ORONO — A bitter wind made a cold morning at Alfond Stadium feel colder, but it could not blow the smile off Joe Fagnano’s face. The University of Maine quarterback was back on the field with his teammates.

“The weather was perfect. Are you kidding me? What is it, 20 degrees out here? Perfect. That’s just the way we want it,” said Fagnano, a senior. “I thought we played well today. For the first day out here, guys showed up really well. A lot of energy.”

Wednesday morning’s practice was the Black Bears’ first of the spring, and the first for new head coach Jordan Stevens. A 2010 UMaine grad and former Black Bears captain, the 34-year old Stevens was hired in December to replace Nick Charlton, who left to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Connecticut.

“We were out here for a walkthrough the other day, and it was the first time I’d been out here in eight years,” said Stevens, a Temple native and a graduate of Mt. Blue High. “Just a really cool feeling to get out here myself and with the players. They’ve been itching to do that.”

The session was the first of 12 spring practices for the Black Bears, with scrimmages scheduled for April 9 and 16. The Jeff Cole Memorial Spring Game is set for April 23 at 11:30 a.m. Maine opens the 2022 season Sept. 3 at New Mexico and opens its home schedule on Sept. 10 against Colgate. Maine went 6-5 last season, 4-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Fagnano and senior linebacker Adrian Otero said the transition from Charlton, who was head coach of the Black Bears for three seasons, to Stevens has been smooth.


“I think we jell together pretty well. It was full steam ahead, right when (Stevens) got here. No ‘Let’s get to know each other.’ It was ‘Let’s get to work.’ I think we’re carrying that now on to the field,” Fagnano said.

Added Otero: “He had energy the first day he came in. I heard he was a hell of a player. He had a low (uniform) number, so he was a leader up here.”

Wearing helmets and shoulder pads, the Black Bears focused on fundamentals. Spring practices are the first chance to get on the field and start seeing younger players who will replace veterans who have moved on. Stevens cited the defensive secondary, where the Black Bears lost starters Richard Carr and Fofie Bazzie, as well as the defensive line, as areas of focus on defense. Offensively, Maine looks to fill the shoes of Old Town native Andre Miller, a playmaker who caught 39 passes for 684 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Jordan Stevens, the new head football coach at the University of Maine, instructs players during a drill at the team’s first spring practice on Wednesday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

A young player who impressed during Wednesday morning’s practice was freshman wide receiver Rohan Jones, who enrolled at Maine for the spring semester. When the offense and defense squared off near the end of practice, Jones got free to catch a deep ball from Fagnano.

“I’m smart enough to say I know they’re a lot more athletic than me on the outside, so get the ball to them and let them make the plays,” Fagnano said. “Losing Andre Miller, that’s a big piece. We’re looking for the playmakers. Who’s going to step up?”

Former UMaine safety Spencer Carey, a Lawrence High graduate, joined the coaching staff after spending last season at Harvard. Carey will work with the defensive backs.

“We’re fired up about Spence. He’s going to do a great job here. Having coaches … who have been a part of the program as a player, know the university, is always an advantage,” said Stevens, who recruited Carey to play at Maine when he was an assistant coach with the Black Bears in 2012.

To Stevens, the first practice was an extension of what he has worked to build since coming back to Maine in early December.

“Today is really that first step of the second phase of our process in the offseason. It’s the ability to see the players move in more of a football sense,” Stevens said. “Most of our focus has been on training, so to get out here and actually do football drills with the team was good to see.”

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