Maine football coach Jack Cosgrove has seen this play out before.

A scrappy kid heads north from Massachusetts intent on earning a spot on the Black Bears’ defensive line. But first he needs to put on weight. Like 50 or 60 pounds.

By his junior year, bulging with muscle and desire, the kid has become a man, one of the best players on the team, an all-conference performer.

A decade ago it was Mike Devito who transformed from a 230-pound freshman to a senior captain so good that he had seven sacks as a nose guard. Devito, now at 298 pounds, is in his ninth season in the NFL as a defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Is Patrick Ricard on the same trajectory?

“That’s probably the best comparison I can make in terms of startling growth and development,” Cosgrove said of his junior defensive tackle. “He has the same ceiling.”

Ricard is up 55 pounds, to 280, since arriving in Orono from Spencer, Massachusetts, where he played linebacker at David Prouty High School. A tireless worker, he’s coming off a game against Rhode Island in which he was on the field for 68 of the 75 snaps, registering a team-high nine tackles and 1.5 sacks. He will look to build on that effort when Maine (1-2, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) visits No. 19 Richmond (2-1, 0-0) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

“I told our team Sunday if you want to watch somebody play their ass off for 60 minutes, watch Pat Ricard,” said Cosgrove, who called Ricard the best player on the field in that 27-17 win. “Rather than talk about it I said, ‘Just throw the tape on and watch Pat Ricard.’ ”

Ricard redshirted as a freshman and rotated between defensive end and defensive tackle the past two seasons. He has always been quick but needed the extra size to handle blockers on the interior of the line.

He and Darius Greene are called on to help stuff the opponents’ rushing game, which they did last week as the Rams ended up with minus-8 yards on the ground. Then comes the fun – passing downs. Greene exits the field while the Black Bears go to a three-man line and an extra linebacker – often Zach Hume – to rush from the outside.

Ricard hunkers down in between high-octane senior defensive ends Trevor Bates and Mike Kozlakowski. And they salivate.

“When offensive linemen see that (formation), we can tell they get a little bit intimidated by the speed,” Kozlakowski said. “The passing situations, it’s nice to see the quarterback drop back. It’s an indescribable feeling when you see the quarterback back there and you know you have an opening just to go after him.”

The Black Bears had six sacks against Rhode Island, and the line will need to be at its best again Saturday to protect a secondary that’s missing safeties Darrius Hart and Mozai Nelson, out with injuries. Richmond, which lost at Maine 33-20 a year ago largely because the Black Bears forced five turnovers, is a more balanced offense this season under new coordinator Charlie Fisher. The Spiders have rushed the ball 116 times while passing 87, a far cry from last year’s pass-heavy offense.

The run game figures to be especially vital for both teams because Saturday’s game is expected to be played in a steady rain with winds occasionally gusting over 40 mph.

Ricard knows the drill. Stop the run first, then the chase begins.

“I have to hit a certain gap. It’s mostly stunts, angling or slanting to that gap,” he said of his pass-rushing duties. “It’s very tiring doing it over and over again. But getting a sack or a (tackle for loss) is the biggest rush because it’s one of the hardest things to do, especially on third down.”

Ricard is remarkably flexible for a player his size. Cosgrove said he’s constantly amazed when he watches Ricard stretch, thinking he would be more at home among the wide receivers.

He’s also driven to excel, knowing he can’t take a back seat to his older brother, Christian, a former defensive back for Stony Brook.

“It’s been a real emphasis for myself to get people to know me, be an all-conference player,” Patrick Ricard said. “Because my brother was an all-conference player his junior year. So I have to get it because he got it. I cannot not get it.”

A few more games like his last one and he won’t have to worry.


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