ORONO — Doug Nash saw the football spiraling toward him and one thought flashed through his mind.

Drop this, and they may never throw me another pass.

“That’s the offensive lineman’s dream right there,” said Nash, a University of Maine junior who, until last week, always played interior line.

He was a big kid so he blocked. It was that way in youth football, at Leavitt High in Turner and when he arrived in Orono.

But Nash also played basketball. He can jump well enough to dunk. That he stands 6-foot-5 is an advantage, of course, but his high school teammate, Matt Pellerin, now a Black Bears teammate, said Nash is “good at all the little things, sports-wise.”

The Maine coaching staff noticed and when injuries struck their top two tight ends last fall, Nash was asked to take a few reps at tight end, just in case.

Justin Perillo, the third tight end, blossomed into a superb receiver and this summer was named a preseason All-American by the College Sporting News.

Perillo is back for his senior season, but a surplus of linemen coupled with the need for a capable backup at tight end prompted Coach Jack Cosgrove to move Nash to tight end, switching his number from 65 to 45.

He worked harder with conditioning this summer, shedding 30 pounds to get to 265. A forestry major, Nash got a head start on the task with a two-week camp last May in Acadia National Park, working in the woods and living in a tent.

“So I came back already a few pounds down and didn’t even realize it,” he said.

Forestry is actually Nash’s third major at Maine. He tried chemical engineering and mechanical engineering before landing in the woods, so this transition stuff is nothing new.

“Nash can catch the ball,” Cosgrove said. “He’s really done a nice job.”

And that was before Nash went out and grabbed a 4-yard pass Tuesday from quarterback Marcus Wasilewski for the only offensive touchdown in Maine’s final formal intrasquad scrimmage before opening the season Sept. 8 at Boston College.

“I was kind of surprised at first,” Nash said. “The (defensive) guys on the team know me and some may think I’m still playing tackle. I think it still confuses them a little bit, but I was able to sneak out there and catch it.”

The offensive linemen, naturally, were the first to greet him and join in the celebration. It was one of the few highlights for an offense that was resting a few regulars, including Perillo and wide receiver Maurice McDonald.

“I think we wanted to get a look at a couple of the guys who we call backup (regulars) on the depth chart,” Wasilewski said. “If someone like Maurice McDonald needs a break, who’s going to go in for him?

“It was a good opportunity for those guys to get reps, to watch the film and get their own corrections and make themselves better players.”

Maine’s defense forced several fumbles and blocked a field-goal attempt that Kendall James returned 70 yards for a touchdown.

“It was not the crispest operation,” Cosgrove said. “As a result the defense showed themselves in a positive light. When the offense is struggling, you’ve got to give the defense credit.”

One defender Cosgrove is particularly high on is another Maine player, defensive end Trevor Bates of Westbrook, a redshirt freshman who is competing “for a ton of playing time,” Cosgrove said.

“He’s had as big an impact as any kid in the program right now. We’re excited about what he’s done.”

Last year Bates paid his dues on the scout team. He traveled to away games, worked hard and hit the weights hard this summer, adding 20 pounds to reach his current 245.

“I wanted to prove that being from Maine, I can still compete with people from (New) Jersey and New York,” Bates said. “Hopefully and with hard work, I can make a name for myself and eventually get into the starting rotation.”

The only Maine native who is a returning starter is senior left tackle Josh Spearin of Limington. Pellerin, who practiced with the team last fall after transferring from Maine Maritime Academy, was competing for the starting nose tackle job until injuring his knee Saturday.

An MRI exam Tuesday revealed a torn MCL rather than a torn ACL, which left Pellerin wearing a smile as well as a brace.

“I thought I was going to be out the whole season so this is great news,” he said. “They said I should be out three to six weeks. Hopefully more toward three weeks so I’ll be ready for conference play.”

Maine’s first Colonial Athletic Association game is scheduled for Sept. 29 against Villanova in Orono.

 

NOTES: The team will hold its annual “Meet the Bears” night at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Morse Field, welcoming youth football players for a free clinic with posters and autographs. … Two members of the 2011 team, wide receiver Derek Session and safety Trevor Coston, were among recent cuts by Buffalo and Chicago as NFL teams pare their rosters in preparation for their seasons. … A Philadelphia scout watched Tuesday’s scrimmage. A Washington scout visited Orono over the weekend.

 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH