Change brings with it uncertainty. There have been plenty of both at Husson University of Bangor during the last few seasons.
When the Eagles open their 2011 season Friday with a 7 p.m. home game against Adrian (Mich.) College, they will do so under the program’s third head coach in the last four seasons.
South Berwick native Sean Murphy, who was hired prior to last season as the associate head coach, has taken the reins from veteran coach Niles Nelson, who guided Husson for two seasons after taking over for Gabby Price in 2009.
“We’ve got a very young group of guys, but I’m very confident in the guys we have returning in terms of the quality of kids,” Murphy said.
Husson, which finished 1-9 overall last season and 1-6 in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, is admittedly trying to re-establish some of the talent, confidence and momentum that made the Eagles a formidable team during the Price era.
Husson has welcomed in 41 freshmen among its approximately 70 roster members. The squad features only eight seniors and nine juniors.
The influx of new players means positions have been up for grabs.
“Our returners knew coming in there was going to be a lot of competition,” Murphy said. “From a talent perspective, we’re trying to put every position out there for the guys to earn it.”
There will be some underclassmen in key positions for the Eagles, but Murphy said that dynamic is similar to last season, when freshmen and sophomores contributed significantly.
A couple of eastern Maine products are serving as the leaders on their respective sides of the football.
The defensive linchpin is Kyle Vanidestine of Bangor. The senior safety was the No. 2 tackler in the ECFC last season with 91 and he forced three fumbles and made two interceptions.
“Kyle is probably the best example of a returner with experience and a guy who understands what it is to be a competitive and experienced athlete,” Murphy said of his co-captain.
Vanidestine is joined on the defense by a handful of other proven veterans, including senior co-captain Chris Dalecki (35 tackles, 12 for a loss) at end and junior linebacker Dillon Shaw of Augusta (53 tackles) and sophomore defensive lineman Ernest Wiggins (50 tackles).
The secondary and linebacker levels will be dotted by some younger players.
The offense will be directed by senior quarterback Jack Hersom of Sidney, who has tremendous college experience and will be counted on to be efficient.
Hersom completed 53 of 122 passes for 609 yards and five touchdowns with eight interceptions a year ago. He also rushed for 242 yards and two TDs on 80 carries.
“He can do a lot of things offensively and he has really established himself as a guy we can rely on and count on for his presence,” Murphy said.
Junior Byron Jackson is game-tested at running back after complemented the graduated Justin Lindie. He rushed for 562 yards on 102 carries and scored five touchdowns last season.
Murphy said he will be challenged by some up-and-comers, including some talented freshmen in the backfield mix.
The receiver corps includes senior wide receiver Audie Murphy of Biddeford (8 receptions, 188 yards, 1 TD) and sophomore Ben Foss of Wales (4-121-2).
Murphy said establishing better offensive balance and pass efficiency are among the keys to the Eagles’ season.
“There are times when we want to be more flexible in passing situations with having complementary stuff to our run game,” he said.
An athletic offensive line is headed up by graduate student Brad Deuring, who plays center. There has been tremendous competition for spots in the front five, with freshmen like Matt Archer of Chesterville pushing the veterans.
Husson will strive to develop its young players as the season progresses and recreate an atmosphere of confidence and competitiveness. Murphy is confident this year’s group has the potential to help re-establish the Eagles as a competitive program.
“We we want to continue with a high level of focus and energy,” Murphy said. “Our No. 1 objective is to compete in our conference.”