College football notebook: Cosgrove, Colby set sights on breakout season in 2022

BRUNSWICK – Years ago, Jack Cosgrove would pass through Colby College a thousand times, paying little attention to the school.

As the head football coach for America’s Far Northeast Soccer Program, Cosgrove has been constantly heading south on Interstate 95 for his recruiting endeavors. However, when the former University of Maine victories leader came to Waterville College the first time, he was unfamiliar with the school he is now touring.

“I had never been to campus before I came here,” Cosgrove said at a Monday lunch at the NFL at Bowdoin College. “I mean, why would I be? We never played with Colby, so I had no reason to. I was just leading her on those recruiting trips.”

However, since arriving in Colby to take over as head football coach, Cosgrove has become more and more fascinated by the university which has seen tenfold improvements, both in its institutional standing and its sports facilities. As he begins his fourth season with the Mules, his team is expecting to finally turn a corner.

Colby went 4-5 last season, an improvement of two wins from the team’s previous season in 2019. The Mules have won three of their last five games, including victories over rivals Bates and Bowdoin that gave the team their third consecutive CBB title.

This year, the Mules are going into a strong passing game with the return of three-year quarterback Matt Hirsch as well as the team’s top three players – Jack Sawyer, Matt Bunker and Brendan Sawyer. Keon Smart, the linebacker who also contributed to the reception game, returned to Colby on the backcourt.

Defensively, Colby held his first nine players from a unit that allowed a respectable 20.4 points per game a year ago, including Mark Dougherty and Will Nippon. Another returning player, Javon Williams, cemented the Mules’ defensive backfield last year after losing his first two majors in football due to injuries and COVID-19.

University of Maine football coach Jordan Stevens, left, greets Colby College coach Jack Cosgrove, right, at a College of Maine football luncheon Monday at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Andy Molloy / Kennebec Magazine

However, Cosgrove said Colby’s team’s greatest strength lies in its depth. That’s something the Mules didn’t have when Cosgrove took over after one win in the 2017 season. In fact, the team only had seven offensive men on the roster when they made it to their first school football camp.

“We had a roster of 65 people, and we had to steal players from defense to play our offensive role,” Cosgrove said. “Now, we are 90 players, and we have 17 offensive players. We have developed a squad with depth and diversity, which are the things that you need in this game.”

Cosgrove’s Colby team will be tested very early this season. After opening the year at home on September 17 against a Williams College side who beat them 42-0 in 2021, the Mules will then head out onto the road to face the Trinity College team that defeated them 35-12 in last year’s game.

In years past, this may have been too much of a challenge for the Colby team that has now gone 17 years without a record. However, Cosgrove believes this year’s team has the talent and experience to break the mold.

“I think we’re in a better position now,” Cosgrove said. “We are going to bring in 20 players in the first year, and we have 69 players returning. … It really is a team that has built itself over the course of time.”

• • •

Before leaving Maine, Cosgrove trained thousands of players during his time with the black bears. Now, one of those former players has stepped into the old Cosgrove position—and he might be familiar to those in Central Maine.

Jordan Stevens was named in December as the 37th coach in Maine football history. Stevens, who played with the Black Bears from 2006-09, previously played for Mt. Blue of Farmington, where he was a member of the Cougars’ 2005 Eastern Maine title-winning team.

The Stevens family has been a part of the athletic scene for generations at Mt. Blue. His father, David, was a famous Cougars player, his grandfather Bob was the athletic director at Mount Blue from 1968 to 1982, and he also worked as a boys’ basketball coach at the school.

“My dad got me into the football world. I remember I was always going through his old notebooks,” Stevens said. “He coached me in youth sports, and with my grandfather coaching basketball, coaching was always a thing for my family.”

Stevens, 34, is the latest in a string of new young coaches in Maine after Joe Harasimiak and Nick Charlton, both of whom were 30 when they each began their tenures in 2016 and 2019. Stevens, who was the youngest player on the field to camp Youth soccer at Blue Mountain.

“Even before I qualified, I would go camping and do camp for a week,” Stevens said. “I always wanted to be involved in football. … Now, to be in the college I played in and to be the head coach, it just shows that you can go anywhere.”

• • •

BJ Hammer provided his thoughts on the state of Bowdoin’s football program to attendees, and drew an analogy to a recent trip he took with his family.

In mid-July, Hammer, his wife, and two children traveled to Orlando on a family trip. That vacation, as is often the case with families with young children, included a trip to Disney World that gave Bowdoin’s head coach some perspective on training.

“You’re in line for 60 minutes, and when you’re 7 or 10 years old, it takes a lot of patience there,” Hammer said. “That’s what we’re emphasizing here: it takes patience. Yes it is. You have to earn it six days a week with toughness and mental and physical accountability.”

In fact, changing the trajectory of a show like Bowdoin, which has gone from 2 to 42 with three winless seasons since 2016, isn’t something that happens overnight. Instead, it’s taking small steps along the way, and the polar bear Hummer is in a position to take the next step in 2022.

Offensively, Bowdoin brought back a strong quarterback in Andrew Boel as well as top player in Andre Eden, who led the NESCAC dash for 1,000 yards last season. The Polar Bears also bring back a veteran offensive line led by Brandon Krupp in Year 5.

In defense, nearly every player returns to Bowdoin this fall. That includes Drew Ortiz, a conference select member who scored 49 tackles – 12 1/2 for losses – 4 1/2 sacks and two forced fuss last year, and Dan Feuer, who led the team in tackles with 56.

Despite going 1-8 last year, Bowdoin was able to compete in many of his losses with a one-game losing streak. While moral victories don’t mean much in college athletics, they also indicate that polar bears may not be far behind.

“I can tell you now: the depth is there, and we’ve never had anything like this here at Bowdoin in my time,” Hammer said. “The talent is also there. … We are ready to continue building.”

” former

#College #football #notebook #Cosgrove #Colby #set #sights #breakout #season

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.