ORONO — Nigel Beckford isn’t built like a typical freshman. The work he’s put in in the weight room since he was an eighth-grader in Bridgeport, Connecticut, is evident.

The muscular Maine running back has been showing his youth on the football field, though, his eagerness to burst through a hole in the offensive line sometimes works against him.

He needs to grow up fast this week. With junior starter Nigel Jones out with an undisclosed injury – missing his third of six games this season – Beckford will get another chance to provide stability in a Black Bear backfield that sorely needs it.

“The main thing right now I think I need to improve on is pressing the hole more, being more patient, letting things develop,” Beckford said. “I see it and it’s there, but nothing’s developed yet. You’ve got to wait for it to develop, be patient, and that’s something I’m going to work on all week.”

Beckford has started twice for Maine (2-3, 1-1 Colonial Athletic Association), and the results haven’t been stellar. At Boston College on Sept. 20, with Jones sidelined by a concussion, he carried five times for 7 yards, and looked lost at times, prompting Coach Jack Cosgrove to limit his snaps. On Saturday, with Jones out again after an “upper body injury” suffered in practice last week, Beckford again got only five carries, this time picking up 22 yards in a 41-20 loss to Villanova.

In between those starts, with Jones in the lineup, Beckford had his finest game, scoring two first-half touchdowns while gaining 26 yards on eight carries in a win at Towson. Jones was active for that game, however, and Cosgrove said having an experienced back to lean on helped Beckford noticeably.

On Saturday, when Maine travels to Stony Brook (2-4, 1-1), Beckford and junior Isaiah Jones will need to carry the load against the league’s most rugged defense.

“They play an aggressive run front,” Cosgrove said. “We have to be able to establish some sort of run if we’re going to be able to win the football game.”

Maine gained only 59 yards rushing against Villanova. But there is reason for optimism, Cosgrove said, noting that an offensive line lacking in seniors has been showing improvement weekly.

Junior center Bruce Johnson is the leader up front. Lining up to his right is a player who may hold the key to Maine’s rushing success, fellow junior Daniel Carriker. At 6-foot-2, 295 pounds, he is one of the strongest athletes on the team and is coming off his best game, Cosgrove said.

“Physical run blocking has to be kind of his forte,” Cosgrove said. “He can not only get on to somebody, but he’s physically able to move them. We need more of that.”

Carriker, along with Johnson the only returning starters from last year’s offensive line, said he feels this year’s group is close to being as effective as last year’s. That unit featured three fifth-year seniors in Tyler Patterson, Jeff Gakos and Joe Hook, the latter two earning all-conference honors.

Cosgrove was glad to hear of Carriker’s opinion, noting he would welcome that kind of production this week. In the meantime, the line, which has freshmen Isaiah Brooks and Jamil Demby at the tackles, needs to develop a chemistry with fellow freshman Beckford.

“We just have to be more perfect as an offensive line. We have to be more precise in what we do,” Carriker said.

Beckford was highly recruited at Notre Dame High School, starting in his sophomore year. He had interest from schools like Boston College and Virginia. He committed to Maine after his senior season. The next day he got a call from Towson. He made the Tigers pay for that tardiness with a pair of touchdowns. That’s in the past now, though. Beckford needs to prove he can be a workhorse for Maine in Jones’ absence.

“He’s done a nice job for us, but a nice job doesn’t get you wins,” Cosgrove said. “We need a better level of performance. … It might be made a little bit more difficult by the opponent we’re playing.”

Beckford, at 5-9, 195 pounds, has the physical tools. The challenge has been learning the playbook and recognizing what opposing defenses are intending to do before the ball is snapped. That started to happen at Towson, he said.

“It felt a little easier, like everything was slowing down,” Beckford said.