Defensive end has taken on a presence all its own on the University of Maine football team.
That’s understandable, given the players who have manned the position the last several years. All-American and all-conference names like Jovan Belcher, Matt King, and Dennis Dottin-Carter have made the position into a Black Bears’ defensive hallmark.
Belcher is now in preseason camp with the Kansas City Chiefs and senior Jordan Stevens, the former Mt. Blue High of Farmington standout, is the new No. 9, the new leader, and the most experienced member of a suddenly inexperienced unit.
“Last year we were Jovan Belcher and the defensive line. This year I want us to be the D-line,” said UMaine defensive line coach Dwayne Wilmot. “We’re still evolving and looking to find our identity. This is going to be a group that leads itself rather than us relying on one or two guys.”
With only five returning starters, the Bears’ defense is as young or inexperienced as it has been in several years.
“We have younger guys this year who are going to be leaned on to play a ton,” Wilmot said. “There’ll be some bumps and bruises, but we have good leadership and guys willing to work hard, and if you have that, you don’t need to be talented. But we have talent, so we’re expecting good things.”
That talent starts with the 6-foot-2, 248-pound Stevens and continues with 6-3, 214-pound Doug Alston and 6-4, 237-pound Kris Enslen. Both Alston and Enslen are redshirt freshmen.
“We don’t know who’s going to be the starter for the first game, but right now I’m repping with the 1’s and he’s repping with the 2’s , but we’ll have to see how it plays out.” Enslen said of his competition with Alston.
Enslen calls himself more of a run-stopper while Alston feels he excels as a pass-rusher.
UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove sees potential when he looks at both of them, and is particularly pleased they will be around for four years.
“It’s going to be good to see them develop and it’s really fortunate for us to have them as redshirt freshmen,” said Cosgrove. “Chris is a lot like Jordan when Jordan got there. Jordan was the bull and he’s the young bull. Doug’s a bit more explosive and dynamic, but not quite as physically developed as Chris is.”
Oh, and Enslen is the louder of the two, a fact Enslen doesn’t dispute.
“I get a little loud out on the field and off the field, well, I’m kind of a loud person as well,” Enslen said with a big grin.
Although he admits inexperience is a concern, Cosgrove is excited about the kind of results spirited competition between two solid contenders could bring.
However the competition winds up, Stevens should be the steadying influence, literally and figuratively.
“Loud isn’t always leadership. Jordan’s grown into a role where he understands not just what to say, but when to speak,” Wilmot said. “If someone doesn’t understand something, he’ll just tell them to watch what he does.”
Cosgrove says Stevens, who started 13 games last season, is the ideal kind of upperclassmen for a squad short on experience.
As a leader, he’s a General George Patton guy: Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way,” Cosgrove said. “He’s composed and a highly energetic guy who plays with a lot of intensity and passion. It’s really special.”
Stevens had four sacks, 7½ tackles for a loss, 53 total (23 solo) tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery last year.
Even with so many battles for starting jobs and so many positions in flux, Wilmot is confident Maine’s “Black Shirt” defense will again be a strength.
“The only thing that’s going to be different are the faces,” Wilmot said. “The way we go about our business and the way we attack our opponents won’t change.”
Bears welcome fans, youths
The University of Maine football team will hold a combination youth clinic and fan day Thursday night at Alfond Stadium in Orono.
The free event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. and hosted by the UMaine coaching staff and players. Activities include a barbecue, autograph sessions, and a football clinic for students in grades 8 and under. Free Maine football posters will also be handed out. Youths must preregister for the clinic by e-mailing Jeff Wildey at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling him at 581-4849.
Liz Saucier named UM assistant
Old Town native Liz Saucier will join the UMaine field hockey coaching staff as a volunteer assistant for 2009 season, head coach Josette Babineau announced Tuesday.
Saucier was head coach of SUNY New Paltz last season after one year as an assistant coach there. She was a three-time All-Liberty League honoree at William Smith College in Geneva, N.Y., before graduating in 2007.
Saucier was a standout field hockey player for Old Town High, earning All-State honors. Her sister, Shaunessy Saucier, played for the UMaine field hockey team and served as an assistant coach in 2007.
Shaunessy Saucier will begin her first season as the head field hockey coach at Bryant University this fall.