The onset of the spring season brings with it a new set of challenges for the University of Maine football team.
One of them is to re-establish some leaders on the squad.
The departure of the previous season’s senior class meant the loss of all the team captains. That means the door is open for those who are willing to embrace the challenge.
“It’s as important as anything we do,” Black Bears head coach Jack Cosgrove said of grooming its leadership group for the upcoming season.
“It takes courage. There are guys that think they want to, but don’t have the courage to put themselves out there,” he explained. “They’ve got to learn to take that step and they’ve got to have a great conviction of what we’re doing and what they believe in and embrace the role of being a leader, being a guy who is willing to be a model for his teammates and influence them with his behaviors and his actions.”
One of the candidates to further exert his influence on the team is senior Mark Masterson.
The 6-foot-3, 223-pound linebacker is back on the field this spring and is gearing up for his fifth year with the program. Masterson missed the final nine games last season with a right foot injury.
Masterson also underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
“We’re excited about it,” Cosgrove said of Masterson’s return. “We had to make some changes once we found out that a guy who had been a three-year contributor to our defense wasn’t going to be able to fill in the role of the [middle] linebacker.”
Masterson was UMaine’s fifth-leading tackler in 2008 with 68. While last year he had been put in the middle, Masterson will return to the “rover” spot he occupied in 2008.
“Once we found we had Mark back, we’re going to put him in the rover spot and Donte [Dennis] and Vinson [Givans] continue to grow at their spots inside.
“We’re really excited about that linebacker position and, first and foremost, having Mark to add to it.”
Masterson is among three returning senior starters on the defense along with cornerbacks Dominic Cusano and Steven Barker.
That group will be responsible for helping foster the development of the UMaine defense.
“Like blocking and tackling and throwing a football, you can learn the skill of leadership and we try to teach it and develop it so we’ve got the right guys up front,” Cosgrove said.
Coffee with coach Cosgrove today
UMaine football fans are invited to meet Saturday morning at Morse Field for “Coffee with Coach Cosgrove.”
The Bears’ head coach will meet and talk with fans beginning at 8:30 a.m., prior to UMaine’s football practice at Alfond Stadium.
The Old Town Dunkin’ Donuts is providing free coffee to participants, while supplies last.
UMaine’s Lewis looks to stay hot
Sophomore Taylor Lewis looks to continue his torrid hitting during UMaine’s America East four-game weekend series at Binghamton.
The Bears’ center fielder, who already has been named the America East Player of the Week three times this season, leads the team and the conference in batting average (.417), runs scored (38), hits (50), triples (school-record 9), runs batted in (35), total bases (88), and stolen bases (16 in 16 tries), slugging percentage (.733) and on-base percentage (.486).
Lewis already boasts 15 multiple-hit games and 11 multiple-RBI games this season. He tops UMaine in other key statistics, including batting average with runners in scoring position (.526), batting average with two outs (.588) and two-out RBIs (19).
Bear tracks: Senior catcher Joe Mercurio looks to extend his team-best 11-game hitting streak Saturday, while classmate Tony Patane has hit safety in 10 straight games. Lewis owns a five-game streak … This may be the Bears’ final trip to Binghamton’s Varsity Field. Binghamton has announced plans for a new multimillion-dollar facility, complete with artificial turf, lights and a press box, that is expected to open in 2012. Under AE’s present format, UMaine will host the Bearcats for four games in 2011 … While there is no radio coverage of this weekend’s series, fans can follow the action by clicking on the “live stats” link under the baseball schedule at GoBlackBears.com.