Each February, National Letter of Intent signing day is the pivotal day for every Division I football program.
Teams that recruit well win more often. Those that don’t are likely to struggle.
University of Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove was upbeat Wednesday, the opening day of the NCAA early signing period for football. The Black Bears expect to bring in a strong recruiting class for 2009 and have announced a list of 15 prospects who signed and returned their paperwork.
“It’s one [class] we’re really excited about,” said UMaine’s 16th-year coach. “We had a huge undertaking, with a huge senior class that was graduating, and the staff did a tremendous job of identifying guys.”
UMaine is expected to welcome as many as 26 new players once all the proper forms have been completed and returned. That group includes quarterback/punter Nate Doehler and offensive lineman Josh Spearin, both of Bonny Eagle High in Standish, who signed their NLIs Wednesday morning, according to the Portland Press Herald.
They are the only instate players expected to sign, although others could walk on, without the promise of scholarship money.
Doehler recently won the Fitzpatrick Trophy given to the state’s best senior football player.
This recruiting class is spread across numerous positions in the hope of filling potential voids and building depth. UMaine is bringing in three defensive ends, three defensive backs, two tight ends, two offensive linemen, two wide receivers, one linebacker, one quarterback and one fullback.
Cosgrove said the Bears’ 8-5 season, including an NCAA playoff berth, made a difference in the recruiting process.
“Throughout the course of recruiting, we felt like people knew about us through the success we had rather than us having to tell them,” he said.
The UMaine staff did much of its work in New Jersey, signing eight players from the state along with three from New York, two from Pennsylvania and Maine, and one each from Massachusetts and Delaware.
UMaine hopes to bolster is receiver corps. Maurice McDonald, a 6-foot, 180-pounder from Paterson, N.J., and Derrick Johnson (5-11, 180) of Hempstead, N.Y., were signed as wideouts, while William Calvi (6-3, 250) of New York, N.Y., and Justin Perillo (6-4, 240) of Wilmington, Del., are the tight end hopefuls.
McDonald, a first-team, all-county pick, helped Paterson Catholic High win three state championships. Johnson, an all-county sprinter, sparked his team to a league title while catching 35 passes for 530 yards and seven touchdowns last fall.
Here is the rest of the class, listed in alphabetical order:
Defensive end Craig Capella (6-3, 225, Galloway, N.J.), defensive back/wide receiver Jamal Clay (5-10, 170, Mahwah, N.J.), defensive end Michael Cole (6-2, 260, North Brunswick, N.J.), safety Troy Eastman (6-1, 190, Rahway, N.J.), quarterback John Ebeling (6-4, 190, Mahwah, N.J.), offensive lineman Jeffrey Gakos (6-4, 270, Basking Ridge, N.J.).
Also, offensive lineman Joseph Hook (6-4, 270, Westfield, Mass.), defensive back Darlos James Jr. (5-10, 170, Mt. Vernon, N.Y.), linebacker Shawn Krautzel (6-3, 195, Prospect Park, Pa.), fullback Julian McCall (6-0, 225, Jersey City, N.J.), and defensive end Clinton Miller (6-2, 235, Allentown, Pa.).
Also among the newcomers are two midyear transfers. Quarterback Warren Smith (6-1, 180) from Iona, which dropped its program after last season, and offensive lineman Will Martin (6-3, 295) from Sacred Heart, are both enrolled in classes at UMaine.
Each has three years of eligibility left, with Smith eligible in the fall and Martin in 2010.
Even though wrapping up a strong recruiting class is a relief, Cosgrove is pleased the process is now over.
“It’s such a hard road,” Cosgrove said of the final month, which entails four weeks of on-the-road recruiting broken up by three weekends of on-campus visits by prospects.
“I’ve had people close to me say that I look warn out recently,” he said. “We’re all over the Northeast, fighting through storms and challenges that living here bring.”
The eligibility of student-athletes is contingent upon their admission to the university and compliance with all NCAA rules and initial-eligibility guidelines.