be a starting defensive end as the Black Bears open their season at Boston College. Game time is 1 p.m. at Alumni Field in Chestnut Hill, Mass., with ESPN3 televising it.
"This was one of those feel-good moments for me, was his development," Cosgrove said of Bates, who moved up on the depth chart with an impressive training camp. "I get a rush out of elevating guys and giving them more scholarship money because they've earned it."
Bates is one of several first-time starters on both sides of the ball for Maine, which is coming off a 9-4 season and looking for its third NCAA playoff appearance in five years, an accomplishment unmatched in school history.
The Black Bears open with three nonconference opponents (at Bryant and hosting Albany are the others) before beginning their Colonial Athletic Association schedule.
Junior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski and sophomore David Hood are taking over from the prolific tandem of Warren Smith and Pushaun Brown, a 3,000-yard passer and a 1,000-yard runner, respectively.
The interior line and receiving corps is loaded with veterans, including wideouts Maurice McDonald and Damarr Aultman, and tight end Justin Perillo, the three leading pass catchers from last fall.
"We're still growing as a team right now," said senior left tackle Josh Spearin, a four-year starter from Limington. "We've still got players developing. We've still got people who are messing up on some assignments. But we're getting really close to being a finished product."
Spearin, senior guard Chris Howley, and juniors Jeff Gakos (guard) and Garret Williamson (center) are returning starters, and right tackle Joe Hook, a junior, started in 2010 before missing last season because of injury.
On defense, Dennis returns from Tommy John surgery as a fifth-year senior to anchor a unit experienced at linebacker, cornerback and defensive end, but relatively untested up the middle. The safeties (sophomore Khari Al-Mateen and junior Jamal Clay) and interior defensive linemen (senior Kris Enslen, sophomores Matt Wilson and Devin Clark, junior Alban Dedvujak, and grad student David Toriola) are new.
"I'm excited about our (defensive) line," said Dennis, who led the team in tackles in 2010 and 2009. "I feel like they're going to keep blockers off us linebackers so we can make some plays."
Cornerbacks Darlos James and Kendall James (no relation), linebackers Troy Russell, Troy Eastman and Dennis, and defensive ends Michael Cole and Doug Alston all have significant experience, as does place-kicker Brian Harvey.
Boston College opened Saturday with a 41-32 loss at home to Miami before a crowd of more than 39,000. A member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which sent eight members to bowl games last season, Boston College is allowed more scholarships (85 to 63) and full-time assistant coaches (10 to 6) than Maine and its Football Championship Subdivision brethren.
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