Joe Fagnano was upbeat following the University of Maine’s first football practice on Wednesday afternoon.
The junior quarterback is one of 10 players with starting experience on the offense and he said he is “really confident” the Black Bear offense will be able to move the ball consistently this fall despite being ranked ninth of 12 teams in their conference in a preseason poll last month.
Fagnano is coming off an abbreviated four-game spring schedule where he and his teammates were inconsistent with a 2-2 record. His final numbers were 57.8 percent completion percentage with 795 yards and eight touchdowns to go with one interception. He ran for two scores as well.
He was an All-Colonial Athletic Association second-team choice, although no teams played more than four conference games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there was a large contrast in his numbers between the wins and losses.
In his 38-34 victory over Albany and a 35-19 win over Stony Brook, he completed 36 of 58 passes for 499 yards and eight TDs with no interceptions. But in 37-0 and 44-17 setbacks to Delaware, he connected on 31 of 58 passes for 296 yards and no TDs and was picked once.
Fagnano said he and his offensive teammates need to develop a level of proficiency from day one. He said his primary focus will be to communicate with teammates.
“It starts here: the first day of camp,” he said. “We need to be more consistent in the running game and in the passing game.”
That will lead him into getting the ball in the hands of receivers including Andre Miller, Devin Young and Jacob Hennie and “letting them do their thing.” Old Town’s Miller, a captain, caught 21 passes for 348 yards and six touchdowns and was a first team All-CAA pick this spring.
Hennie is one of six returnees who caught anywhere from six to nine passes and Young, who opted out this spring due to the pandemic, was the team’s third-leading receiver in 2019 with 41 catches for 593 yards and four TDs.
“Devin brings us a whole other element,” Fagnano said. “He is a great player, a great athlete and he always competes. He understands the ins and outs of the offense.”
Fagnano also said they have a trio of quality running backs in Freddie Brock, Elijah Barnwell and Tavion Banks who received valuable experience in the spring.
In addition to improving his communication, he wants to take on more of a leadership role as a junior. He feels more comfortable than ever due to experience. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound native of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, said he continues to work on the mental aspect of his game, understanding defenses and how to exploit them.
“You can always get better. You can always learn more,” he said.
Fagnano burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2019, taking over for Chris Ferguson when Ferguson sustained a season-ending foot injury in the second quarter of the sixth game of the season, a 24-17 loss to Richmond.
Even though UMaine lost to Richmond, Fagnano completed 10 of 16 passes for 157 yards and a TD and ran for 55 more yards on 13 carries. He was intercepted once.
Fagnano guided the Black Bears to four wins in their final six games with one of the losses coming to Football Championship Subdivision team Liberty (Virginia) 59-44.
He wound up completing 121 of 184 passes in 2019 for 1,835 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was intercepted three times. He also ran the ball 86 times for 192 yards.
Both Miller and UMaine coach Nick Charlton expect big things from Fagnano this fall, with the receiver saying he is going to have a “monster season.”
“The ceiling is very, very high for Joe,” Charlton said. “In the spring, there were times we could have done some things better (offensively), but we have a lot of confidence in him.”