ORONO — Jamil Demby, John Reddington, Christopher Mulvey, Isaiah Brooks, Cody Levy.

Those five might not have the most recognizable names on the University of Maine football team, even to the most ardent fans, but those linemen may be the most important players on the offense.

“They set the tone for everything,” said Coach Joe Harasymiak. “We will live or die by our offensive line this year on offense … and probably as a team.”

They are one of the team’s most experienced groups, with four returning starters surrounding Mulvey, a redshirt freshman center. Demby, a senior left tackle and a preseason first-team pick in the Colonial Athletic Association, and Brooks, a senior right guard, started as freshmen. Reddington, a senior left guard, and Levy, a junior right tackle, have started the last two seasons.

With redshirt freshman Chris Ferguson at quarterback, that experience up front is vital. It allows him confidence that the line is going to protect him – like it did for Dan Collins and Drew Belcher the last two years.

The Black Bears gave up just 14 sacks in 11 games last year and only 18 the year before. In a season-opening 24-23 loss at New Hampshire on Aug. 31, they allowed one sack, on the final frantic drive when they were in a pass-only, two-minute drill.

In its home opener at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Bryant, Maine faces a team that had five sacks last week in a 49-41 win over Division II Merrimack.

“I don’t have to worry too much with them,” Ferguson said of his linemen. “Just dropping back, knowing I can go through my reads and make a completion, it keeps me calm and collected back there. They play so hard, which is the biggest thing, and they all know what they’re doing.”

Harasymiak credits offensive line coach Brian Picucci with having the group ready every week. “I don’t worry about that,” he said. “They’re smart, they’ll pick up stuff, they’ll be prepared.”

And they’re big: Demby is 6-foot-5, 335 pounds; Reddington 6-4, 294; Mulvey 6-3, 291; Brooks 6-5, 295; Levy 6-6, 300.

“I feel like us up front, if we do a good job, we should win,” said Reddington. “We’ve got to clean up from last week a little bit, first-game things. But we feel we’re doing a good job, trying to help Ferg out as much as possible.

“If we can run the ball more, it will take pressure off Ferg and let the receivers thrive. We’ve just got to be a little cleaner, that’s all.”

Ferguson completed 23 of 44 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns against UNH. Maine rushed for 113 yards, but Reddington wants more.

“We just really need to focus and hone in on execution,” said Reddington. “We can be a very good team, we’ve just got to fine-tune things and push forward. We want to see us run the ball more, we want to be more efficient throughout the game. We want to really show the CAA that we’re a real team and to stop doubting us.”

That need-to-improve attitude doesn’t surprise offensive coordinator Liam Coen.

“It all starts up front, it’s always started up front,” he said. “Those guys anchor our whole offense. They’re our leaders. That’s where everything starts. I trust those guys. They are the hardest working, toughest, most disciplined, accountable group that we have in our program.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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