University of Maine head football coach Jordan Stevens has nearly completed a mini-overhaul of his coaching staff.
The hiring of a defensive line coach later, to be announced as soon as this week, will be the fourth addition to the coaching staff after the Black Bears went 2-9 overall and 2-6 in the Colonial Athletic Association this past fall in Stevens’ first season at the helm.
Steve Cooper came on board as the new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Jeff Comissiong was named the defensive coordinator/linebackers coach and Derham Cato was added as the tight ends coach.
Mikahael Waters, who had been the tight ends coach, will be in charge of the wide receivers next season and will be the co-special teams coordinator.
Waters will be taking over for Justin Flores, who was one of the assistants who wasn’t retained along with offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Andrew Dresner, defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Jared Keyte and defensive line coach Bryan Anthony Murray.
Dresner has moved on to conference rival Stony Brook as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
Stevens said he is “really happy” with the new additions and noted that he has known all of them for some time.
“One, I wanted to hire people I know are good coaches,” Stevens said. “Two, I have a relationship with these people and this is a relationship business. These are people I trust and we have a loyalty between us and that was a big thing for me.”
Familiarity is important, he said.
“Having known them prior to this helps bridge the gap in communication between us. You already know each other so you are able to move forward relatively quickly without having to feel each other out,” Stevens said.
Each had specific strengths that Stevens liked.
“Steve [Cooper] is a strong leader and great listener,” Stevens said of the former senior offensive analyst at Nebraska. “He is very knowledgeable, he loves football and he will maximize his personnel. He will make sure our best players have the ball in their hands in key situations.”
Comissiong, a former UMaine player and assistant coach who most recently served as the linebackers coach at Cornell for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, knows “every level of defense,” according to Stevens.
“He develops his players and builds great relationships with them,” Stevens added. “He knows Maine and the standards we want to play with on defense. And he has a ton of experience.”
Cato was the tight ends coach at Football Bowl Subdivision team the University of Washington after serving as its offensive analyst for four seasons. He was also an assistant coach at Vanderbilt, another FBS team.
The FBS is a step above the Football Championship Subdivision that UMaine competes in.
“And he was the offensive coordinator at Davidson,” pointed out Stevens, who likes having someone with experience as an offensive or defensive coordinator background on his staff.
Stevens spoke highly of the departed staff members, calling them all “great coaches.”
The coaches who are returning include Patrick Kugler (offensive line), Tom McEntire (defensive backs), Jimmy Walsh (co-special teams coordinator/cornerbacks), Spencer Carey (outsider linebackers) and Pushaun Brown (running backs).
Stevens said he is looking for all of his assistants to take “complete ownership in their areas of the program.
“I want a common message to get sent to the team,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re completely aligned and see things the same way in how we are managing the players and what we’re doing in games. That communication is so important.”
In moving forward, Stevens outlined areas of emphasis.
“Our leadership needs to be better from a coach and player level,” Stevens said. “The belief in who we are matters when you play close games. You’re competing together, you’re facing adversity together. The only way you are going to get through it is with an unwavering belief in what you are doing, what your teammates are doing, and what you are going to be doing together.”
During winter workouts, which he called a “hard off-season,” it is important to help his players develop as young men and football players while also getting to know the new coaches.
“We need to be able to handle adversity better. We need to respond better because there are so many ups and downs in a football game,” added the former UMaine All-CAA defensive end from Temple and Mt. Blue High School in Farmington.
UMaine lost five games by four points or less last fall.
“I’ve been on championship teams and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that you are winning the game,” Stevens said. “You are going to get things to go your way because you give more to the person next to you.”