The University of Maine football team needed running backs and quarterbacks. And it got them Wednesday during the first day of the early signing period for NCAA Division I football teams.

The Black Bears signed eight players Wednesday – including two quarterbacks and two running backs – the most they’ve ever signed in the early period.

“I feel we signed some really good players and great young men,” said Maine Coach Nick Charlton. “I feel good about where we’re at right now.”

Maine’s group also included a defensive back, a linebacker, a defensive lineman and an offensive lineman. Charlton said other areas, such as wide receiver, will be addressed in the next signing period, beginning Feb. 5.

“We got a lot done in this early signing period,” he said. “I feel we got off to a good start.”

Maine finished the 2019 season, Charlton’s first, with a 6-6 record, 4-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association. With two quarterbacks (Chris Ferguson and Ryan Walsh) transferring out of the program and two running backs (Joe Fitzpatrick and Emmanuel Reed) graduating, Maine needed an influx of talent at those positions.


The new running backs are Tavion Banks of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Elijah Barnwell, a transfer from Rutgers with two years of eligibility remaining. The quarterbacks are Anthony Harris of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and Bridgton Academy’s Derek Robertson of Yonkers, New York.

Banks, 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, and Barnwell, 5-11, 210 and originally from Piscataway, New Jersey, provide the all-around skills that Charlton is looking for in his running backs, capable of running inside or outside and also catching passes.

“We’ll see when they come in what they’re able to do and how they fit,” said Charlton. “We feel they both can come in and compete.”

Banks had a big senior year for Bethlehem Catholic, rushing for 1,393 yards and 22 touchdowns. He finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in touchdowns with 68.

Barnwell was highly recruited out of Piscataway, where he rushed for 5,728 yards in his four-year career. At Rutgers, he played mostly on special teams but carried the ball 10 times for 81 yards this fall as a redshirt sophomore.

Charlton said Barnwell may have a third year of eligibility remaining, pending a waiver that he has filed with the NCAA. “He’s an athlete,” said Charlton. “I recruited North Jersey (when Barnwell was in high school) and recruited him. He had a very good career at a high level of football. He’s a guy who played at the FBS level but wanted to look at other opportunities. We’re happy to have him.”


Harris, a 6-3, 185-pound lefty, threw for 2,617 yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior for Nazareth Area High. For his career, he threw for 7,942 yards and 81 touchdowns. He was also offered a scholarship by Lehigh.

Robertson, 6-5, 195, had a standout career at Iona Prep in Yonkers before attending Bridgton Academy this fall.

Joe Fagnano, who stepped in as a freshman when Ferguson was injured and threw for 1,835 yards and 17 touchdowns, is the returning starter at quarterback. Grant Hartley, a redshirt freshman from Auburn (Edward Little High), and Zoltan Panyi, a freshman from Old Orchard Beach (Scarborough High and Bridgton Academy), are the other quarterbacks on the roster.

Other recruits signed on Wednesday include:

Tim Burgartz, a 6-6, 280-pound offensive lineman from Dusseldorf, Germany, who played last year at The Kiski School in Pennsylvania. He was ranked the 53rd best recruit in the state.

John Costanza, a 6-4, 240-pound defensive lineman from Brick Township, New Jersey. A very tough, physical player, he was voted his team’s best defensive player this fall.

Shakur Smalls, a 6-3, 185-pound defensive back from Philadelphia and West Catholic Prep. He was a first-team all-Eastern Pennsylvania selection. He’ll be a safety for Maine.

Tyshawn Stewart, a 6-2, 230-pound linebacker from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was a first-team all-conference selection for Susquehanna Township High.

“Our target, based on how our recruiting had gone, was eight,” said Charlton. “We hit the target, which is great for us. We feel pretty positive about that.”

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