ORONO — The trash-talking began even before the hitting. After two weeks of noncontact drills, the University of Maine football players were about to hit.

“It felt good to fly around with the team, just set the tone,” said cornerback Najee Goode. “The one thing I wanted to do was bring my intensity all day, let it rub off on the younger guys, so they can see how you’ve got to play it all the time. You can’t act like they’re your friends out there.”

The Black Bears brought their second week of spring practice to a close Saturday. Maine will practice three more weeks, ending with the annual Jeff Cole memorial spring game at 4 p.m. May 6 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

By that time the annual quarterback challenge will be in full swing. With Dan Collins graduated, Maine’s quarterback position is open again.

Junior Drew Belcher and freshman Chris Ferguson are joined by transfer grad student Max Staver, who began his career at Florida, and also played at Tyler Junior College and Houston Baptist.

The three pretty much evenly split the 51 snaps the Black Bears took Saturday, with Belcher stepping in with the first group, followed by Ferguson and Staver.

Liam Coen, Maine’s offensive coordinator, said not to read anything into that progression.

“We will evaluate after this scrimmage and probably adjust their reps off this scrimmage,” he said. “Next week might be similar rotations but different number of reps. All three have done nice things throughout the last two weeks.”

Staver, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder, made the day’s most eye-opening throw – a touchdown pass to Jared Osumah that traveled about 60 yards in the air – and made some other good reads.

“He was impressive,” said Harasymiak. “And Drew and Chris were solid, too.”

“Max made some nice plays, which was good to see,” said Coen. “I’ve seen Chris and Drew compete in those situations. It was the first time seeing Max in this competitive situation and I think he took a step forward.”

Staver, 22, said he’s getting a better grasp of the offense each day – it’s similar in terminology and principles used at Florida. He also said playing full contact brings out his best.

“That’s when my adrenaline takes over,” he said. “I have my best periods in practice during team drills.”

Staver also is trying not to put any pressure on himself.

“Whenever there’s a transfer quarterback there’s always a little bit of awkwardness and I think we understand that,” said Staver. “I think we’re all just out here competing against ourselves, trying to be the best we can be, controlling what we can control. That’s all you can do.”

Belcher, who redshirted last season and has two years of eligibility remaining, has been through quarterback battles with Collins the last three years.

“When you get to this level of football you’re going to have to compete each and every spring; you’re going to have to compete each and every fall,” he said. “Someone’s trying to get your job so you’ve just got to bring it every day. It’s a good thing. It makes everyone sharp.”

They all know the quarterback competition will go deep into training camp. And they’re thriving on it.

“You’ve got to stay locked in every day,” said Ferguson. “Each one of us is trying to out-work the other to be the guy. At the end of the day it will be the guy who works the hardest and commands the huddle the best.”

NOTES: Receivers Micah Wright (ankle), Jaleel Reed (thumb surgery) and Earnest Edwards (thumb surgery) didn’t participate, and Marquise Adams stopped after some drills and had his right knee wrapped. Cornerback Manny Patterson had a walking boot on his right foot (ankle) and safety Jason Matovu was on crutches after suffering a right leg injury in practice. Safety Jeffrey DeVaughn wore the red no-contact jersey with a shoulder injury. Wide receiver Hunter Smith, defensive end Michael Supp, and offensive linemen Sam Cooper and Dan Burrows were also out. All are expected to return during spring football or be ready for training camp … Junior defensive lineman Uchenna Egwuonwu is wearing the No. 9 jersey traditionally worn by the toughest player on defense. It’s handed down by the previous owner of the jersey, which was Darius Greene, who was given it by Trevor Bates of the New England Patriots. “He’s got some big shoes to fill,” said Harasymiak. “I’m looking forward to him stepping up the next two years.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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