Quarterback Joe Fagnano of the University of Maine rolls out on a pass play during a game earlier this spring at Alfond Stadium in Orono. The Black Bears learned during their 2-2 spring season that they have lots of work to do preparing for the fall campaign. Credit: Ronnie Gillis / UMaine athletics

The abbreviated Colonial Athletic Association spring football season came to a screeching halt for the University of Maine.

Even though the Black Bears played only four of their six scheduled games after COVID-19 shut down play at Rhode Island and New Hampshire, second-year head coach Nick Charlton said it was a valuable learning experience.

UMaine wound up 2-2 with lopsided losses to nationally ranked Delaware (37-0) and Villanova (44-17) and beat ranked Albany (38-34) and Stony Brook (35-19).

“We got to see this team compete and you can’t replicate football without playing,” Charlton said.

“It was a good gauge. Players have to mature and grow into their roles.”

Charlton said they are going to attack their off-season workouts immediately before the players take May off after completing the semester.

“It’s an exciting group to work with. They’re only going to get better,” he said.

All of the Black Bears will return after the NCAA granted an eligibility waiver for 2020-21. They have 11 scholarship players coming in, including two transfers, including All-Patriot League offensive tackle P.J. Barr.

The inexperienced defensive line appears to need the most help after UMaine allowed more points per game (33.5) and had the fewest sacks (2) in the league and ranked ninth against the run (212.2 yards per game).

Charlton pointed out that they had a similar situation in 2017 and wound up leading the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing defense (79.2 ypg) the following season en route to a national semifinal berth.

End Jamehl Wiley is the only returning starter and wound up 11th in the league with 6.8 tackles per game. Redshirt freshman Khairi Manns (5.8), sophomore Josh Lezin, Brigham Young University transfer Austin Chambers, junior Justin Sambu and freshman John Costanza made strides and freshman Dorian Royal, who missed the spring with an injury, will be promising additions.

The linebacking corps was strong behind fifth-year senior Deshawn Stevens, who shared the CAA lead with nine tackles per game, along with Adrian Otero (6.2), Myles Taylor and Ori Jean-Charles. Charlton said Stevens may move on and Jean-Charles had knee surgery, so backups Xavier Nurse and Rhakim Williams may play significant minutes.

The secondary could be a real strength with its quality and exceptional depth. UMaine ranked fourth in the league in pass defense (149.2 ypg).

Redshirt freshman safety Robby Riobe (6.2 tpg) and veteran cornerbacks Rich Carr and Jordan Swann played well as did Fofie Bazzie and true freshman Austin Ambush. Benito Speight and Donnell Henriquez received valuable time and UMaine will regain the services of veterans Shaquille St. Lot (injury), and COVID-19 opt-outs Katley Joseph and Erick Robertson.

UMaine had the league’s top passing offense (205.8 ypg) led by sophomore quarterback Joe Fagnano, who threw for 795 yards and eight TDs. Senior wide receiver Andre Miller of Old Town returns after leading the CAA in catches per game (5.25) and yards per game (87).

Jacob Hennie, Michael Monios and Xavier Scott were also reliable receivers as was tight end Shawn Bowman. Proven performer Devin Young (opt-out) also will be back.

The inexperienced running backs improved with shifty true freshman Freddie Brock (5.7 yards per carry) leading the way. Elijah Barnwell, Curtis Murray and Tavion Banks also showed promise.

The offensive line dealt with several injuries, so the Black Bears built their depth. Tackles Matthias Staalsoe, Gunnar Docos and Kevin Jones; guards Shawn Page, Tyrie Francois and Zach Reed; and centers Mike Gerace and David Gross can play and Barr will be a notable addition.

Place-kicker Jonny Messina was dependable and punter David Gelb will also be back, but Charlton is seeking someone who can launch kickoffs.

Charlton said UMaine has a challenging schedule including Football Bowl Subdivision teams Northern Illinois and Massachusetts and top-ranked James Madison, a perennial FCS title contender.