Saturday, May 25, 2013
By Glenn Jordan email@example.com
ORONO -- A long-standing tradition with the University of Maine football team is the Senior Will.
At the end of a season, a player who has used up his eligibility is expected to pass on to a younger teammate something tangible, something funny and something from the heart.
Often, the tangible item is his jersey number.
"There's a tremendous sense of pride in who gets their shirt," said head coach Jack Cosgrove. "It's become a huge tradition."
So safety Jerron McMillian, now with the NFL Green Bay Packers, bequeathed his No. 1 to linebacker Donte Dennis, the leader of this year's defensive unit.
Raibonne Charles, a Windham native who became a four-year starter on the defensive line, passed along his No. 92 to an unheralded freshman from Westbrook who has yet to play a down in college, Trevor Bates.
On Saturday, Bates will be a starting defensive end for the Black Bears as they open their 2012 campaign on the road against Boston College. Game time is 1 p.m. at Alumni Field in Chestnut Hill, Mass., with ESPN3 televising the contest.
"This was one of those feel-good moments for me, was his development," Cosgrove said of Bates, who moved up on the depth chart with an impressive training camp. "I get a rush out of elevating guys, and giving them more scholarship money because they've earned it."
Bates is one of several first-time starters on both sides of the ball for Maine, which is coming off a successful 9-4 season and looking for its third NCAA playoff appearance in five years, an accomplishment as yet unmatched in school history.
The Black Bears open their season with three non-conference opponents (at Bryant and hosting Albany are the others) before beginning their Colonial Athletic Association schedule.
Junior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski and sophomore David Hood are taking over from the prolific tandem of Warren Smith and Pushaun Brown, a 3,000-yard passer and a 1,000-yard runner, respectively.
The interior line and receiving corps is loaded with veterans, including wideouts Maurice McDonald and Damarr Aultman and tight end Justin Perillo, the three leading pass catchers from last fall.
"We're still growing as a team right now," said senior left tackle Josh Spearin, a four-year starter from Limington. "We've still got players developing. We've still got people who are messing up on some assignments. But we're getting really close to being a finished product."
Spearin, senior guard Chris Howley and juniors Jeff Gakos (guard) and Garret Williamson (center) are all returning starters, and right tackle Joe Hook, a junior, started in 2010 before missing last season because of injury.
On defense, Dennis returns from Tommy John surgery as a fifth-year senior to anchor a unit experienced at linebacker, cornerback and defensive end but relatively untested up the middle. The safeties (sophomore Khari Al-Mateen and junior Jamal Clay) and interior defensive linemen (senior Kris Enslen, sophomores Matt Wilson and Devin Clark, junior Alban Dedvujak and grad student David Toriola) are new.
"I'm excited about our D-line," said Dennis, who led the team in tackles in both 2010 and 2009. "I feel like they're going to keep blockers off us linebackers so we can make some plays."
Cornerbacks Darlos James and Kendall James (no relation), linebackers Troy Russell, Troy Eastman and Dennis, and defensive ends Michael Cole and Doug Alston all have significant experience, as does kicker Brian Harvey.
Boston College opened its season last Saturday with a 41-32 loss at home to Miami before a crowd of more than 39,000. A member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which sent eight of its members to bowl games last season, Boston College is allowed more scholarships (85 to 63) and full-time assistant coaches (10 to 6) than Maine and its Football Championship Subdivision brethren.
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