HERO Sports welcomes you to "Two-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 125 FCS programs, with two being released each day from June 18 to August 18 (with the final day having three in one day). Today we give you … Maine.
Maine (4-6 IN 2017)
Colonial Athletic Association (Maine was T-7th in 2017)
COACH: Joe Harasymiak – 3rd year (10-11)
2017 OFFENSE: 24.6 ppg. (58th in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 23.3 ppg. (39th in FCS)
SUM IT UP: It's been a somewhat tumultuous off-season in Orono. Offensive Coordinator Liam Coen, who spent two years with the Black Bears from 2016-17, left the team for the same position with Holy Cross. Coach Harasymiak promoted Brian Picucci to replace Coen in December, but less than two months later, Picucci was lured away by the Detroit Lions. (That same week, the Rams pulled Coen away from his new position.)
Maine finally found its guy for 2018 after promoting Special Teams Coordinator Nick Charlton. But before the end of the spring, Maine suffered perhaps its biggest blow of all — runningback Josh Mack, who led the FCS in rushing yards per game last season, announced his intention to transfer to Liberty.
The off-season churn is important prologue for the 2018 season. Maine typically fields a team that runs the ball effectively and plays tight defense; the 2018 season is unlikely to be any different, despite the added challenges of the last seven months. Maine's defense should prove to be one of the better units in the CAA, and that should be an awfully helpful prop for an offense that could struggle to work through some issues. With a first-time OC and a missing 1,300-yard rusher, redshirt sophomore quarterback Chris Ferguson could be asked to do more.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Maine punches a surprising ticket to the FCS playoffs. Despite the potential problems outlined above, Maine's fortuitous schedule could potentially result in the program's first playoff berth since 2013. The Black Bears get New Hampshire at home on Thursday, Aug. 30, kicking off a CAA schedule that doesn't include James Madison or Delaware. Maine plays the sort of ball-control style of offense that can frustrate teams like New Hampshire, and in an early-season matchup, anything is possible. An upset over UNH would put Maine in position to go out and take a lot of winnable games from the middle of the CAA — no easy task, but far from impossible. A non-conference schedule composed of Yale and two FBS schools doesn't exactly do the Black Bears a lot of favors, but a top-4 finish in the CAA would almost assuredly carry more weight than punting on meaningful September games in favor of taking a couple of paydays.
TOP RETURNEE: DL Kayon Whitaker (Third-Team All-CAA, 14 TFL's).
THE NEXT FIVE: LB Sterling Sheffield (Second-Team All-CAA, 12 TFL's); DB Manny Patterson (Second-Team All-CAA, 17 Passes Defended); QB Chris Ferguson (Passed for 2,000 yards in Redshirt Freshman Season); OL Chris Mulvey (Nine Starts in 2017); LB Jaron Grayer (Jerry Rice Finalist, Led Team with 79 Tackles).
TOP NEWCOMER: OL Tyler Royal (Cheney University Transfer)
DID YOU KNOW?: Caroline Colvin, who served as chairperson of the History Department at the University of Maine in the early 20th century, was the first American woman to head a major university department.
THE QUOTE: "We are excited about Nick taking the next step within our program and becoming our next offensive coordinator. He is very familiar with our system but at the same time will bring his own identity to that group. We are excited for what the future holds with Nick." — Head Coach Joe Harasymiak said, following Nick Charlton's promotion to Offensive Coordinator in February.
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #BearWitness
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @BlackBearsFB
2017 #FCS best in third-down conversion percentage defense:
1. @McNeeseFootball, 0.238
2. @NCCU_Football, 0.245
3. @NDSUfootball, 0.255
4. @SacHornetsFB, 0.261
5. @BlackBearsFB, 0.274https://t.co/Jh0yqlKDmh pic.twitter.com/GzSlHxASsF
— FCS Football (@FCS_STATS) May 7, 2018
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