University of Maine first-year head football coach Nick Charlton hopes to turn its spring scrimmage into an actual game.
Each spring, the Black Bears honor a beloved former assistant coach by playing what has been called the Jeff Cole Memorial Spring Scrimmage. But Charlton wants the 15th edition to be a Blue-White game, rather than a controlled scrimmage pitting the offense against the defense and having a points system determine the winner.
The Cole game is scheduled for noon Saturday, April 27, on Morse Field in at Alfond Stadium in Orono.
“I want to create excitement for the game. This will be the closest to a real football game that you’ll have before the fall,” Charlton said. “It will be a good opportunity for the people who support the team to see them play.”
The Blue-White game was abandoned several years ago because the coaching staff was concerned there were not enough healthy players to have two full teams.
“We’re going to take a look at it to see if we’re comfortable enough with the injury situation to do it,” Charlton said.
UMaine is thin at running back, so those players may have to compete for both the Blue and White teams. There are only four available running backs in redshirt freshmen Adrian Velez and Zac Bouhalloufa, and juniors Elijah Brooks and Brandon Washington, a converted tight end.
Sophomore Ramon Jefferson (suspension) and junior Joe Fitzpatrick (injury), the team’s two leading rushers last year, won’t participate in scrimmages.
Another thin position is quarterback where there are three players available after redshirt freshman Isaiah Robinson transferred to Hampton University in Virginia.
Baltimore native Robinson stepped in for starting quarterback Chris Ferguson (shoulder injury) and completed 49 of 105 passes for 560 yards and two touchdowns in seven games. He was intercepted six times.
“That’s the nature of Division I college football. We liked him and he worked hard, but he was looking for a better fit, and we were very supportive of his decision,” Charlton said.
Ferguson and redshirt freshmen Ryan Walsh and Grant Hartley are the three quarterbacks. Walsh appeared in two games and completed both of his passes for 12 yards. Hartley, who played at Edward Little High School in Auburn, didn’t see any action.
Charlton said Walsh is a calm young man who understands the game.
“He’s a very competitive kid who takes it very seriously,” Charlton said. “He’s very mentally strong in the meeting room and just needs a little more time in a college weight room.”
Charlton said Saturday’s showing was competitive and a good first scrimmage for all involved.
“The offense, in general, had a lot of energy and executed at a very high level. They moved the ball pretty good which was a positive thing to see,” Charlton said. “I want us to go from being a very good offensive team to an elite offensive team.”
Charlton also was impressed with second-string defense.
“They’re definitely coming along real well. It’s about building depth at those positions,” Charlton said.
The second scrimmage is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at Morse Field.