ORONO — Who’s going to run the ball? Who’s going to catch the ball? Who’s going to block for them?

These were some of the questions Joe Harasymiak faced when the University of Maine opened its spring football practices a month ago. Not all those questions were answered but Harasymiak, entering his third season as head coach of the Black Bears, is confident they will be before Maine opens its 2018 season on Aug. 30, a Thursday night affair against New Hampshire at Alfond Stadium.

“Certainly there’s a lot of new parts on offense,” said Harasymiak after Friday night’s annual Jeff Cole Memorial Spring Game. “Coaches, players … it’s exciting moving forward.”

A year ago, Harasymiak was fretting over the defensive line. But young players such as Charles Mitchell, Kayon Whitaker and Alejandro Oregon stepped in and the defense, with 10 starters back, is now considered the foundation of success for the Black Bears.

This year the offseason focus, understandably, is on the offense.

Four seniors graduated from the offensive line, including left tackle Jamil Demby, selected a week ago in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams. Running back Josh Mack, who led all of Football Championship Subdivision in rushing, transferred to Liberty University. The top two wide receivers, Jaleel Reed and Jared Osumah, graduated.

But the offense, despite having only five healthy linemen, showed in Friday’s 44 plays that it still has potential.

“I thought we moved the ball well,” said Harasymiak. “Our wide receivers and quarterbacks made plays. We’re going to challenge some people with a lot of things we do. We have to get our talented guys the ball in space and you saw a little of that today.”

Chris Ferguson, who won the starting quarterback job as a redshirt freshman last fall, threw two touchdown passes, both to Earnest Edwards. Isaiah Robinson threw a touchdown pass to Jaquan Blair. Ramon Jefferson ran for a touchdown. Kenny Doak kicked two long field goals. Receivers such as Devin Young and Hunter Smith made plays as did tight end Drew Belcher. Joe Fitzpatrick, the running back from North Yarmouth and Cheverus High, made a couple of nice inside runs.

“From top to bottom,” said Nick Charlton, Maine’s new offensive coordinator, “I thought they had their best day. That was encouraging.”

And they did it without receiver Micah Wright, who is still recovering from an ACL tear from last November.

“Look, Micah’s one of the best players in the league; at the end of the day, I think he is the best player in the league,” said Charlton. “It’s helpful to have him but it’s an opportunity for other guys. We have other skill players who are going to make plays and I think that showed today.”

Edwards, who led the CAA in kickoff returns last year (averaging 24.5 yards with a TD), said the offense “is going to be electric.” He knows there were a lot of questions coming into spring football.

“We’re trying to prove a point here,” he said. “That’s what spring football is all about. I think we did that.”

Even linebacker Sterling Sheffield was impressed with the offense.

“I saw a lot of resilience,” he said. “Ferg came up and showed a lot of maturity. Isaiah showed that he’s improved a lot. We have a lot of playmakers, Jaquan Blair, and Earnest. We’ve got an offensive line, I know they’re young and hurt, but we have guys willing to be the best we can. That’s all we need.”

Well, they need the offensive line to open running lanes and protect the quarterback. Last year Maine allowed the fewest sacks in the CAA with 19. Center Chris Mulvey and tackle Cody Levy, moving from right to left, are the only offensive linemen back with experience. They were joined by guards Robert Smoloski and Archie Callahan and tackle Tyler Royal in Friday’s scrimmage.

Gunnar Docos and Liam Dobson were both out with injuries. Harasymiak said five scholarship linemen are coming in for next fall and he hopes to sign a couple more.

“With the numbers we had up front, I’m real pleased with them,” said Charlton. “They’ve been working really hard and I feel they’ve all gotten better. I’m encouraged by that.”

Charlton is trying to create as much competition as possible at all positions, even quarterback. Ferguson, who threw for 2,064 yards and 16 touchdowns last year while completing 54.6 percent of his passes, is No. 1 on the depth chart. But Robinson also improved tremendously.

“We’re not naming the starter until the fall,” said Charlton. “I thought Isaiah had a much better day today. I was pleased with that. But Chris has those intangibles that we’ve talked about before and for him, it’s about making the plays now. You’ve made some plays, now go make a lot of them. And lead the offense. At the end of the day, at quarterback, whoever is going to start here is going to be the guy who leads us to score points in the game.”

Charlton added, “If we were playing a game tomorrow (Ferguson) would be the starter of course. But I want there to be competition.”

And Ferguson welcomes it.

Training camp begins on Aug. 1. For now, the players are going to enjoy a short break, feeling good about their potential.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.