December 11, 2018
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Picucci named offensive coordinator among UMaine football coaching changes

Stephen Swofford | AP
Stephen Swofford | AP
Maine quarterback Chris Ferguson looks for an open receiver during the second quarter against James Madison during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Brian Picucci believes it is important to have balance on offense.

He will get the opportunity to put a diversified offense on the field next fall as the University of Maine football team’s offensive coordinator.

Head coach Joe Harasymiak chose Picucci to replace Liam Coen, who left to take a similar position at Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Coen had been the offensive coordinator for two seasons.

Picucci has spent two seasons at UMaine. He was the offensive line/run game coordinator last fall after overseeing the run game the previous year.

UMaine tight ends coach Pat Denecke has been promoted to offensive line coach. It will be his third season at UMaine.

Harasymiak said the Black Bears will hire a part-time coach but he isn’t sure if it will be someone who will work with the tight ends or if he will shuffle his staff with a current member taking over the tight ends and the incoming coach being involved in another area.

UMaine went 4-6 last season, including 3-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association.

The 46-year-old Picucci, a native of Leominster, Massachusetts, has 21 years of college coaching experience. That includes six years as an offensive coordinator, four of which were at the University of Massachusetts where he coached Coen, who was the quarterback.

“Obviously, this is a great opportunity for me,” said Picucci. “It is something I’ve done before in this league. It’s good to get back to doing it.

“I’m thankful to Joe for giving me this opportunity and trusting me enough to take over the offense,” said Picucci, who was a fullback-tight end at Syracuse where he earned a B.S. in education in 1994.

Picucci said it is important these days to “not be too run-happy or pass-happy.

“You’re going to be in trouble if you are because defenses are good enough to make you one dimensional,” said Picucci. “They will limit your ability to run or throw the ball.”

He noted that there are times when one will be more effective than the other, depending upon the opponent.

“Brian has a ton of experience,” said Harasymiak, who has just completed his second season as head coach. “His football knowledge is very, very high. We’ve had some great conversations concerning X’s and O’s. He had the league’s top offense in two of his four seasons at UMass. He brings so much to the table.”

Harasymiak also praised Denecke, saying he has done a great job and is deserving of his promotion.

UMaine ranked third in the 12-team CAA in rushing last fall and had the conference’s leading rusher in sophomore Josh Mack. UMaine averaged 174.2 rushing yards per game and Mack ran for a league-best 1,335 yards (133.5 ypg).

Mack is transferring from Football Championship Subdivision UMaine in the hope of joining a Football Bowl Subdivision program. He will have to sit out a year as mandated by NCAA transfer rules.

“Josh is a talented football player but you have to want to be at the place you’re at or you have to move on,” said Harasymiak. “We have to pay attention to the guys we have in the program who want to be here.”

Harasymiak said Nigel Beckford, who was UMaine’s leading rusher in 2014 and 2015 but missed the 2017 due to injury, has decided not to return despite having another year of eligibility.

The status of Darian Davis-Ray, who has been limited to 15 games in three seasons due to injuries, is up in the air according to Harasymiak. He still has one year of eligibility.

Junior Joe Fitzpatrick of North Yarmouth was UMaine’s second leading rusher with 382 yards on 64 carries and he will be back.

Harasymiak also said they will have talented redshirt freshmen in Ramon Jefferson from the Bronx and Ted Kubongo from Calgary, Alberta.

Picucci added that they will benefit from having an experienced quarterback in Chris Ferguson, who was the starter as a redshirt freshman.

“You are only as good as your quarterback, to some degree, and Chris now has a year under his belt, which is great,” said Picucci.

UMaine must rebuild the offensive line with the departure of All-American tackle Jamil Demby, guards Isaiah Brooks and John Reddington and center Dan Burrows. Center Chris Mulvey, tackle Cody Levy and guard Liam Dobson return.

The Black Bears lose their top three receivers in Jaleel Reed, Mack and Jared Osumah but the next four are back including 2016 All-CAA receiver Micah Wright, who was limited to five games due to suspension and injury, and tight end Drew Belcher, who had been a quarterback his first two seasons.

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