Defensive lineman Mike DeVito is a pre-season All-American.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- The University of Maine football team will be making its 2006 season debut Saturday when it visits Youngstown State at Stambaugh Stadium.
The Black Bears come into the season with high expectations following a strong finish in 2005 and a group of 14 starters who return from a team that finished 5-6.
Maine, under the direction of 14-year head coach Jack Cosgrove, started last season 2-5, but won three of its last four games and took Atlantic 10 champion New Hampshire to the wire before losing, 59-47, in the season finale.
"This is an exciting time for Maine football," said Cosgrove. "We made some great progress at the end of last season and we have some talented players returning this year.
"We definitely won't have to wait long to find out just where we're at," he added, alluding to the challenge of playing the Penguins.
One of the big reasons for the excitement at Maine is the return of fourth-year starter Ron Whitcomb at quarterback.
The 6-foot-2, 208-pound senior from East Rochester, N.Y., has passed for over 2,000 yards in each of his three previous seasons. He has 6,965 yards and 59 touchdowns passing in his career, while throwing 36 interceptions. He has completed 604-of-1,036 passes for a 58.3 percentage rate and is averaging 211.1 yards per game.
The Black Bears' top defensive player is lineman Mike DeVito (6-3, 298). One of three captains -- along with Whitcomb and senior defensive lineman Matt King -- DeVito was a pre-season All-American selection and was an All-Atlantic 10 selection last season.
He was ranked nationally in sacks per game (41st) and tackles for losses (69th) a year ago.
King (6-3, 242) started last year very strong with 15 tackles, including six for losses in his first three games, before suffering a season-ending hand injury.
The Bears have seven returning starters on defense, but the offense was hit harder by graduation.
Senior Arel Gordon will move to tailback this year to fill one of the gaps. Gordon, who was a wide receiver last year, leading the with 70 receptions for 484 yards and one touchdown, also rushed for 278 yards on 43 carries.
The other returning starters on offense include wide receiver Rodney Salomon (6-5, 208, sophomore), tackle Shawn Demaray (6-2, 267, junior) and guard Christopher Arnao (6-7, 311).
The Bears also have junior placekicker Bobby Donnelly returning, although he made only 1-of-4 field goals a year ago and was 12-for-12 in extra points.
Junior linebacker John Wormuth (6-2, 223, junior) is the team's top tackler returning with 77 stops, one sack and one tackle for loss.
Senior defensive back Manauris Arias (5-8, 175) led the team with five interceptions and he's also the team's punt returner.
Game time Saturday is scheduled for 4 p.m.