ORONO, Maine — Brian Harvey approached head coach Jack Cosgrove on Tuesday and expressed his readiness to participate in the University of Maine’s intrasquad scrimmage.
The senior place-kicker, who has been nursing a nagging muscle pull during training camp, felt compelled to offer his services.
“I said, ‘I think I can kick in the scrimmage; how much do you need me back, how confident are you in me going into Week 1?’” Harvey asked.
The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder from Wayland, Mass., is aware fellow kickers Sean Decloux and Jeff Ondish have been performing well during the preseason. He didn’t want to take anything for granted.
Cosgrove reaffirmed his confidence in Harvey, who sat out Tuesday’s session on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium. Harvey was nonetheless prepared to prove himself again, given the level of competition among the three kickers.
“The more depth you have and the more guys competing for that No. 1 spot,” Harvey said, “I think that’s good for anybody.”
Harvey had a solid 2011 campaign, converting eight of 14 field goals with a long of 41 yards. He also made 41 of 44 extra-point kicks.
Decloux is a freshman from Ottawa, Ontario, while Ondish is a sophomore from Elkton, Md.
Decloux quickly caught the attention of his coaches and teammates with a high level of proficiency in both facets of the kicking game. He has exhibited a strong, accurate leg.
Cosgrove didn’t pull any punches about the newcomer.
“We’re blessed with Sean Decloux,” he said. “He’s come in and been as good a first-year addition to this program as I’ve witnessed, in a different way, as a kicker/punter, but he’s way ahead of most coming out [of high school]. We’re real excited about Sean.”
With Harvey sidelined, Decloux saw plenty of action Tuesday. He kicked field goals of 20 and 24 yards and also booted a handful of punts.
Decloux said his first 2 1/2 weeks at UMaine have been educational. He has structure in his workouts and some competition on the field.
“All the high school teams I’ve ever played for, I think I’ve always been the only kicker, so there’s never really been anybody to compete with,” said Decloux, who played last season at Red Lion Christian Academy in Bear, Del., where he kicked a 52-yard field goal.
Decloux also has been adapting to following a specific stretching, lifting and kicking program with the help of his teammates.
“Having Brian and Jeff with me are definitely good influences, doing a lot of drills,” he said. “I’ve definitely improved more in the last two weeks than I have ever before.”
Ondish is penciled in as the starting punter and likely will handle kickoffs. Last season he backed up Harvey on PATs and field goals and senior Jordan Waxman on punts and kickoffs.
Ondish seemed to be striking the ball well during Tuesday’s scrimmage with some high punts. He had a low, 39-yard field-goal attempt blocked by Mike Cole.
“Jeff’s been incredible this preseason camp,” offered Harvey. “I think almost every day he’s out here is the best day he’s had in practice, which is saying a lot about his hard work in the offseason.”
Cosgrove likes what he has seen from the kicking/punting trio.
“Brian kicked for the first time [Sunday] and really did a nice job,” Cosgrove said.
“We were a little anxious about it [the injury] because it was a nagging type of thing but he kicked live [Sunday] for the first time, no repercussions, so we’re in good shape there,” he added. “And with the development of Sean and also Jeff Ondish, we feel really pretty good about the skill level of our kicker and punter game.”
Harvey, who expects to be ready to go for UMaine’s Sept. 8 opener at Boston College, said the commitment and camaraderie of the the kicking corps should mean a productive season.
“We watch film together and we warm up together, stretch together,” Harvey said, “so it definitely helps us stay competitive but at the same time close.”
Better safe than sorry
Numerous Black Bear players did not participate in Tuesday’s scrimmage as they try to recover from injuries.
Among the injured was sophomore defensive tackle Matt Pellerin of Turner, who was on crutches and sporting a brace on his right knee. The projected starter is sidelined an estimated four to six weeks.
That puts a dent in an already thin group of defensive tackles, including rehabbing senior Kris Enslen, who did not play in the scrimmage.
UMaine is now counting on graduate student David Toriola, sophomores Devin Clark and Matt Wilson, and junior transfer Alban Dedvujak to enhance their development quickly.
Others who sat out Tuesday included wide receivers Derrick Johnson and Maurice McDonald, fullbacks Sam Shipley and Carlton Charles and safety Mike Kuhn.