BALTIMORE, Md. — The University of Maine football team has been selected to finish seventh in the CAA according to a vote of the league’s head coaches and media personnel released Wednesday during the conference’s annual Media Day at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md.
Villanova, the reigning CAA and FCS national champion, received 17 first-place votes and was selected as the preseason favorite to repeat as champions. William & Mary, a national semifinalist from last season, was selected to finish second while New Hampshire, the seventh-ranked team in the country last season, received two first-place votes and was picked third..
Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove was unfazed by his team’s selection in the poll, pointing out the heavy mid-Atlantic media representation at the media day.
“As to the selection as to where we are, it’s different this year, when you say seventh, we’re one league of 10 instead of the two divisions of the past,” he said. “The last time we were in that situation in ’01 and ’02, we won the conference championship. Maybe it’s a good sign.”
He added that his team always puts preseason polls in their proper perspective.
“We’ve recognized that no matter what’s said at the beginning, it’s what’s done at the end that really matters,” Cosgrove said.
Maine players report to preseason camp on Aug. 7 and the players and coaching staff are eager to get under way.
“We had a great showing by the team this summer in the strength and conditioning program,” Cosgrove said. “We’ve had 50 guys consistently, upwards of 60 at times at the workouts. It’s great to see that commitment by the guys.”
The Black Bears have their sights set again on competing for the CAA crown.
“Each and every year we prepare to challenge and compete for the CAA conference title,” Cosgrove said. “It’s the greatest FCS conference in the country. Through its greatness, it has helped us grow.”
Maine will battle Villanova on Oct. 16 at Alfond Stadium in Orono while the Black Bears host William & Mary on Sept. 25 and New Hampshire on Oct. 2.
James Madison, which the Black Bears will host in the regular season finale on Nov. 2, was selected fourth while Delaware received one first-place vote and was selected fifth. Richmond was selected just ahead of Maine in sixth while Massachusetts was eighth. Rhode Island was picked ninth while Towson rounded out the poll in 10th.
The Black Bears, ranked 22nd in the country in the Athlon Sports Preseason Top-25 Poll, return 17 starters and 41 letterwinners from last season’s team that came in second in the CAA North Division and finished with an overall 5-6 record.
Maine returns a pair of quarterbacks in Chris Treister (Cape Elizabeth) and Warren Smith (Forked River, N.J.) who helped produce the most prolific passing attack in the CAA last season, averaging nearly 250 yards through the air per game.
Also returning is 2008 All-American running back Jared Turcotte (Lewiston), as well as preseason All-American linebacker Mark Masterson (Williamstown, N.J.) and a pair of All-CAA selections in defensive back Steven Barker (Teaneck, N.J.) and linebacker Donte Dennis (Rahway, N.J.).
Maine opens its season at home on 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2 against Albany and then is on the road the next week for a Sept. 11 contest vs. Monmouth, followed by a Sept. 18 game at Syracuse before returning home for its conference opener against William & Mary.
Maine didn’t place any players on the CAA preseason All-Conference teams.
Villanova senior wide receiver/return man Matt Szczur and senior linebacker Terence Thomas lead the CAA Preseason All-Conference squad as each were named Preseason Players of the Year. Thomas, who is one of the league’s eight returning All-America honorees, led the Wildcats with 116 stops in 2009 and has yet to miss a start in his three-year career.
Szczur, who recently signed a Major League Baseball contract with the Chicago Cubs, is slated to return to campus in early August to take part in preseason camp with the Wildcats. Szczur led the league in all-purpose yardage last season by averaging nearly 150 yards a game which helped him become CAA’s first-ever Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year in the same season.
Villanova, which had to defeat two CAA Football squads as well as Holy Cross and Big Sky Champion Montana to earn its first-ever national title in football, placed a total of seven on the Preseason All-Conference squad. Szczur was joined by quarterback Chris Whitney, placekicker Nick Yako and offensive linemen Brant Clouser and Ben Ijalana on the offense. Safety John Dempsey joined Thomas on the defensive side.
William and Mary, picked to finish second in the league race, placed four on the preseason list with running back Jonathan Grimes, offensive lineman Keith Hill, Jr., linebacker Jake Trantin and punter David Miller. New Hampshire, which earned two first-place votes and finished third in the overall voting, placed both defensive lineman Brian McNally and cornerback Dino Vasso on the preseason defensive squad. James Madison, the preseason No. 4 pick, was represented by offensive lineman Theo Sherman and defensive lineman Ronnell Brown on the preseason list.