Nick Charlton has only been on the job for a week, but the University of Maine’s new head football coach already has plenty of important work to do.
Charlton was named the head coach on Dec. 21 after Joe Harasymiak left UMaine after three seasons to become the defensive backs coach at the University of Minnesota. At 30, he is the youngest head coach in Division I.
Heading into the new year, Charlton is concentrating on recruiting and filling out his coaching staff, including naming offensive and defensive coordinators.
Charlton had directed the offense, while defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman left to take the same position at Colonial Athletic Association rival James Madison University.
Charlton said he is leaning toward promoting from within his staff to fill the coordinator positions.
“A lot has been made about maintaining continuity and we have some young, talented, dynamic coaches on our staff who our players can relate to,” Charlton said.
He said the coordinators will be named by the time the UMaine staff goes out recruiting in the middle of January.
Charlton said he is still evaluating whether he might continue to call the offensive plays.
Much of the semester school break coincides with an NCAA dead period during which college coaches aren’t allowed to have face-to-face contact with prospective players or their parents. Coaches are allowed to write or call the players or their parents, so Charlton has been spending a lot of time on the phone in recent days, talking to UMaine players, recruits and assistant coaches.
“I’ve been busy, but it’s a good busy,” Charlton said. “I want to make sure everybody is on the same page. These next two months will make or break everything (recruiting-wise).”
The regular National Letter of Intent signing period begins on Feb. 6, 2019.
Charlton and his staff should have an easier selling job coming off a historic season during which the Black Bears went 10-4, won the CAA title and reached the Football Championship Subdivision national semifinals.
“Winning sells itself,” Charlton said. “We’ve got that CAA trophy sitting in our office. We’ve got a million things to sell to these guys. What’s not to be excited about?
“What’s hotter than Maine right now?” Charlton added.
He acknowledged that UMaine’s location can be a challenge in recruiting, but it didn’t stop the Black Bears from attracting enough talent to go 7-1 in the CAA this season and post two playoff victories.
Charlton said the support athletic director in Ken Ralph is a valuable asset.
“He is one of the best ADs I’ve been around,” Charlton said. “He is involved in the recruiting process when we bring a player up here.”
Charlton expects to experience more pressure as the head coach but pointed out that UMaine has eight starters returning on both offense and defense, along with the place-kicker and punter.
“We set a new standard this year and we want to keep it that way and elevate it. We want to be a consistent winner every year,” Charlton said.
During its run, UMaine went 5-0 in games decided by five points or fewer and was 7-1 against nationally-ranked teams.
He said the players embrace the challenges they face, including a grueling CAA schedule and two games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The Black Bears visit Georgia Southern and Liberty University next season.
“Our players are motivated by that. I have never felt our kids weren’t ready to go. We want to be a very tough program with kids who play smart,” Charlton said.
One thing he will stress from the outset is discipline. UMaine ranked last in the FCS in penalty yards (1,120 yards) and its 120 penalties were second most behind Grambling University’s 123. Only 15 teams had more penalties per game (8.57) and penalty yards per game (80).
“Discipline will help get us to the next level. We have talented players, good coaches and we learned how to win close games. We’ve got to have good discipline as well,” Charlton said.
He said he is grateful to Harasymiak and learned a lot from him.
“Joe gave me autonomy on that side of the ball. Being an offensive coordinator is a stepping stone to becoming a head coach,” Charlton said.
Growing up in Salem, Massachusetts, Charlton said he first wanted to be a politician.
“But my freshman year in college, I realized every time I opened up the newspaper, I turned to the sports pages,” he said.
Instead, he set his sights on becoming a coach because he liked the idea of being a leader and helping develop players.
“My mother thought I was crazy wanting to become a coach,” he quipped.
Charlton played quarterback at Salem High School and could have played scholarship football at Division II St. Anselm College. Instead, he chose to attend Boston College.
There, he became a student assistant with the football program. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 2011 and acquired a master’s from Boston College’s Woods School of Advancing Studies in 2013.
Charlton was a graduate assistant and an assistant to the special teams coordinator at BC before being named the wide receivers coach at UMaine in 2015. A year later he was promoted to special teams coordinator at UMaine and this season was his first as the offensive coordinator.
Charlton and wife Maria have a 1-year-old daughter, Madeline, and they enjoying living in Bangor.
“Our daughter was born here, and my family is only 3½ hours away and they come up and visit,” Charlton said.