University of Maine junior linebacker Deshawn Stevens will miss the rest of the season after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right leg during the Black Bears’ 42-14 season-opening win over Sacred Heart on Friday night.

Deshawn Stevens

Stevens, who led Maine with 120 tackles a year ago, will have surgery on Wednesday.

“It’s disappointing that it happened,” said Nick Charlton, Maine’s first-year head coach. “But this happens in football. Now it’s next man up. We’ve got to make sure we have that mentality.”

Stevens was a STATS FCS preseason third-team All-America selection, as well as a Colonial Athletic Association preseason first-team pick.

Stevens had five tackles in the opening win. He left the game with 10:47 remaining in the second quarter after he was injured on a pass rush.

Charlton said the Black Bears will petition the NCAA for a waiver to get Stevens another year of eligibility. “We feel we have a decent chance,” said Charlton. “He only played about 15 snaps all year.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Ryan said he had been anticipating the possibility that Stevens would be lost for the year. The challenge now becomes replacing his impact on the defense.

“He’s had a lot of production for us the last two years that we’ve got to make up one way or another,” said Ryan. “He’s a vocal leader, he runs the show a bit there. He’s the quarterback for the defense, gets us in and out of calls. He really runs the operation.

“It’s not like we don’t have guys prepared to do it. But it is a challenge for the rest of the guys to step up and replace the level of play he has given us.”

Ryan said senior Taji Lowe, who was suspended for the opener for a violation of team rules, will return and take Stevens’ spot in the middle when the sixth-ranked Black Bears play at Georgia Southern on Saturday. Sophomore Adrian Otero will step in to start at the weak-side linebacker slot. Junior Jaron Grayer will play the rover linebacker position.

Redshirt freshman Myles Taylor and junior Owen Elliott, of Saco and Thornton Academy, will also be part of the rotation at linebacker. Junior Rhakim Williams, a transfer from Connecticut, will get some time, too.

“They all know multiple positions, so that gives us the ability to move guys around,” said Ryan. “The biggest question is, who is going to replace the production? He’s the guy who sits in the middle of the defense and fixes a lot of mistakes. He’s a guy who cleaned things up for us because of his ability. Do we have the players to pick up the production?

“I think we do. It’s just a matter of who it’s going to be.”

Charlton said Stevens, who was elected a captain by his teammates, will remain with the team, even traveling to road games. He won’t make the trip to Georgia Southern because of his surgery.

“We want him around,” said Charlton. “He’s an emotional leader.”

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