May 14, 2013, 2:59 PM EST
Editor’s Note: Over the course of April and early May, CAA Football will check in with local journalists and bloggers covering our 11 schools to get their take on their respective teams’ spring practices and spring games. Today we talk Maine with Rich Kimball of Bangor’s Sports Radio 92.9. For more on the Black Bears’ spring, including news, video and more, visit our CAA Football Spring Ball Central page.
CAAFB: You’ve followed the Black Bears over the course of the spring. What were some of your observations and questions heading into their spring schedule?
RK: The offensive line is certainly a question after some key graduations. I was also interested to see the continued growth and progression of Marcus Wasilewski at quarterback.
CAAFB: You were on hand for Saturday’s Jeff Cole Scrimmage. How would you describe the atmosphere at Alfond Stadium?
RK: It was one of the better crowds we’ve seen for the Cole Scrimmage. A beautiful, warm day, and people seemed genuinely excited for the coming season. There seems to be a great deal of optimism about this team.
CAAFB: What were your general impressions of Saturday’s spring game?
RK: As is usually the case, the defense seemed to be ahead of the offense. Even though Maine lost guys like Donte Dennis and Darlos James, who both received NFL rookie minicamp invites, it has a strong nucleus returning. Defensive coordinator Paul Ferraro instituted a pro-like defensive line rotation last year, which gave a lot of players some quality experience, and I think they’ll reap the benefits this season.
CAAFB: The Black Bears return their 2012 starting QB in rising senior Marcus Wasilewski. I’m assuming there’s not much of a battle at quarterback?
RK: Nope. That job is his. Wash had one of the better starting quarterback debuts in Black Bear history. He’s got great poise, showed good decision-making ability, and on Saturday I saw a more vocal quarterback who looks ready to rise to the challenge of being a captain and the unquestioned leader of the offense.
CAAFB: Two of the team’s major losses were LB Donte Dennis and DB Darlos James, who as you noted have been invited to NFL rookie minicamps. Who should we expect to step in to fill these voids on the defensive side?
RK: Maine had a good deal of defensive depth last year, and one of the most impressive young players was defensive lineman Trevor Bates. The coaching staff made the decision to move him to the middle linebacker spot and he looked great in the scrimmage. He’s strong, fast, smart and has a good nose for the football. I think he’ll be a playmaker back there much like Dennis and maybe even former Black Bear and San Diego Charger Stephen Cooper. In the secondary, they’ve got lots of talent to choose from. Axel Ofori played well last season and will likely start, with a guy like Sherrod Baltimore seeing plenty of time as well.
CAAFB: What are some other position battles we should keep an eye on?
RK: I’m not sure there will be many battles. They seem to have some depth at tailback, even with David Hood leaving the team, and I think that both Nigel Jones and Ricky Stevens will get plenty of carries. A healthy Terrell Walker will be a factor, too.
There may be a starting spot open on the O-line but, at this point things seem to be going according to plan. We’ll see if any of the incoming freshmen can make a case to earn playing time when they arrive in August.
CAAFB: Looking across the positions, then, what do you anticipate as some of the Black Bears’ strengths and weaknesses coming out of the spring?
RK: Their strengths would be at the skill positions on offense, especially Wasilewski and his deep receiver corps. They will also have a very good secondary to go along with solid linebackers and a talented D-line. Kicker Sean DeCloux has added about twenty pounds, was perfect in the spring scrimmage and looks like he’s primed to become a legitimate weapon. The biggest question is the offensive line, where they have to replace the likes of all-conference guard Chris Howley.
CAAFB: You spoke to this back in February, but what role do you now see Maine’s sizeable incoming class having on the team?
RK: We’ll see in a few months. I know the coaching staff is very excited about both the number of players coming in and their level of talent. You’d have to think that there will be a handful of guys who shine in camp and battle their way onto the depth chart.
CAAFB: As another follow-up to our conversation in February, have there been any changes in the expectations for the team with its spring schedule now behind us?
RK: Fans seem excited, and I know they liked what they saw from the defense and from Marcus Wasilewski. With the expanded playoff field, I have to believe that most feel this team can certainly be a playoff contender.
CAAFB: What have you heard from Coach Cosgrove these last few weeks? Can you give us some insight into his take on his team’s spring?
RK: Injuries are always a concern, so he was pleased that there weren’t many injuries during the spring. I think he has been pleased with the growth and maturity of his quarterback and feels like this team has some good leadership. It sounds like a lot of guys are staying around campus this summer to work out together and that always bodes well for the Bears.
CAAFB: What questions still remain in your mind moving forward?
RK: The offensive line, the ability of backup QB Dan Collins and the health of a potential all-conference player like DE Michael Cole, who is coming off a thigh injury. If he’s healthy, Maine will have one of the best defensive end tandems in the league with Mike Koslakowski on the opposite side.
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