ORONO — Coach Jack Cosgrove’s greatest fear during the spring season is that his University of Maine football team will lose players to injury.
It is often a tenuous time anyway, since the players who underwent offseason surgery aren’t able to participate.
This month, the Black Bears have been hampered by injuries — and adverse weather conditions — as they try to lay the foundation for the 2011 season.
“We’ve had some injuries that have forced us to cut back on some of the things that we wanted to get to,” Cosgrove said. “We’re probably not as advanced as we’d like to be in some areas.”
The position most affected by injury has been linebacker. Senior starters Donte Dennis (elbow) and Vinson Givans (knee) both underwent offseason surgery and aren’t participating.
Among the six remaining linebackers, three others have been sidelined by injuries. In a 4-3 scheme, that means no backups.
“We’ve been holding on at linebacker by the skin of our teeth,” said Cosgrove, who explained UMaine has cut back signficantly on live scrimmage situations and may even have to restrict play during the annual Jeff Cole Memorial Scrimmage, scheduled Saturday at 10 a.m. on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium.
“You’re jeopardizing those three because they’re taking all the reps,” he added, pointing to the fact intrasquad practices put 22 Black Bears at risk every play. “There’s been some anxious moments there in regard to managing our football team and its personnel.”
In contrast, UMaine has been blessed with considerable depth at wide receiver and defensive back. He said that has led to good development among those players.
The often rainy, cold weather — the Bears have held most of their practices from 6:45-9:15 p.m. — has been an obstacle both physically and psychologically.
“In the spring, the football field is also a classroom. There’s a lot of teaching going on,” Cosgrove said. ‘“When it’s cold and windy and wet — they’re young people — their concentration level, their focus level, is challenged.”
Cosgrove quipped that next April he might be inclined to reinstate the 5:45 a.m. practices during which he might at least feel the sun on his face once in a while.
In spite of the conditions, he has been pleased with the attitude and effort demonstrated by the student-athletes.
Demaray, Stevens back with Bears
Shawn Demaray and Jordan Stevens made notable contributions as members of the UMaine football team. Now, they’re back with the Bears as assistant coaches under their former head coach.
Demaray, a former offensive lineman, is working with the tight ends. Stevens, who played defensive end at UMaine, is helping out with the defensive line.
“I’ve always been partial to guys that have lived the life up here and have developed a great sense of pride working at the university,” Cosgrove said. “I don’t know if there have been better role models than those two guys.”
Livermore Falls native Demaray returns to Orono after spending the last two seasons at Husson University in Bangor. He began his coaching career in 2008 at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.
Demaray was a three-year starter at UMaine, where he earned All-Colonial Athletic Association third-team honors in 2007.
Stevens, a former Mt. Blue High School star who hails from Temple, was an All-CAA third-team pick at defensive end as a senior in 2009. He spent last fall in the Arena Football League.
“Both of them are Maine guys. There’s a greater sense of pride there,” Cosgrove said. “They’re from this state and that’s something that adds to (having them on the staff).”
UMaine has made a couple of other coaching changes as former defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Dwayne Wilmot has left to take a similar position at Harvard.
Dennis Dottin-Carter moves up from defensive line assistant to defensive line coach. Running backs coach Steve Boyle, who previously worked with defensive backs, has been elevated to recruiting coordinator for the Bears. Joe Herasymiak has joined the staff as an assistant working with the defensive backs.
Cole Bone Marrow Drive set Thursday
The UMaine football team will serve as the host Thursday for the Jeff Cole Memorial Bone Marrow Drive.
The event will be held 3-7 p.m. in the campus Student Recreation and Fitness Center.
Participants will undergo a simple swab from the inside of their cheek through which they will be placed on a national bone marrow registry. Bone marrow can be used in the treatment of several forms of cancer and other serious illnesses.
The drive honors the memory of former UMaine football assistant coach Cole, who died in 2004 after battling cancer.
As testament to what such a program can accomplish, University of Rhode Island football player Matt Greenhalgh was identified as a match and recently made a donation of bone marrow to aid a leukemia patient.
It is one of a handful of donations in recent years involving players from the Colonial Athletic Association.