ORONO — Doug Nash saw the football spiraling toward him and one thought flashed through his mind.

Drop this, and they may never throw me another pass.

“That’s the offensive lineman’s dream right there,” said Nash, a junior at the University of Maine who, until last week, had always played interior line.

He was a big kid, so he blocked. It was that way in youth football and at Leavitt High in Turner and when he arrived in Orono.

But Nash also played basketball. He can jump well enough to dunk. That he stands 6-foot-5 is an advantage, of course, but high school teammate Matt Pellerin, now a Black Bears teammate, said Nash is “good at all the little things, sports-wise.”

The coaching staff at Maine noticed, and when injuries struck their top two tight ends last fall, they asked Nash to take a few reps at tight end, just in case.

Justin Perillo, the third tight end, blossomed into a superb receiver and this summer was named a preseason all-American by the College Sporting News. Perillo is back for his senior season, but a surplus of linemen coupled with the need for a capable back-up at tight end prompted head coach Jack Cosgrove to move Nash to tight end, switching his number from 65 to 45.

He worked harder with conditioning this summer, shedding 30 pounds to get to 265. A forestry major, Nash got a head start on the task with a two-week camp last May in Acadia National Park, working in the woods and living in a tent.

“So I came back already a few pounds down and didn’t even realize it,” he said.

Forestry is actually Nash’s third major at Maine. He also tried chemical engineering and mechanical engineering before landing in the woods, so this transition stuff is nothing new.

“Nash can catch the ball,” Cosgrove said. “He’s really done a nice job.”

And that was before Nash went out and grabbed a 4-yard pass from quarterback Marcus Wasilewski on Tuesday afternoon for the only offensive touchdown in Maine’s final formal intrasquad scrimmage before opening the season Sept. 8 at Boston College.

“I was kind of surprised at first,” Nash said of Tuesday’s play. “The (defensive) guys on the team know me and some may think I’m still playing tackle. I think it still confuses them a little bit, but I was able to sneak out there and catch it.”

The offensive linemen, naturally, were first to greet him and join in celebration. It was one of the few highlights Tuesday for an offense that was resting a few of its regulars, including Perillo and wide receiver Maurice McDonald.

“I think we wanted to get a look at a couple of the guys who we call back-up ones on the depth chart,” Wasilewski said. “If someone like Maurice McDonald needs a break, who’s going to go in for him?

“It was a good opportunity for those guys to get reps, to watch the film and get their own corrections and make themselves better players.”

Maine’s defense forced several fumbles, blocked a field goal attempt and cornerback Kendall James returned it 70 yards for a touchdown.

“It was not the crispest operation,” Cosgrove said. “As a result, the defense showed themselves in a positive light. When the offense is struggling, you’ve got to give the defense credit.”

One defender Cosgrove is particularly high on is another Maine player, defensive end Trevor Bates of Westbrook, a red-shirt freshman who is competing “for a ton of playing time,” Cosgrove said. “He’s had as big an impact as any kid in the program right now. We’re excited about what he’s done.”

Last year Bates paid his dues on the scout team. He traveled to away games, worked hard and hit the weights hard this summer, added 20 pounds to reach his current 245.

“I wanted to prove that, being from Maine, I can still compete with people from Jersey and New York,” Bates said. “Hopefully and with hard work, I can make a name for myself and eventually get into the starting rotation.”

The only Maine native who is a returning starter is senior left tackle Josh Spearin of Limington. Pellerin, who practiced with the team last fall after transferring from Maine Maritime, was competing for the starting nose tackle job until injuring his knee Saturday.

An MRI exam Tuesday morning revealed a torn MCL rather than a torn ACL, which left Pellerin wearing a smile as well as a brace.

“I thought I was going to be out the whole season, so this is great news,” he said. “They said I should be out three to six weeks. Hopefully, more toward three weeks, so I’ll be ready for conference play.”

Maine’s first Colonial Athletic Association contest is scheduled for Sept. 22 against Albany in Orono.

Notes: The team will hold its annual “Meet the Bears” night at 6 tonight at Morse Field, welcoming youth football players for a free clinic with posters and autographs. … Two members of the 2011 squad, wide receiver Derek Session and safety Trevor Coston, were among recent cuts by Buffalo and Chicago as NFL teams pare their rosters in preparation for their seasons … A Philadelphia scout watched Tuesday’s scrimmage. A Washington scout visited Orono over the weekend. … Rhode Island reversed an earlier decision to scale back its football program and announced Tuesday it would remain in the CAA.


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