Wednesday marks the opening day of the National Letter of Intent signing period for college football.
With the big day almost here, the University of Maine already has received several commitments from players who plan to continue their careers in a Black Bears uniform.
Even though nothing becomes official until players sign the letter, a handful of prospects have given a verbal commitment to play at UMaine starting next season, according to published reports and Internet databases.
UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove is prohibited by NCAA rules from commenting on recruits until the university has received their signed letters of intent.
One area of great interest among fans is the quarterback position, where UMaine loses two seniors in starter Warren Smith and backup Chris Treister.
With Marcus Wasilewski waiting in the wings and John Ebeling and Ryan Stroud also on the roster, the Bears are set to add to the mix.
Dan Collins, a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder from Williamstown, N.J., has committed to UMaine. He played at Williamstown High School, which also produced former UMaine defensive standout Mark Masterson.
Collins completed 44 of 96 passes for 848 yards last season, leading his team to the West Jersey Football League American Division title. He didn’t pass more because Williamstown uses a run-oriented wing-T offense.
The Black Bears also appear to have attracted a trio of running backs with notable credentials and statistics.
Nigel Jones, a 5-10, 190-pounder from Holy Spirit High School in Absecon, N.J., Sacoy Malone (5-8, 175) out of Springfield (Mass.) Central High School and Davonte Burke (6-1, 195) of Chatham, Va., have committed to UMaine.
Jones rushed for 1,331 yards and 17 touchdowns last season to lead the Spartans to the nonpublic Division 2 state championship. He amassed more than 4,000 yards in his career.
Malone churned out 2,001 yards and 22 TDs on his way to all-state recognition as Central won the AA Conference title. He rushed for 301 yards and seven scores in a game against Northampton.
Burke comes to UMaine from Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, where he played as a postgrad last fall. In 2010, he starred at Southern High in Harwood, Md.
Burke claimed star accolades, scoring a county-high 28 touchdowns for the Bulldogs, including four receiving, two on special teams and one via interception. He finished with 1,362 rushing yards and 18 of his touchdowns covered 50 yards or longer.
UMaine’s recruiting efforts also have produced two Canadian players, one a kicker and the other a dynamic fullback/linebacker.
Sean Decloux is a 6-2, 184-pound kicker from St. Peter’s High School in Ottawa, Ontario. Last fall, he attended Red Lion Christian Academy in Delaware and reportedly converted a 52-yard field goal during a game played in Florida.
Christophe Mulumba is a fullback and linebacker from Laval, Quebec. Last fall, the 6-1, 227-pounder was a captain at the Kent School in Connecticut, where he was the Erickson League defensive player of the year and an All-New England pick.
Judging from his YouTube videos, Mulumba’s defensive exploits might remind UMaine fans of former standouts Jermaine Walker and Stephen Cooper. Mulumba will play in the 2012 USA Football International Bowl set for Wednesday in Austin, Texas.
A pair of ends also are among the players who have verbally committed to UMaine. Sean Reuss is a tight end and defensive end while Calvert Schaefer is a tight end.
Schaefer (6-6, 260) hails from Westminster, Md., and played for 6-4 Winters Mill High School. He was a Chesapeake Conference first-team selection on offense and a second-team honoree on defense, where he made 6½ sacks.
Reuss was a two-way performer at Monticello (N.Y.) High School. The 6-3, 230-pound end registered 77 tackles, sparking his team to its second straight Section 9 Class A semifinal appearance.
Monticello completed only its third season of varsity play last fall.
The participation of student-athletes is predicated on their acceptance by UMaine and compliance with NCAA initial-eligibility guidelines.