ORONO, Maine — Old Town’s Andre Miller made a statement in the University of Maine’s 50-19 loss to Eastern Washington in their Football Championship Subdivision semifinal in Cheney, Washington.
The Husson University of Bangor transfer entered the game with seven receptions on the season but wound up with a team-high nine catches for 129 yards including a 47-yard touchdown pass from Chris Ferguson.
Sophomore wide receiver Miller is going to try to build on that performance during spring football in hopes of landing a starting spot this fall.
The Black Bears graduate two-time All-Colonial Athletic Association wide receiver Micah Wright, who had 47 receptions for 589 yards and six touchdowns last season and concluded his career with 168 receptions for 2,283 yards and 21 TDs.
“Spring ball is really important for Andre,” said Nick Charlton, who is in his first season as the head coach after Joe Harasymiak left to become the defensive backs coach at the University of Minnesota.
“He really came on late last year. He dived into the playbook and I expect him to start and be a very good player in this league,” said Charlton. “I firmly believe that.”
“With Micah leaving, we need someone to step in and Andre proved he can be that kind of guy. You saw that the last couple of games. He made some big-time plays and big-time catches,” said Ferguson. “You’re going to see a lot of him this year.”
Miller acknowledged that his confidence received a boost at the end of the year and he wants to continue his development this spring.
“I want to be more precise in everything I do,” said Miller. “I want to keep building. I want to get stronger and faster. I want to be more focused.
“I had a couple of drops last year. Although it doesn’t matter now, I still think about it. I like to catch everything thrown my way,” he added. “Even looking back at the Eastern Washington game, there were plays I could have made that I left out there. I don’t like to focus on the past but I try to learn from it.”
Miller will also benefit because he has a better grasp of the playbook now.
“He has a lot of the essential things you need to be a good receiver in this league,” said junior running back Joe Fitzpatrick from North Yarmouth. “The biggest thing for him will be to continue to learn the playbook and know it like the back of your hand.
“He reminds me of myself. Coming from Maine high school football to the University of Maine is definitely a big jump. You have to know the ins and outs of the playbook and he improved a lot from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. It was good to see him get game experience. I’m excited to see what he does this season,” added Fitzpatrick, who noted that Miller learned a lot from the veteran receivers.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Miller finished the season with 16 catches for 287 yards and the one TD reception. His 17.94 yards per catch average led the team. He earned a full scholarship after the season.
The players said there has been a smooth transition to Charlton and some new assistants. In addition to Harasymiak, defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman and defensive backs coach Matt Birkett left to take similar positions at CAA rival James Madison University in Virginia.
“Everybody has a connection to Coach Charlton. He’s really good about connecting with his players,” said Fitzpatrick. “It isn’t a big change. We’ve got some new coaches. The more, the merrier.”
“It’s a similar atmosphere. Coach Charlton has done a great job stepping in. We haven’t missed a beat,” said UMaine sophomore linebacker Deshawn Stevens, an All-CAA second team selection.
The Black Bears went 10-4 last season and won the CAA with a 7-1 record.
Last year’s success will serve as motivation this spring and into the fall.
“That semifinal game left a bad taste in our mouths. We want to prove the doubters wrong,” said Stevens. “It was just a bad showing. We can still get better than we were last year.”
“We always have a chip on our shoulders, especially being at Maine,” said Ferguson. “We have the same energy, the same expectations, the same work ethic.”
“It’s a new team,” said Charlton. “It’s a different team than the 2018 team. We want to establish our identity. We all have that hunger to win. We got a taste of it last year and will drive us a little bit more.”
Charlton will keep the blueprint laid out by Harasymiak although he will be some minor differences.
“At the end of the day, we have a very good system in place. There is a good culture here,” said Charlton. “We have very similar beliefs. We just want to build on top of it. The kids are very focused. They love football. I love these kids.”
The annual Jeff Cole Memorial Spring Game will cap the spring session on Saturday, April 27 at noon. There will be a trophy celebration at 11:30 a.m. at Morse Field in Alfond Stadium.
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