Junior quarterback Chris Ferguson is transferring from the University of Maine.

Ferguson, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, made the announcement on Twitter Monday afternoon. He will transfer as a graduate student with one year of eligibility and is looking to play at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. As a graduate student Ferguson will be eligible to play immediately for another Division I program.

Reached Monday night, Ferguson said there was no single factor that went into his decision to enter the NCAA transfer portal, which announces to other schools his intention to leave Maine.

“Today was hard, talking to everyone, my teammates, my coaches, guys who have put everything into it to make this program successful,” he said. “To say I was moving on was hard.

“I put a lot of thought into it. It’s a decision I trust in. I’ve been praying a lot about it, my family has been praying for it … I’m really at peace with it although it hurts like hell.”

Ferguson won the starting job as a redshirt freshman and as a sophomore led Maine to a 10-4 record and a spot in the national semifinals. But he suffered a season-ending foot injury in the season’s sixth game this year against Richmond.

Freshman Joe Fagnano stepped in and was very impressive in leading Maine through a four-game winning streak, completing 121 of 184 passes (66 percent) for 1,835 yards and 17 touchdowns, with only three interceptions.

Maine finished 6-6 (4-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association) after a 2-5 start, its season ending with a 28-10 loss to rival New Hampshire last Saturday.

Ferguson said Fagnano’s performance was not a factor in his decision.

“I think seeing him develop made me more joyful than anyone,” said Ferguson. “I’m most excited to know the program is in good hands,. He’s shown he’s capable of leading this team and playing to a high level.”

Reached Monday night, Maine Coach Nick Charlton said, “I would have loved for Chris to have stayed and competed but I support his decision fully.”

Charlton considered Ferguson one of the leaders of the team on and off the field.

Ferguson said playing at Maine certainly prepared him for his next challenge, wherever that might be. He will graduate in December with a degree in Business Management with a minor in Leadership Studies.

“It’s why I am where I am today, why I am the man I am today,” said Ferguson, of his time at Maine. “You develop special qualities playing here, you have to develop quick and become a man. This place will always have a piece of my heart.”

Even before Ferguson made his announcement, Charlton had begun work on the 2020 season, which opens on Sept. 3 at Ball State.

“Any time you lose, it’s hard,” he said. “But the guys have got to learn from it and grow from it.”

UMaine freshman quarterback Joe Fagnano was impressive in leading the Black Bears down the stretch. Peter Buehner photo

Offensively, Maine will need to replace its two most dynamic players – wide receivers Earnest Edwards and Jaquan Blair – as well as running backs Joe Fitzpatrick and Emmanuel Reed. All five starters on the offensive line return, as do receivers Devin Young and Andre Miller, who combined for 1,122 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. But Charlton said one focus of this year’s recruiting class will be on running backs.

The Black Bears averaged only 128.8 rushing yards a game this year, 10th in the CAA and the lowest since 2015 (115.4).

“We have to recruit the running back position,” said Charlton. “We need to develop a running back. When you look across the league, that’s a big part of winning. … We need guys that can do a lot of different things and play at a high level all the time.”

Charlton expects the Black Bears to be busy during the NCAA’s early signing period for football, which starts Dec. 18. He said Maine has “a good amount” of scholarships available.

Defensively Maine is going to have to replace three starters on the line (Kayon Whitaker, Charles Mitchell and Alejandro Oregon), linebacker and leading tackler Taji Lowe, cornerback Manny Patterson and safety Joshua Huffman.

The Black Bears should get back middle linebacker Deshawn Stevens, who was Maine’s leading tackler in 2018 but suffered an Achilles injury in his right leg early in the second quarter of the season opener.

His impact will be felt most in run defense. A year ago, Maine led the nation, allowing just 79.2 rushing yards per game. This year, without Stevens, the Black Bears allowed 156.5.

“Deshawn means the world to this team, the whole organization in general,” said Charlton. “Just getting him healthy and around will be huge for us. He’s a premier player at this level, at any level.”

Charlton pointed out that this was the first time since 2003 that the Black Bears didn’t follow up a winning season with a losing record. But, he added, the team wanted more than a .500 record.

“The expectation for this program now is that that’s not good enough,” he said. “We want to make the playoffs every year.”


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