ORONO, Maine — Devin Young’s first season playing for the University of Maine’s football team was special.
Young was a redshirt freshman wide receiver and had 33 catches for 221 yards and a touchdown. He was also the team’s third-leading rusher with 163 yards on just 19 carries for a 8.6 yards per carry average.
And the Black Bears won the Colonial Athletic Association championship and then reached the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals for the first time in school history.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better year,” Young said after Friday night’s scrimmage at Alfond Stadium. “Just the team … and everyone on the team. It was just perfect. What really did it was the bond. On the team before , everyone wasn’t as close as they are now. Everyone on [last season’s] team talked to everybody. It didn’t matter if you were a scholarship player or a walk-on. There were no [cliques]. That was what separated us. It was a real family.
“It helped us build and show our talents on the field. We were talented my [true] freshman year but there was no chemistry,” he added.
Young, who is 5-foot-10 and weighs 185 pounds, was happy with his own production but feels there is plenty of room for improvement,
“I need to be a lot better. There were a lot of plays I left on the field. I just want to build from last year and break out this year,” Young said. “Last year, I felt like I did pretty good but it wasn’t [up to] my expectations. Now I’m getting more responsibility and I feel like it’s going to show this year.”
As a true freshman in 2017, Young didn’t get to play but practiced with the team and got acclimated to school and the transition from high school football to college football.
He was the team’s fifth-leading receiver last fall but will have a more prominent role this season with second and third-leading receivers Micah Wright (47 catches-539 yards) and Drew Belcher (46-for-357) departing.
And Young and Old Town’s Andre Miller are very much the face of the future in the receiving corps because last year’s leading pass-catcher, Earnest Edwards (53-839), will be a senior this fall as will Jaquan Blair (43-572) who was fourth.
“His next step is to be a dominant starter. That’s honestly what it is for him. And he can do it,” UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said. “He’s extremely talented. He’s a great kid, he is really, really working. He is starting to master the playbook.”
In discussing Young’s skillset, Charlton said Young is “very sudden,” meaning he can “change directions on a dime.”
“He’s very good at the top of the route. He has real speed as well but he has a very good understanding how to run routes and how to beat people one-on-one. And he can still find spots in zones,” Charlton added.
“He’s shifty, he’s fast, he can win on man [man-to-man coverage] and his IQ is really getting up there, too,” sophomore quarterback Chris Ferguson said. “I also like his personality. He has a lot of energy. He’s a funny guy. He’s a character on this team. He fits in great.”
Edwards and Young would occasionally line up in the backfield and carry the ball. Or they would go in motion and run sweeps and reverses. Edwards had 38 carries for 141 yards.
“They’re very versatile and very smart,” Charlton said. “They can both do a lot of things for you. Devin creates a lot of match-up problems so we try to move him around a lot.”
“I used to play running back in high school a lot. It brings back those days and getting back into that kind of flow,” Young said. “It’s different. It builds my game. It’s more I can do. I like it.
”I want to be able to do multiple things, not just be in one position. I want to be able to help the team the best way that I can,” Young said. “If it’s running back, receiver, slot … I just want to be the best I can be for the team. I want to become an all-around player.”
Young, who had six games with at least three catches for the 10-4 Black Bears, including a career-high five in a 17-5 loss to Football Bowl Subdivision Central Michigan, is originally from Brooklyn, New York, but moved to Binghamton, New York, when he was 15.
He was a two-time all-state selection at Binghamton High. He had 816 receiving yards and 1,549 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns his senior year.
“Moving to Binghamton helped me grow. That’s where I really started playing football,” Young said.
UMaine was the first program to offer him a scholarship and that meant a lot to Young.
“They were the first team to believe in me. [Former UMaine assistant Jeff Ambrosie] was the first one to contact me. And coach Nick [Charlton] was the main person I talked to. He came to my house. And he was the receivers coach at the time. I got a lot of looks from other schools but no offers,” said Young, who added that he did eventually get an offer from CAA school Albany after UMaine.
“Maine put the time in and when I visited the school, it was like a family. There were a lot of guys from the same background as me,” said Young, who gained confidence while playing for the scout team his freshman year. The scout team runs the plays or the schemes the upcoming opponent runs.
Young said the team received a huge boost of confidence from last season’s success and they want to build on it.
“Before, we questioned ourselves. We had the talent. Now we know we can compete with the best. So we’ve just got to finish,” Young said.