BALTIMORE — University of Maine football coach Jack Cosgrove could care less that his team was picked to finish sixth in the Colonial Athletic Association by the league’s coaches.
But he felt that all five of his players chosen to the preseason All-CAA team, including four on the offensive side, were deserving of their recognition.
The CAA held its annual media day in Baltimore on Wednesday.
“I don’t pay attention to where we’re picked to finish, I never have,” said Cosgrove. “It doesn’t mean anything. We have a lot of work to do.
“If we do the things we need to do, we’ll move up,” said Cosgrove. “If we don’t, we could go backward.”
Defending CAA champ Towson was chosen to win the conference followed by Old Dominion, coached by former Maine offensive coordinator Bob Wilder, James Madison, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, William and Mary, Villanova, Richmond, Rhode Island and Georgia State.
The Maine players chosen to the All-CAA preseason team on the offensive side of the ball were senior right guard Chris Howley, senior left tackle Josh Spearin of Limington, senior wide receiver Maurice McDonald and junior tight end Justin Perillo.
The defensive choice was end Michael Cole.
Maine tied for the league-high with five preseason all-conference picks and had the most players on offense.
Howley, an All-CAA first team pick last season, and Limington’s Spearin, a second-teamer, will anchor a veteran offensive line that surrendered a league-low 1.54 sacks per game while protecting the first 3,000-yard passer in school history and opening holes for a 1,000-yard rusher.
Warren Smith threw for 3122 yards last season and Pushaun Brown rushed for 1,093 yards as Maine went 9-4 and reached the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals.
McDonald, a first-teamer last fall, had his season shortened to nine games due to a season-ending injury but he still caught 58 balls for 591 yards and five touchdowns. Perillo was a second-team choice after snagging 51 balls for 511 yards and four TDs.
Maine averaged 29.3 points per game last season.
Cosgrove said having his offensive line returning virtually intact — tackle Steve Shea of Corinna is the only loss to graduation — and having his primary receivers back will ease the pressure on whoever wins the quarterback job.
Howley, Spearin, senior center Garret Williamson and junior guard Jeff Gakos started all 13 games last season and tackle Joe Hook, a starter two years ago, will return after missing last season due to injury.
“That will make the quarterback’s job a lot easier,” said Cosgrove. “We’ll have a cohesiveness [up front].”
Cosgrove also said that it will be important that the Black Bears establish a passing game to go with their running game.
“We have to throw the ball. We can’t be one-dimensional,” sais Cosgrove. “We don’t want our receivers not doing anything.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Cole led the conference in sacks with 11 and was an All-CAA second-teamer last fall. He is a preseason All-American.
He had 15 tackles for losses and was involved in 49 tackles.
“He is relentless,” said Cosgrove who noted that Cole has worked extremely hard in the off-season and is in tremendous shape.
Maine will open the season against Atlantic Coast Conference team Boston College on Sept. 8 in Chestnut Hill, Mass.