ORONO — A new football season dawned for the University of Maine on Monday, with 24 wide-eyed rookies getting their first taste of a college practice.

But there were other signs on the opening day of summer practices that things might be very different for the Black Bears this year.

Sophomore Marquise Adams is moving from cornerback to wide receiver.

Sophomore wide receiver Matt Cosgrove is taking on quarterbacking duties, as the fourth-stringer for now, but with the prospect of someday following in the footsteps of his father, head coach Jack Cosgrove.

And defensive tackle Uchenna Egwuonwu, who redshirted last season to put on weight, has slimmed down while adding muscle, and figures to make an impact as the backup to junior Patrick Ricard.

“There were no pads yet, so it’s not a true test of our strength,” Egwuonwu said on a sunny day at Alfond Stadium. “You could feel the tempo, you could definitely feel the energy and I think everyone’s excited for the season, to make a name for ourselves.”

The season starts Sept. 5 at Boston College. In the practices leading up to that, Egwuonwu will need to show his coaches that his aggressiveness matches his physical gifts. The 6-foot-2, 275-pounder from Union, New Jersey, is among the strongest of the Black Bears, and deceptively quick for his size.

But defensive coordinator Joe Harasymiak said Egwuonwu – called “Ooch” by his teammates – showed a tendency in spring practices to hesitate before attacking offensive linemen.

“He’ll come off the ball and he’ll catch the block instead of defeating the block first. He’s a little passive that way because he doesn’t want to screw up. He doesn’t want to get out of his gap,” Harasymiak said.

“We want to create a new line of scrimmage on the other side of the offensive line, get us to second-and-12 instead of just being in our gap and catching the guy and now it’s second-and-8. That’s the next step for him.”

Harasymiak anticipates that Egwuonwu will play 12 to 15 snaps per game in relief of Ricard.

Egwuonwu, who also played offensive tackle in high school, said he came to Maine at 275 pounds last summer, but bulked up to 297 by winter, trying to find an ideal playing weight. He ended up losing those 20 pounds again to take advantage of his speed – a 5.1 in the 40 – while not sacrificing strength. On Sunday, when the players reported to camp and did some weight-lifting drills, Egwuonwu hang-cleaned 318 pounds five teams, best on the team.

“I might get back up to 283 (pounds),” he said. “I’ll see where I’m most comfortable and I think I’ll keep that and just grow naturally from there. I just don’t want to get any slower.”

Speed isn’t an issue for Adams, who played wide receiver and safety at North Star Academy in Newark, New Jersey. Maine recruited him as a cornerback, but the coaches told him before spring practices that they wanted to move him to offense, which suited the 185-pounder just fine.

“I was elated. Scoring touchdowns in front of the home crowd will be exciting,” Adams said.

He spent the summer on campus working with quarterbacks Drew Belcher and Dan Collins, and enters training camp second on the depth chart behind Micah Wright.

“It was good to come out here and time it up and be able to come into camp naturally instead of having to learn it while I’m in camp,” Adams said of his new, old position.

Belcher and Collins are in a battle to be the starter, with freshman Jack Walsh third on the depth chart. But there’s a surprising name lurking behind that trio, as Cosgrove was informed by his father a month ago that he would be asked to learn a position he hadn’t played since eighth grade. Quarterbacks Dan Hoffer and Kellen Croce left the program after last season, thinning the position.

Cosgrove, a sophomore out of Bangor High School, has been throwing for weeks with his dad, who starred at quarterback for the Black Bears. He was surprised with his arm strength.

“I do have a decent arm. A lot of people didn’t think I would,” Matt Cosgrove said after taking reps about both quarterback and wide receiver on a “hectic” opening day of practice.

“Anything I could do to get on the field sooner or help the team in any way was awesome to me, so I was pumped, of course.”

Cosgrove said he doesn’t consider himself a contender to start under center at the moment.

“I’m going to work my way up and see what happens, but right now I’m just learning to play the position. I’ve got it in the blood,” he said.

As for his father?

“Surprisingly, he’s still got it. He’s 60 years old and he can still throw the football,” Cosgrove said. “I was shocked, actually. He can’t catch it very well, but he’s still got an arm.”

Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MarkEmmertPPH

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