BALTIMORE, Md. -- The University of Maine football team has been selected to finish seventh in the preseason Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) poll as voted on by coaches and sports information personnel announced at CAA Media Day on July 23 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md. Individually, Maine received four preseason All-Conference selections in defensive end Trevor Bates (Westbrook, Maine), placekicker Sean Decloux (Ottawa, Ontario), center Bruce Johnson (Rochester, N.Y.) and linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga (Laval, Quebec).
New Hampshire was selected as the preseason favorite as the Wildcats received 15 first place votes. Villanova received a pair of first place votes in the runner-up spot while Richmond was selected to finish third with three first place tallies. William and Mary also received three first place votes in the fourth position followed by last season's NCAA runners-up Towson in fifth. Delaware was selected sixth in the poll while the reigning CAA Champion Black Bears selected to finish seventh. James Madison received one first-place vote in eighth followed by Stony Brook, UAlbany, Rhode Island and league newcomers Elon.
Maine will look to defend its CAA Championship as it returns 15 starters (5 off./8 def./2 spec.) and 14 starters (5+ games started) (8 off./6 def./2 spec.) off its 2013 roster which locked up the CAA Championship before finishing the year at 10-3 including a 7-1 mark in the CAA and hosting its first-ever NCAA playoff contest. The Black Bears lost 30 Letterman and return 19 from a season ago.
Offensively, Maine will look towards its veteran leadership at the wide receiver position where senior Damarr Aultman (Wheatley Heights, N.Y.) returns statistically as Maine's top receiving threat. Aultman brought in 46 catches for 550 yards and five touchdowns in 2013 and will be joined on the opposite side by fellow senior Arthur Williams (Springfield, Mass.), who recorded 24 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns last year. Nigel Jones (Pleasantville, N.J.) will carry the load at tailback a year after ranking as Maine's second leading rusher. Jones carried the ball a team-high 131 times in 2013 recording 596 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 13 catches for 127 yards and a pair of scores. With the loss of All-Conference quarterback Marcus Wasilewski to graduation, the Black Bears will be looking for the next quarterback in line. Sophomore Dan Collins (Williamstown, N.J.) returns to the field with the most experience with redshirt freshmen Daniel Hoffer (Yonkers, N.Y.) and Kellen Croce (Middlebury, Conn.) and a pair of true freshmen all in the mix.
Maine's defense will return 15 letterwinners and eight starters from last season's squad which ranked third in the league in scoring defense, allowing 22.1 points per game, and the top ranked pass defense at 176.9 yards per game. The Black Bears return four of their top five tacklers, highlighted by CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year Mulumba Tshimanga (118 tackles) and fellow linebacker Cabrinni Goncalves (Taunton, Mass.). (101 tackles). Maine will have solid depth on the defensive line, highlighted by preseason all-conference selection Bates (54 tackles, 4.0 sacks, two forced fumbles) and sophomore Patrick Ricard (Spencer, Mass.) (59 tackles, 6.0 for loss). Maine will search for replacements in its secondary after losing NFL Draft selection Kendall James, Jamal Clay and Michael Mangiarelli. The Black Bears return solid leadership at two key positions in their secondary in seniors Axel Ofori (Gaithersburg, Md.) and Khari Al-Mateen (Baltimore, Md.).
The 2013 Colonial Association Champions will begin defense of their title August 30 in a home game against Norfolk State at 6 p.m. Black Bear season tickets are on sale now at 581-BEAR or via GoBlackBearsTickets.com
For a complete listing of the preseason all-conference team selections, click here.
2014 CAA Football Predicted Order of Finish (first-place votes)
1. New Hampshire (15)
2. Villanova (2)
3. Richmond (3)
4. William and Mary (3)
8. James Madison (1)
9. Stony Brook
11. Rhode Island