ORONO, Maine — Sean Decloux didn’t have the luxury of spending last fall as an understudy.
The freshman from Ottawa, Ontario, was pressed into service as the University of Maine’s full-time placekicker.
Decloux demonstrated some of the growth he achieved during his first year in Saturday morning’s ninth annual Jeff Cole Spring Scrimmage. He connected on all four of his field-goal attempts and both extra-point tries on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium as the Black Bears closed out their spring season.
“It went really well,” Decloux said of his spring. “I was hitting my field goals really well the whole time.”
Decloux converted seven of 10 field goals last season, including a 41-yarder against Georgia State. He made 24 of 25 PATs.
“He’s a talented young man. We knew that right away last year,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove. “He’s further ahead than most of the young kickers we’ve gotten here.”
Decloux was among the bright spots Saturday, which did not feature much in the way of offensive fireworks. He hit field goals of 40, 28, 39 and 29 yards.
Tight end Justin Perillo handled the snaps and quarterback Marcus Wasilewski was the holder for the successful kicks.
“Where’s [No.] 80 [Perillo]?” Cosgrove yelled after Decloux’s 39-yard field goal from the right hashmark. “Give him a kiss every time you make a field goal,” he said to Decloux, who instead provided Wasilewski with a peck on the helmet.
“He’s been very consistent this spring,” Cosgrove said. “That’s a good combination there. If we protect, that can be a weapon.”
Decloux believes he has made significant gains during his first year, especially in building his body.
“Definitely strength,” he said, crediting strength and conditioning coach Matt King and former strength coach Dan Nichol.
“I’ve put on about 20 pounds since I got here, a good amount,” added Decloux, who is up to 187 pounds. “When I came in, I think I was by far the skinniest guy on the team. I may still be the skinniest, but at least I caught up a little bit, so I have a little more confidence walking around.”
The offensive line is one of the key areas where UMaine must replace some starters from last season’s 5-6 finish heading into the 2013 season.
The Black Bears have a tremendous amount of experience to replace with the loss of seniors Josh Spearin, Chris Howley and Garet Williamson. The inexperience of a unit now headed up by seniors Jeff Gakos and Joe Hook was evident Saturday as the offense moved the ball sporadically.
“As far as our overall offensive production, it wasn’t what we wanted it to be,” Cosgrove said. “That’s a shared blame.”
The offense rushed for 91 yards on 22 carries (4.1 yards per carry), while quarterbacks Marcus Wasilewski and Dan Collins combined to complete 13 of 27 passes for 157 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Wasilewski, last year’s starter, was 9-for-13 passing, including scoring tosses of 22 and 4 yards to Carlton Charles of Windham. However, he was whistled down (sacked) behind the line of scrimmage four times.
Wasilewski was encouraged by the play of the line, which is expected to include sophomore Bruce Johnson, senior Tyler Patterson of Rockland, and sophomores Chase Hoyt and Dan Carriker.
“There’s a lot of new guys, young faces, working their way into the system,” he said. “I thought we made a lot of progress with that.”
Senior Derrick Johnson paced the wideouts with four receptions for 50 yards, including a 27-yard play on which Jamal Clay made a TD-saving tackle at the 36-yard line.
The run attack was paced by senior Zedric Joseph (9 carries, 41 yards) and sophomore Nigel Jones (7-34). The first-team offense had its best drive at about the midway point of the scrimmage, riding the running of those players from their own 40-yard line to the opposite 29.
Collins then hooked up with Jordan Dunn on a 15-yard pass play, before the drive stalled at the 11 and Decloux made a 28-yard field goal.
Gakos said there are plenty of challenges for the less-experienced guys in offensive line group.
“That was pretty awesome,” he said of the surge by the offense. “I feel like we kind of got in a groove when we started running the ball a little bit.”
UMaine’s tailbacks group was depleted, as top 2012 rusher Rickey Stevens was nursing an injury and David Hood has left the team for undisclosed personal reasons.
The defense did a solid job of containing its offensive peers, spearheaded by freshman lineman Patrick Ricard, who was in on five or six tackles and recorded two sacks.
Sophomore Trevor Bates of Westbrook, who has been moved from defensive end to middle linebacker, also had a handful of tackles, including a sack.
“We’ve developed some guys on the defensive side of the ball, which is encouraging,” Cosgrove said, “the move of Bates to middle linebacker, the development of defensive linemen Pat Ricard and Darius Greene, in particular.”
Safeties Jamal Clay and Axel Ofori (who had the lone interception), along with senior linebacker Troy Eastman, also played well.
“We’ve got a lot of the young D-linemen, we’ve got a lot of new faces. We lost a lot last year,” Eastman said. “I feel like everybody got into the swing of things and came out here every day, learned a lot, got better.”
Among the other players who did not participate in the scrimmage were senior defensive end Michael Cole, senior cornerback Kendall James, sophomore wideout Isaiah Jones, sophomore fullback Sean Stevenson and senior defensive back Lamar Fitzgerald.
UMaine opens opens the 2013 season Aug. 31 at Norfolk State.