PORTLAND — First-year head coach Joe Harasymiak said the 2016 season will be a transition season for the University of Maine football team. Harasymiak is the Black Bears’ first new head coach in more than two decades, replacing Jack Cosgrove, who retired from coaching following last season after coaching the Black Bears since 1994.

“We’re looking to earn respect this season,” Harasymiak said. “We report (to camp) tomorrow, so we’re ready to go.”

Harasymiak spoke at the Howard Vandersea Chapter of the National Football Foundation’s annual kick-off luncheon, at which the coaches of Maine’s seven collegiate football programs previewed the upcoming season. Maine is the first team in the state to get going, with practices starting this weekend.

Along with Harasymiak, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach, Maine has three new coordinators: offensive coordinator Liam Coen, defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman, and special teams coordinator Nick Charlton. The newly minted coaching staff will be tested early. The Black Bears open the season with a pair of games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, Connecticut on Sept. 1 and Toledo on Sept. 10. After a bye week, Maine hosts James Madison, which was picked to finish third in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll. Maine was picked to finish ninth, although the Black Bears did receive one first place vote.

“We’ll get punched in the face early, and see how we react,” Harasymiak said.

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Colby went 1-7 last season, and coach Jonathan Michaeles listed off the injuries his Mules saw in 2015: five ACLs, three broken feet, and a handful of concussions.

“Certainly those things don’t help. We’ve got to work through them,” Michaeles said.

An upside of all the injuries was the opportunity they gave younger players to play, Michaeles said. Colby returns seven starters on offense and seven more on defense.

A player from whom the Mules are expecting big things this season is senior running back Jabari Hurdle-Price, who will serve as a co-captain along with defensive end Henry Morris Wallrapp. Price was second in the New England Small College Athletic Conference in rushing yards last season, running for 728 yards and six touchdowns.

“(Hurdle-Price) was first-team all league. He’s a hard worker, a dynamic player,” Michaeles said.

Colby and the rest of the NESCAC get a late start to the season. The Mules first game is Sept. 24 at Williams.

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With 15 wins over the last two seasons and two straight postseason bids, expectations are high at Husson. The Eagles will play this season on new artificial turf at the Winkin Complex, coach Gabby Price said, and also have a new scoreboard and weight room.

In 2014, Husson won the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference and earned a trip to the NCAA Division III playoffs. Last season, the Eagles lost to Salve Regina, 42-39, in a tight ECFC Bowl.

“Our guys just played their hearts out last year,” Price said.

Husson had 17 starters from Maine last season, and Price expects 16 homegrown starters this season. Among those is Oak Hill product Luke Washburn, an all-conference defensive end last season, and linebacker Ellis Throckmorton, also an all-ECFC selection. Price said Washburn or Throckmorton could become the school’s fourth straight player to win conference Defensive Player of the Year honors, following Lawrence High grad Bryant Wade last season, Stephan Dance (2014) and Ernest Wiggins (2013).

Husson opens the season on Sept. 3 at Alfred.

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Bates coach Mark Harriman is looking forward to seeing how his defense plays this season.

“We return almost everybody. I’m excited at where we’ll be. We always try to hang our hat on defense,” Harriman said.

One of those key returning Bobcats is senior linebacker Mark Upton. A first team all-NESCAC player last season, Upton was second in the conference in tackles, with 71.

“He’s probably the best overall football player we have,” Harriman said.

The Bobcats open the season on Sept. 24 at Trinity.

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Entering his second season at Bowdoin, head coach JB Wells sees a team that is more comfortable in its new systems.

“I thought we made some good progress last year,” Wells said. “We’re much more poised as a program, and much more experienced.”

Wells said he’s looking forward to a good battle for the starting quarterback job in the preseason between sophomore Noah Nelson and senior Tim Drakeley. Each played in five games last season. Nelson threw for 966 yards and seven touchdowns before an injury cut short his season. Drakeley had almost identical stats, throwing for 954 yards and six touchdowns.

“We should have a really good quarterback battle there,” Wells said.

Bowdoin opens the season Sept. 24 at Middlebury.

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A highlight of the 2015 season for Maine Maritime Academy was beating Massachusetts Maritime to claim the Admiral’s Cup. The Mariners return most of the offensive backfield, including brothers Jake and Josh Doolan, Lawrence graduates, and fullback James Ferrar. With its triple option attack, coach Chris McKenney thinks the team can once again be among the rushing leaders in Division III.

“We need to improve our turnover ratio and consistency,” McKenney said.

The Mariners graduated longtime starting quarterback Michael Fahey. The job now goes to junior Corey Creeger, McKenney said.

“I think the rest of them will carry (Creeger) along,” McKenney said.

The Mariners report to camp on Aug. 13, one of the earliest report dates in recent memory, McKenney said, and will open the season on Sept. 3 at home against SUNY-Maritime.

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The University of New England won’t begin playing football games until 2017, but head coach Mike Lichten was happy to report on the progress the new program is making. Lichten recently hired his first assistant coach, defensive coordinator Kenny Treschitta.

Lichten thanked the other coaches in the state for offering encouragement and advice.

“Obviously, we have a lot of work to do,” Lichten said. “Every day is better than the last. We’ve gotten support from all over the state.”

The Nor’easters will play a sub-varsity schedule in 2017, and will begin varsity play in the Commonwealth Coast Conference in 2018. The first varsity game is already on the schedule, Aug. 30, 2018, at Coast Guard.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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