May 27, 2019
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Experience up front key to UMaine’s early offensive success

Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
University of Maine's Zaire Williams (center) tries to avoid a tackle from James Madison's Brandon Hereford in November 2016.

They average 6-foot-5, 303 pounds.

And the University of Maine’s veteran interior offensive line has been getting the job done through the team’s first two games.

The Black Bears racked up 536 yards of total offense in Saturday’s 60-12 victory over Bryant University after registering 352 yards in the 24-23 loss to No. 13 New Hampshire in their opener.

The numbers would have been even better against the University of New Hampshire if Black Bear receivers hadn’t dropped so many passes from redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Ferguson.

Ferguson has been sacked only once in two games and sophomore running back Josh Mack has rushed for 358 yards on 40 carries including a 255-yard day (13 carries) against Bryant.

The Black Bears return four starters in the offensive line.

Senior left tackle Jamil Demby (6-5, 335 pounds) was a third-team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection in 2016 and a preseason All-CAA and third-team All-American this year. He has started 32 games.

Senior right guard Isaiah Brooks (6-5, 295) has started 33 games. Senior left guard John Reddington (6-5, 294) has played in 23 games over the last two-plus seasons and has started 20. Junior right tackle Cody Levy (6-6, 300) has played in 21 games beginning with 14 starts.

The newcomer is redshirt freshman center Christopher Mulvey (6-3, 291).

In addition, senior tight end Jason Simonovich (6-3, 250) has been a useful blocker and caught TD pass against New Hampshire. He has appeared in 21 games with eight starts.

“First and foremost, those guys are prepared. Coach [Brian] Picucci does an unbelievable job preparing those guys,” UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak said, referring to offensive line coach and run game coordinator. “There aren’t a lot of things they aren’t prepared for on Saturday. And the guys are committed. They want to be great.”

The experience up front is a key to UMaine’s early offensive success.

“It helps to have a veteran offensive line. They provide our tempo on offense. They’ve been impressive. And they’re going to continue to jell. They were able to pick up some blitzes on Saturday and that enabled us to hit some big plays,” Harasymiak said.

Demby said their preparation for the Bryant game was thorough.

Kicking, penalties concern coach

The Black Bears are off this weekend before returning for a brutal three-game road stretch against defending NCAA Football Championship Subdivision champion and No. 1-ranked James Madison (Virginia) on Sept. 23, Football Bowl Subdivision bowl participant Central Florida on Sept. 30 and 2016 FCS playoff team Villanova (Pennsylvania) on Oct. 7.

Harasymiak outlined areas that have to improve and they include the kicking game, reducing their penalties and doing a better job tackling.

Freshman Kenny Doak kicked a field goal and converted two extra-point conversions against UNH but missed two field goals and a potential game-tying extra point.

On Saturday, Doak kicked two field goals and five extra-points but had two PATs blocked, one of which was returned for two points by Bryant’s Torrey Dixon. Saco’s Brandon Briggs attempted a field goal and missed it but did convert his only extra-point attempt.

Briggs’ kickoffs have been deep and impressive.

“Brandon has been kicking the crap out of the ball on kickoffs. I didn’t want to screw with him. I wanted one of them handling kickoffs and the other handling field goals and extra points,” Harasymiak said. “We need consistency.

“An extra point should be automatic. I shouldn’t even have to think about it. Kenny’s kicks were low again,” Harasymiak said. “We need consistency in our kicking game. We’re going to lose another game if we don’t fix it.”

Harasymiak indicated that he likely will open up the place-kicking competition in the hope of getting better results.

UMaine was called for 11 penalties for 110 yards on Saturday after picking up 10 for 90 yards against UNH.

“We have to cut those out. They’re going to beat us,” Harasymiak said.

Harasymiak also noted that the tackling, especially in the open field, must improve.



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