University of Maine head football coach Nick Charlton has always maintained that he wants the best football players in the state of Maine to attend the state university.
And five of them, all linemen, are going to do so as preferred walk-ons.
Charlton and his staff on Wednesday announced that 17 players have signed National Letters of Intent to attend UMaine.
The 6-foot-1, 300-pound Gross, an Orland native who has won multiple LTC and state awards, was also an outstanding defensive linemen but he is projected to be a center at UMaine.
Eddie Hebert of Starks (6-5, 310), who played at Mt. Blue High School of Farmington and Marek Veal of East Machias (6-5, 310), a Washington Academy standout also are offensive linemen; Jevin Smith of Winthrop High School (6-4, 220) will be a defensive lineman and 6-0, 210-pound Bryce Henaire of Bangor High is being moved from the line to linebacker.
“I’m excited to get them up here this summer,” Charlton said. “This is the best group of linemen we’ve had in the state in a long time.
“I want to take the top players in the state,” he added.
Gross, who is awaiting knee surgery, is also a two-time state wrestling champ.
“David is a strong kid and a good wrestler. He’s very passionate about UMaine football and we’re looking at him in the interior line. We’re also going to try him at center. He’s very intelligent,” said Charlton.
He said Hebert and Veal are “athletic young men,” especially for their size.
Charlton likes having 300-pound linemen up front.
“To use an old Chip Kelly quote, ‘Big people move little people,” Charlton said, referring to the UCLA football coach and former NFL head coach.
He thinks Smith will become even more of a presence as he puts on weight and Henaire can play a number of positions.
“They all bring something different and they all should be productive players for us,” Charlton said.
He observed that one common denominator among in-state players is their toughness.
Another member of the class is wide receiver Montigo Moss, son of NFL Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Randy Moss.
“He reminds me a lot of [UMaine receiver] Jaquan Blair. He has the ability to make plays. He has very good hands and ball skills,” said Charlton. “He cares a lot about the game and is a very humble guy. His speed will continue to improve.”
Moss (6-1, 200), from Charlotte, North Carolina, is joined at wide receiver by 5-11, 180-pound Trevin Ewing of Elkton, Maryland.
Blair and All-America wide receiver Earnest Edwards, UMaine’s top two receivers this past fall, graduate inMay.
Other members of the 2020 recruiting class include defensive backs Austin Ambush (6-3, 195) of Laytonsville, Maryland, and Naseer Penn (6-0, 180) of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; linebackers Anthony Rightley (6-2, 220) of Philadelphia and Gino Tartamella (6-2, 220) of Manalapan, New Jersey; and quarterbacks Khyle Pena (6-1, 210) of Burlington, Mass. and Matt Toman (6-4, 215) of Rutherford, New Jersey.
Also headed to UMaine are running back Freddie Brock (5-10, 170) of Rochester, New York, kicker-placekicker Casey Farrell (6-2, 175) of Carthage, New York, tight end John Benson (6-6, 230) of Camullus, New York, and long snapper Trevor Banks (5-10, 200) of Fairport, New York.
Charlton said the players all fit the UMaine culture.
“We are trying to build a consistent winner. This is a very good class,” Charlton said.
Some are scholarship players and some are preferred walk-ons. Preferred walk-ons can earn scholarship money through their performance.
He also said as they continue to improve, more and more young guys are ready to play immediately.
Those who don’t can redshirt for a year and gain the experience and/or strength they need through practicing with the team. They retain four years of eligibility.
Under a recent NCAA rule change, true freshmen can play in up to four games and still retain four years of eligibility.