ORONO — The first pass was the scariest. With the University of Maine starting a drive at its 47, tight end Drew Belcher lined up on the right and ran into the flat, where quarterback Chris Ferguson threw him the ball.

“Just catch it and run,” said Belcher, when asked what he was thinking as the ball approached. “The first one, you wouldn’t want to drop it.”

He didn’t and the play went for 16 yards, a precursor to the rest of the night. Belcher, a redshirt junior, caught four passes for 67 yards in Maine’s 24-23 loss to New Hampshire, each catch resulting in a first down.

What makes those stats even more impressive is that, until Aug. 19, Belcher was a QB for the Black Bears.

That was the day Ferguson was named the starting quarterback by Maine Coach Joe Harasymiak, beating out Belcher and grad transfer Max Staver. Harasymiak and Liam Coen, Maine’s offensive coordinator, quickly asked Belcher to move to tight end.

“I’ve known that Drew Belcher was going to be a dynamic tight end since the day I walked into this building,” said Coen, in his second year with the Black Bears. “It was just a matter of him trusting us to do it. And he has 100 percent trusted us, put his faith in us and it’s paying off.”


The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Belcher had been a quarterback since the eighth grade, starting for three years at Reading (Massachusetts) High, where he graduated as the school’s all-time winningest quarterback (29-6). He came to Maine and battled Dan Collins for the starting job for three years, starting nine games.

But when Ferguson was named the starter, he was open to a move. “I just wanted to play as much as I can,” he said.

And the willingness to change his position said much about Belcher, whom Harasymiak called “the ultimate teammate, one of the best kids we have in the program.”

With Belcher, said Harasymiak, “It’s not about him. That’s the biggest problem I see in today’s game with kids coming out of high school. It’s all about them. Belch is the complete opposite. He’ll do anything for his teammates.”

In his first practice as a tight end, Belcher caught a touchdown pass, a glimpse at the play-making ability the Black Bears believe he brings to the offense.

“I knew it was coming,” said Ferguson, a redshirt freshman who threw for three touchdowns and two interceptions in his debut. “He is so smart, he just wants to win and wants to do anything to help this team. He’s worked so hard. I saw from competing with him how hard he works. I knew to stay with him.


“He was so supportive of me (when Ferguson was named the starter) and I saw that and said, ‘Wow, that’s so cool.’ And in practice the first day I threw a touchdown pass to him and said this is what it’s going to be like all season.”

The coaches certainly think he’ll be a factor, starting 3:30 p.m. Saturday when Maine plays its home opener against Bryant. Coen called him a “match-up problem” for a lot of teams.

“I truly believe he can be one of the best tight ends in the league,” said Harasymiak. “He’s dynamic and we can do a lot of stuff with him that will be challenging for opposing teams.”

The fact that he sees the game from a quarterback’s perspective is huge. He not only knows what he’s supposed to do on a play, but he sees the defense as Ferguson would.

“I know what he’s thinking,” said Belcher. “That definitely helps with coverages. I know what the defense is playing, I’ve seen all that stuff: two safeties high, one safety high. I see the soft spots in the defense.”

Of course, there are more things to consider. Fatigue for one thing. “There’s a lot more running than at quarterback,” said Belcher.


And blocking. That’s the biggest thing Belcher has to work on, since many times he’s blocking a larger defender.

“It’s something I’m getting used to, blocking guys in space,” said Belcher. “Most of it is just technique and stuff like that. After watching the game film, I can see where I can improve my technique and footwork. That’s where practice is especially important to me, getting all those reps.”

Belcher gets a lot of help from his roommate, offensive right tackle Cody Levy, and left tackle Jamil Demby, who show him blocking techniques.

“We’ve got to be smart, we can’t have him blocking at the point of attack,” said Coen. “But he’s getting better every day. There’s no doubt he’ll get there, it’s just a matter of time.”

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