So, Maine football Coach Jack Cosgrove finally revealed who will start at quarterback Saturday in the season opener at Boston College. It will be Dan Collins again, back from the shoulder surgery that ended his sophomore season in Week 6. That was the biggest question looming over the Black Bears this summer. But here are five things I’ll be keeping an eye on Saturday:

 Quarterback, of course. Namely, does naming Collins the starter mean Cosgrove is giving him a long leash, or is Belcher waiting in the wings? Will both play Saturday, and going forward? Collins is two years older and a better passer. But I was impressed with the improvement Belcher made in that aspect at practices and scrimmages I attended last month. In fact, Belcher looked to be the better of the two as recently as last week, although to be fair, Collins appeared to have the edge in the scrimmage the week before that. What does it all mean? Is Cosgrove really excited about Collins’ potential, or did he just ultimately hand his team’s most important job to the more established player? It’s difficult for me to see this as a vote of confidence from the coach. If it was, why wait so long to make it? But Cosgrove certainly isn’t alone in keeping the lid on his starting quarterback. It seems to be a trend in college football this fall. Even Urban Meyer is doing it at Ohio State, and his defending national champions are choosing between two guys who are likely to be high NFL draft picks. What is clear is that Collins and/or Belcher need to be markedly better than last year for the offense to take a big step forward and complement an excellent defense. We’ll start to get some answers in that regard Saturday.

At wide receiver, I’ll be curious to see how many snaps Jordan Dunn gets, and in what role. Is he truly being groomed as an outside receiver? He will be supplemented by a talented trio of younger players, any of whom could emerge as stars, although none have shown the consistency needed to do so yet. Micah Wright scored Maine’s lone touchdown at BC a year ago, before an injury ended his freshman year. He could be special. Jared Osumah made some big downfield catches this summer, and could be the deep threat the team needs. And Jaleel Reed has shown a knack for getting open, if not for always hanging on to the ball. Then, there are seniors like Portland’s own John Hardy and Justin Flores, who could really give the quarterbacks a lift by being dependable, sure-handed options in the middle of the field. Who, if anyone, is going to be the next Damarr Aultman for the Black Bears?

I’m a believer in Nigel Beckford. He looks like someone who will have a lock on the starting tailback spot for the next three years. He’s strong, fast, and shiftier than you might think. But he’s also human. So the move of linebacker Cabrinni Goncalves to the backup tailback spot is a wonderful development for those of us who write about the team, and I would think the fans as well. Goncalves is still listed as the starter at the “rover” linebacker spot, where he has been excellent for two full seasons. Can he really carry a full workload there and also get 8-10 carries a game to spell Beckford? It’s clear he’s going to play both ways, but how much of each, and how effectively? This is great drama.

Maine’s defense is established everywhere but safety, where sophomores and redshirt freshmen will get their chance to prove they belong. Darrius Hart at strong safety is the surest bet. He’s solid. At free safety, Jason Matovu and Sinmisola Demuren look to be in a job-share situation. Cosgrove told me this week that he has been impressed with both all summer, and they will get ample playing time. Then there’s the track star, Mozai Nelson, who described himself as “a football player with speed.” In other words, this is his first choice for a sport and being a sprinter on the track team is a nice sideline activity for the spring. Nelson’s the backup to Hart, and he could be exceptional. The fact that they’ll all be getting their feet wet against a BCS team that will surely be trying to exploit them makes for great theater. It will be exciting to watch them grow together, and to see if they can learn without making a lot of mistakes.

Who will punt? I know most people probably don’t care as much about this one, but if Sean Decloux can show that he’s got all-conference ability at both punting and place-kicking, that’s a great story. Or if junior James DeMartini wins the punting job after two years in exile, that may be an even greater story. Ideally, of course, fans never even want to see their team’s punter, because that alone indicates that the offense has failed in a sense. But it’s a very important job on a football team, and I can’t be the only one looking forward to seeing how it unfolds. Or can I?

Finally, a couple of miscellaneous notes before I head south in the morning. I focused my story for tomorrow’s Press Herald around defensive ends Trevor Bates and Michael Kozlakowski, which is why I didn’t mention them above. They could be the most dominant pairing at that position in UMaine history, right? I mentioned that to Cosgrove, and he said, “ask me at the end of the year.” Fair enough. There’s a long way to go. And, speaking of Cosgrove, I couldn’t get him to comment this summer on whether any players have been suspended for the opening game. You’ll recall that last year, we didn’t learn that Goncalves and Arthur Williams has been suspended for the opener for the dreaded “code of conduct violation” until the game began. My sense is that there are player(s) who won’t be allowed to suit up, but Cosgrove didn’t want to tip his hand before kickoff. So stay tuned. I’ll tweet that out tomorrow as soon as I learn anything, in the event that there even are suspensions.


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