ORONO, Maine — The quarterback position is expected to be a strength for the University of Maine during the 2009 season.
Even with the unexpected departure last fall of would-be senior Adam Farkes, coach Jack Cosgrove and his staff worked with a well-rounded trio during its recently completed spring season.
Senior Mike Brusko, who spearheaded the Black Bears’ drive to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs last fall, returns to direct the offensive unit.
The poised Brusko, who was tremendously efficient but unspectacular throwing the ball, is a commanding presence on and off the field for UMaine.
“Offensively and defensively, the team as a whole needs to have confidence in whoever’s behind center,” said Brusko, who recently was chosen by his teammates as one of three captains for next season. “There’s no getting around it, it’s the biggest position on the field.”
None are more aware of Brusko’s influence than his backups, sophomore Chris Treister of Cape Elizabeth and transfer Warren Smith from Iona College.
Treister, a former Portland High School star, has been working under Brusko’s wing. He appeared in only one game during 2008.
“He’s been my biggest helper the last two years,” Treister said after last week’s Jeff Cole Scrimmage. “He’s one of my best friends on the team. He’s always there helping me.”
Smith arrived at UMaine after starting most of the season at Iona, a nonscholarship program that was eliminated after last season.
Smith’s transition to a new school with a different offensive system, not to mention a new group of teammates and friends, was made easier by Brusko.
“I can definitely say Brusko’s one of my best friends here already,” Smith said. “He’s one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve never met a person that could sit in front of the team and talk to the team and you want to look in his eyes.”
No one is more aware than Brusko of the need for the Bears to establish depth at quarterback. He has been eager to work with his fellow QBs in an effort to accomplish that goal.
“You never know who’s going to be behind center. There’s no guarantees,” Brusko said. “So as many guys as can get the quality type of experience and progress, the better for the team.”
Cosgrove witnessed plenty of growth among the quarterbacks during the three-week spring season. The trio has been working with an offensive line that graduated its top two players.
He has kept a close eye on the development of Treister and Williams.
“Chris really has improved,” Cosgrove said. [He was] getting more contact type reps that he needs right now that he’ll really benefit from.”
Smith’s challenges have been as much mental as physical as he adapts to a new scheme and different terminology while breaking into the program.
“He’s a tough, competitive kid,” Cosgrove said. “He started for a Division I-AA program last year as a true freshman, so that’s got some carry to it and we’re excited to have him here. He fits right in with our guys.”
Smith agreed that he has been making a smooth transition to his new school and team.
“The teammates here are great. I feel like I’m at home already,” Smith said.
“This system’s a little more dependent on the quarterback, you’ve got to set the protections and everything. Coach [Kevin] Bourgoin, the offensive coordinator, Chris Treister and Mike Brusko have done a great job helping me out.”
Judging from the Bears’ offensive strategy in recent years, they won’t hesitate to use more than one quarterback during games. Brusko is formidable running presence, while Smith and Treister can throw the ball down the field.
That should mean continued intense competition for playing time when the Bears report for training camp in August.
“That’s definitely my goal this year is to get on the field, help my team,” Treister said. “I feel a lot more comfortable running the show, I still have a real lot to work on, but I’m real excited about the fall.”
Smith is equally confident he can contribute.
“Now I know the whole offense, so I can go into summer camp and compete for a starting job,” he said. “The more reps I get, the more comfortable I’m going to be.”
And Brusko certainly isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I think both of those guys are doing a great job,” Brusko said. “I’m trying to get better every single day, make steps to get better at the things that I didn’t feel like I did quite as well last year.”
The Bears also will welcome three freshman quarterbacks, including Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Nate Doehler from Bonny Eagle High of Buxton, along with Marcus Wasilewski and John Ebeling.
Move it on over
UMaine made a handful of personnel moves during the spring, including switching two quarterbacks to the defensive side of the ball.
Sophomore Gabe Hinds of Augusta and redshirt freshman Chris Reagan both have traded their white practice jerseys for blue uniforms and will be trying to break into the mix as defensive backs.
With the Bears thinned by injuries this spring in the secondary, they welcomed Dillon Bates, a junior from Hampden, to the squad as a cornerback and punter. The 5-foot-9, 153-pounder was one of the Bears’ videographers last season.
He was a former sprinter and cross country runner at Hampden Academy.