Sunday, December 8, 2013
ORONO -- College football has no waiver wire. No quick fix to solve a problem at a particular position.
Delaware at Maine
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
So when University of Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove found his team thin at defensive tackle -- both in size and in depth -- he had two options.
1. Look for someone to transfer from another program.
2. Develop from within.
"We're just not big transfer fans," said Cosgrove, who nonetheless has received valuable contributions this season from tailback Zedric Joseph, safety Lamar Fitzgerald and defensive end Jonathan Louis, transfers all. "We prefer to develop our guys. We prefer to see a freshman become a senior."
The Black Bears had junior Matt Wilson coming back as a starting nose tackle, but the other interior line position on defense was vacant.
No longer is that the case. Darius Greene and Pat Ricard, a pair of red-shirt freshmen, have filled the void and become a big part of why the Black Bears are 4-1 heading into Saturday's game against visiting Delaware, a Colonial Athletic Association opponent also standing at 4-1.
Maine is ranked 23rd nationally. Delaware is 24th in one poll and 25th in another.
"It starts and ends right there, with our front defensive line and their ability to stop the run," said Maine defensive line coach Jordan Stevens, a former linebacker and defensive end for the Black Bears who played his high school ball at Mt. Blue. "If we can't stop the run with our two inside guys and our defensive ends, it's going to be a long day."
Conversely, when Maine gums up the works for opposing offenses, as was the case against Richmond (65 rushing yards in a 28-21 loss) and UMass (64 yards in a 24-14 loss), the Black Bears often have a field day.
Greene and Ricard complement each other. At 6-foot-2 and 284 pounds, Greene handles more of the run-stopping duties. He's the starter and plays more on first and second downs. Ricard, who is 6-2 and 250, comes in for third downs and obvious passing situations.
Although he has yet to record a sack (the stat crew in Richmond mistakenly credited him with one that actually belonged to Trevor Bates), Ricard first drew notice with his pass-rushing abilities in the spring Jeff Cole intrasquad scrimmage.
"He was outstanding," Cosgrove said. "We said, 'We can't block Ricard. We can't block him.' "
Greene recorded his first sack in Maine's only loss, 35-21, against the highest-rated Football Bowl Subdivision team the Black Bears have ever played, No. 16 Northwestern.
"It felt amazing," Greene said. "I didn't really know how to celebrate ... so I just got up."
Quiet and reserved, Greene is starting to open up more after a challenging first year in Orono. The Black Bears didn't recruit him until after the spring signing date, when he had decided to attend a prep school for a post-grad year because "I didn't have the (scholarship) offers I wanted," he said.
Instead, he headed to out-of-the-way Orono from busy Long Island (Medford, N.Y.), a transition that was a bit of a culture shock. "A little rough," he called it. "But I had my teammates to back me up. I got used to it. I'm having fun now."
Ricard, who played linebacker throughout his high school career near Worcester, Mass., was similarly overlooked by college recruiters. No other Division I school offered him a scholarship. He arrived in Orono as a defensive end, but an abundance of ends and a dearth of defensive tackles led to the switch.
"Last year, my first day of camp I didn't even know how to get in a stance," Ricard said. "So everything is new. I'm still learning every day."
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