ORONO — Kenny Doak came to the University of Maine last fall as a five-star high school kicking recruit.

Nick Charlton, then the Black Bears’ special teams coach, recruited him out of Central Bucks West High in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, to hopefully solve UMaine’s kicking problems of the previous couple of years.

But Doak, like many freshmen, struggled. In his first game he missed two field goals (one was blocked) as well as a fourth-quarter PAT in a 24-23 loss to New Hampshire. In his next game he had two PATs blocked. He was then replaced by Brandon Briggs.

But Doak spent the winter trying to get better. Friday night he capped a strong spring practice by hitting 2 of 3 field goals, from 45 and 42 yards, and all three PAT kicks in Maine’s 14th annual Jeff Cole Memorial Spring Game at Alfond Stadium. Maine’s offense won the scrimmage over its defense, 38-35.

“He’s gotten better,” said Charlton, now Maine’s offensive coordinator. “He had a little hip issue last year and fought through injuries. He’s a guy who’s got a lot more confidence now. And you can tell. He’s been very, very consistent.

“He’s been better in our scrimmages, too, which is encouraging. You can do it in practice but you’ve got to do it in game situations, too. At the end of the day we feel he’s become reliable.”

Doak knew what he had to do to improve this year.

“I think a big thing for me was just improving my height on my ball, and getting more consistent and working on the operation time with my snapper (Bryce Colee) and holder (Drew Belcher),” said Doak. “We definitely got a lot more reps in working in the offseason in the dome. And believing in myself. Confidence is a key.”

Doak said he might have lost a little confidence last year but that “I think it was good for me to kind of be put in that situation because I’m a competitor.”

He came into the spring practices not feeling pressure even though Maine recruited another place-kicker. “I wanted to prove something – that I can compete to play,” he said. “I wanted to prove to myself that I can do it. I want my team to have confidence in me because I know I can do it.”

And right now it does.

“I think he’s coming into his own,” said Coach Joe Harasymiak. “You’ve got to remember, and I’ve got to remember, he’s a freshman. And a lot of our freshmen at other positions certainly struggle, too. He’s got our confidence and we’ve got to keep putting him in critical situations. And that’s the hard part with the kicking game, to simulate and replicate critical situations.”

NOTES: Maine handed out its annual spring practice awards after the game. The most improved offensive player award went to sophomore wide receiver Devin Young. The most improved defensive player award went to senior cornerback Joshua Huffman and the most improved special-teams player award went to redshirt freshman Richard Carr. The Maine Men (offseason weight-room) awards went to junior defensive lineman Lincoln Ibanda, junior linebacker Taji Lowe and senior offensive lineman Cody Levy. … Junior defensive lineman Charles Mitchell left the scrimmage with a left ankle sprain. Harasymiak said it wasn’t serious. …Chris Ferguson threw two touchdown passes in the scrimmage, both to Earnest Edwards, and Isaiah Robinson threw one to Jaquan Blair. Ramon Jefferson also ran for a touchdown.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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