ORONO — With 15 starters back with the University of Maine football team, there’s not a lot of drama over many position battles. Two important roles in the Black Bears’ offense, however, are up for grabs.
Wide receivers Andre Miller (in camp with the New York Giants) and Devin Young are gone, leaving holes in the passing game that could be filled by a number of players. Last season, Miller and Young were the top two pass catchers on the team, combining for 93 catches, 1,269 yards and six touchdowns. Together, Miller and Young accounted for 54 percent of the Black Bears’ receptions and 58 percent of the team’s receiving yards.
Thursday afternoon, with temps in the low 90s, the Black Bears held their first practice of the season. Maine opens the season Sept. 3 at New Mexico, with the first home game set for Sept. 10 against Colgate.
The wideouts and returning starting quarterback Joe Fagnano were eager to show off the work they’d put in in the offseason.
“You’re always going to lose talent. That’s college football. The relationship has been there with these guys, getting reps, reps, reps, consistently over the last two years. Now it’s time for them to take it on the field and show everybody else,” Fagnano said. “Obviously, we have steps to go. We’ve got to get better in every department. But I’ve got full confidence in those guys and their ability to go out and play.”
Grad student Zavier Scott caught 11 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown last fall, and has been used in the run game on jet sweeps and as a wildcat quarterback. As one of the veterans, he’s seen the wide receivers push each other throughout the offseason.
“It’s always good to have that competition. This is the deepest wide receiver group we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Scott, who joined Maine in 2021 after transferring from UConn. “The biggest thing for me is mental. I know you have the physical attributes. I have everything within me. I just had to let it grow, let it out. I feel the best I’ve ever felt. Mentally, physically, spiritually. Everything.”
Tight end Shawn Bowman, a senior, is the leading returning receiver after catching 24 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns last season. Bowman said he’s ready to be a bigger piece of the offense if asked.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of snaps, a whole bunch of targets, we need to fill on the offense. I’ve been here a while now, and I’m just trying to step into that role. Let my team know you can come to me when we need a big play,” said Bowman, a preseason all-Colonial Athletic Association honorable mention selection.
Along with Scott, veterans Michael Monios and Montigo Moss (son of Hall of Famer Randy Moss) are competing for time at wideout. Redshirt freshman Tyrese Baptiste is in the mix, along with true freshman Rohan Jones. First-year head coach Jordan Stevens, an all-conference defensive end as a player at Maine, said he was pleased to see them all make plays during Thursday’s first practice. Whether a pair of receivers step up to fill the shoes of Miller and Young, or if its receiver by committee has yet to be determined, Stevens said.
“You have a lot of those upperclassmen who had roles, and to see them continue to grow is going to be important… The talent is there, and I think they’ll continue to progress,” Stevens said. “We’ll find out where everyone fits in terms of what position they’re playing in that receiver group. I think that will determine their production.”
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