The activity level on the north end of the University of Maine campus will pick up considerably starting Sunday when the Black Bear football team reports for the start of training camp.
Coach Jack Cosgrove and his staff welcome back the team to begin four weeks of workouts leading up to UMaine’s 5 p.m. season opener Sept. 3 against Bryant University at Alfond Stadium in Orono.
Players will check in Sunday and begin taking care of paperwork and other nonfootball prerequisites before taking the field Aug. 9 from 8:45 to 11:15 a.m. UMaine is slated to go through 23 practices, including five double-session days, before breaking camp on Aug. 25.
UMaine has scheduled intrasquad scrimmages for Aug. 15 and Aug 23.
“I’m excited about our team,” Cosgrove said recently. “Some of the impressive things to this point have been some of the intangibles about what has transpired since last season.”
The Bears posted a 4-7 overall record, including a 3-5 Colonial Athletic Association mark, which left all involved unsatisfied.
“We were disappointed from last year, but we responded with work and an attitude adjustment in effort,” Cosgrove said. “Improvement is what I think really resonated with me with our team. We had a real good winter and spring in the weight room and in spring practice. We did a great job in the classroom.”
The players’ work ethic has been in evidence all the way through the summer months, during which many of the team members lived in Orono so they could do their weight training and other workouts as a group.
“This has been probably as productive a summer as I’ve witnessed since I’ve been the head coach in terms of players here on campus working out, rehabbing, preparing themselves for the fall. It’s really been exciting,” Cosgrove said.
Those efforts, and having to deal with the death of a teammate, have helped bring the Black Bears closer together. Sophomore Charles Kyeremeh Jr.’s death last month in a motorcycle accident provided a serious dose of perspective.
“We had a tragedy take place this summer and our guys rallied around and supported a family that had a tremendous loss,” Cosgrove said. “We learned something about ourselves from that. I think life presents situations that allow for young people to grow and I hope that’s one of them for our team.”
As is always the case at this time of year, optimism reigns supreme around the team. Players have had time to rest, recuperate and work on improving their skills in preparation for the 2011 season. The ultimate goal is to reach the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
UMaine must perform better in all areas to achieve strides in the highly competitive CAA.
“If we can perform as a team the way I think we’re capable, we’re going to be in a lot of close football games, we’re going to win those close football games and we’re going to have a chance, like we did a couple years ago, to play later in the season,” Cosgrove said. “If we don’t and we make mistakes and we do the things that we did last year with turnovers and penalties, then we won’t (reach the postseason) because this league won’t allow it and we’ll be disappointed in ourselves at the end of the day.”
The Bears return nine starters on offense, including senior quarterbacks Warren Smith and Chris Treister of Cape Elizabeth, along with tailback Pushaun Brown and tight end Derek Buttles. On defense, linebackers Donte Dennis and Vinson Givans and safeties Jerron McMillian and Trevor Coston are among six returning starters.
UMaine’s practices are open to the public. For a full schedule of preseason workouts, visit goblackbears.com.