Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Zachary Reed of Scarborough was mobbed by his excited teammates after catching a punt on Friday morning at Alfond Stadium in Orono.
University of Maine head football coach Nick Charlton concluded the 15th and final day of fall practice by allowing his players to have some good-natured fun. He let 300-pound offensive and defensive linemen try to catch punts with their teammates shouting encouragement.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Bears went 321 days without a full-team practice. Their fall season has been pushed back to the spring.
UMaine players will work out on their own until returning in January to begin preparing for a scheduled March 6, 2020, Colonial Athletic Association opener at Delaware.
“Most of us took a year off from football. It was good to get back on the field, get everything right, get our technique back,” junior safety Richard Carr said.
He said the fall workouts were valuable to build relationships with teammates, especially the newcomers.
“This will be the first fall I haven’t played football. That’s going to be different for me,” Carr said. “But playing in the spring is going to be a nice challenge for us.”
All-American and All-CAA offensive tackle Liam Dobson called the 15 practices extremely valuable and agreed that building relationships was as important as playing football.
The Black Bears welcomed more than 30 newcomers between freshmen and transfers and Dobson said he liked what he saw from the team.
“The team looked good. There is a good corps of us back, there were a lot of transfers and a lot of freshmen who showed well. I’m excited to get back to work in January,” he said.
Dobson said playing games in spring will be similar to competing in the late fall in Orono.
“That will give us a little bit of an edge on some teams. If we do our thing, we’re going to be a hard team to beat no matter where we play.”
Sophomore quarterback Joe Fagnano said he is taking on more of a leadership role this season.
“Now I know the ropes and what needs to be done, what a good practice looks like,” Fagnano said. “I have to make sure we practice the right way, everybody gets their studies done and everyone learns the playbook as fast as they can.”
Fagnano’s development is apparent to his teammates and coaches.
“He has grown as a person and as a leader. He has taken a lot of strides,” All-CAA senior linebacker Deshawn Stevens said. “I’m excited to see how he does going from his freshman to his sophomore year.”
“He has the trust of his teammates,” Charlton said.
Charlton called the Black Bears a young team that has played a lot of football.
“We don’t have a lot of seniors. So the leadership needs to continue to be cultivated,” he said.
The next step, Charlton said, is to get UMaine players back on campus as early as possible in January.
“That’s the number one priority. To get them back into a college weight room in a college setting with their coaches is critically important,” he said.
The Black Bears will be without junior cornerback Shaquille St-Lot next spring after he was lost for the season with a knee injury.
The Montreal native led the team in pass breakups with 13 in 2019 and he also had a fumble recovery and was in on 27 tackles in 12 games for the 6-6 Black Bears (4-4 CAA).
“Losing Shaq definitely hurts but we have a lot of depth in that position,” Carr said.