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Maine gets in spring work
When Maine coach Jack Cosgrove assesses the strengths of his football team and also where it needs to improve before next fall, he’s heartened by the fact he has a veteran offensive line returning.
With four of five starters back, it’s a luxury the team hopes to capitalize on beginning in September. The most veteran of the veterans up front is left tackle Josh Spearin of Limington. Spearin, a senior to be and an all-state selection at Bonny Eagle, was a second team all-Colonial Athletic Association selection at the position last season.
Cosgrove, in his 20th season as head coach with the Black Bears, is doing a lot of evaluating of players and positions as the team is in its second week of spring practice. The Black Bears began spring drills last Thursday. They had their fourth practice Tuesday. Spring practice will culminate with the annual Jeff Cole game on Saturday, April 28 at Alfond Stadium.
“We had a good start,” said Cosgrove of spring practice.
“We had two days of helmets as required by the NCAA. We went with pads on Saturday. The kids responded very well,” he said.
Besides the O-line, the team is deep at wide receiver, linebacker and in the secondary. The Black Bears need to find a quarterback, some running backs and more bodies in the defensive line.
Maine is coming off its best season in recent years. The Black Bears advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Football Championship Sub-Division playoffs, finishing with a 9-4 record and a No. 8 national ranking.
“We want to take off where we left off last season,” said Spearin, an environmental science major.
“Nothing is going to happen without work. We’re doing that now so that we get results in the fall. We’re trying to build cohesiveness and develop an offensive identity. We have a rookie quarterback and some rookies at running back. Our job (the offensive line) is to make it easy on them,” he said.
The players also have to adjust to three new assistant coaches.
Spearin wants to build on last year’s successes.
“I want us to win a championship. Playing for my state university, I’m trying to give it some good representation.”
For individual goals, Spearin, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds on the roster, said he wants to improve his technique, get stronger and be more aggressive.
“I also want to make first team all-CAA,” he said.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin has known Spearin since he attended the UMaine Football Camp in high school.
“Josh is a great kid,” he said.
“He’s gotten bigger, stronger, more athletic and gained more confidence. He was our most consistent lineman last year, playing probably the most important position on the line. He has all the tools to be a great offensive lineman,” Bourgoin said.
Spearin was thrust into the lineup his freshman year because the Black Bears were thin in the offensive line. He had to learn on the fly. He didn’t have the advantage of a red shirt year.
“Coach Cosgrove said I was one of the best 11 and I got my opportunity. The biggest adjustment was the speed of the game. You have to process everything a little faster,” he said.
Spearin followed his brother, Matt, also a lineman and a year older, to Maine.
“Having my brother here at the start allowed me to make friendships with my teammates easier. Hanging out with him, I got to know everyone sooner,” he said.
Cosgrove said Spearin had the ability his freshman year to make the team better and that hasn’t changed.
“The unfortunate thing,” said Cosgrove, is that it led Josh to being a fourth-year senior a year ahead of time.”
The Black Bears know they have a keeper at left tackle.
“Having a player like Josh and a veteran line allows a better transition for the quarterback and tailback,” said Cosgrove.
Maine opens the 2012 season Sept. 8 at Boston College. The Black Bears play two more non-conference against against Bryant and Albany before opening their CAA schedule Sept. 29 at home against Villanova.
By Tom Chard, Kennebec Journal