They call it the “next man up” mentality.
In a collision sport like football, it is vitally important to develop depth. If a player gets hurt, the man on the depth chart behind him must be able to fill the void.
Two first-year Black Bears came through in that capacity in Saturday’s 34-30 come-from-behind win over the University of Rhode Island. Wide receiver Jacob Hennie and rover back Ori Jean-Charles expect to contribute again on Saturday when the Black Bears travel to the University of New Hampshire where they have not won since 2001.
“You never know when you’re going to get the opportunity to step in, and you don’t know how many are going to come your way. So when you get your chance, you have to make the best of it, and that’s what they’ve done,” senior defensive end and captain Kayon Whitaker said.
UMaine must win the regular-season finale to keep its tenuous Football Championship Subdivision playoff hopes alive.
Hennie caught five passes for 52 yards including one on each of UMaine’s past two scoring drives. The Black Bears were without leading wide receivers Jaquan Blair (suspension) and Andre Miller (injury).
“I was sad that [Blair] couldn’t play, but I tried to step up and do my best,” Hennie said. “He really got me ready for everything.”
Jean-Charles is a former dual-threat high school quarterback who was transformed into a safety at Louisville. After transferring to UMaine, he began the season as a tight end before being moved over to defense.
Jean-Charles, a sophomore, was involved in seven tackles against URI and has 23 on the season. He also has a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown, a sack and a fumble recovery. As a tight end, he made seven catches for 17 yards and a TD.
“I just feel blessed to get the opportunity to play,” said Jean-Charles, who is also on all special teams. “I just want to be on the field and contribute. I live in coach [defensive coordinator Mike] Ryan’s office trying to get the [opposing team’s] offenses down.”
Hennie, also a sophomore, now has seven receptions for 75 yards this season.
“To get your number called and step up and make five catches, you can’t ask for any better than that,” UMaine senior wide receiver Earnest Edwards said.
Despite being moved around a bit, Jean-Charles is enjoying playing the rover back position.
“You get to fly around and be aggressive and help the team win. There’s nothing better,” Jean-Charles said.
“I know how hard it is to move from tight end to rover, but Ori took the challenge and is doing well at it,” Edwards said.
Hennie, a native of Corona, California, had played junior college football when UMaine offensive coordinator Andrew Dresner invited him to check out UMaine.
“I came up to visit and I loved the coaches,” said Hennie, who has had to buy his first winter coat.
Hennie spent a lot of time during the offseason working with true freshman quarterback Joe Fagnano.
“We got our connection down in the offseason,” Fagnano said. “So we were ready to connect and make plays.”
They know they have stiff challenge ahead against archrival UNH, which was eliminated from playoff contention with a 24-17 loss at Albany last week.
“It’s another championship [game] week and every week we try to go 1-0,” Jean-Charles said.