Dexter Turner was interested in becoming a Maine Black Bear, and Jack Cosgrove was interested in making him one. The coach just wanted the relationship to carry a little more weight.
So Turner, a Pine Tree Conference All-Star at Oxford Hills in 2012, hired a personal trainer, enrolled at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., put on about 15 pounds, dominated his high-level prep league, and became one of 16 football players who signed letters of intent on Monday to play for the University of Maine.
Turner, one of two Mainers in the class, along with Fitzpatrick Trophy-winning Cony quarterback Ben Lucas, is a 6-foot-4, 230-pound defensive end who was co-MVP at Oxford Hills in 2012, his senior year.
“Dexter had actually come up and made himself known to us,” Cosgrove said. “He was somebody we were evaluating. I just thought he was on the light side for us.”
Cosgrove compared Turner to Jordan Stevens, the Mt. Blue graduate who was an all-conference defensive end at Maine in 2009 and is now Cosgrove’s defensive line coach.
“I like his energy level, his size. He plays the game very hard,” Cosgrove said.
Turner was a defensive end/tight end at Cushing and was named the team’s defensive player of the year and all-New England by the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council.
Lucas led Cony to its first state championship in 2013, capping off one of the most prolific high school careers a Maine quarterback has ever had.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Lucas, who established new records for career passing yards (7,575) and 89 touchdowns, has been on Cosgrove’s radar since his junior year.
“We’re impressed with his size, his athleticism,” Cosgrove said. “He’s got an ability to take his God-given skills and blend them with being a very competitive kid, which is something we look for.”
The rest of the incoming class includes another quarterback, a running back, wide receiver, three offensive linemen, and five defensive backs. It hails predominantly from New York and New Jersey, historically two recruiting hotbeds for Maine during Cosgrove’s tenure.
Drew Belcher of Reading, MA is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback. He was a three-year starter at Reading Memorial High School, which he led to an undefeated season and a Division 2 state championship in 2012 while being named Division 2 Player of the Year. The all-time winningest QB at Reading (29-6), he totaled 2,200 yards of offense and 21 touchdowns in 2013.
Running back Darian Davis-Ray (5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Harrisburg, PA) and wide receiver Micah Wright (6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Newark, NY) are the other skill position players.
The offensive linemen are all tackles: Jamil Demby (6-foot-4, 300 pounds, Vineland, NJ), Cody Levy (6-foot-6, 275 pounds, Poughkeepsie, NY) and Christopher Okupski (6-foot-3, 320 pounds, West Long Beach, NY).
In addition to Turner, the defensive line signings are: tackle Uchenna Egwuonwu (6-foot-2, 270 pounds, Union, NJ), tackle Andrew Stevens (6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Camden, NJ) and end Connor Walsh (6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Milton, MA).
Highlighting the secondary signings is Sinmisola Demuren (6-foot, 190 pounds, Mitchellville, MD, a two-year starter for nationally-ranked Demantha Catholic. Other additions are Angelo Dawson (5-foot-8, 170 pounds, Egg Harbor Township, NJ), Jeffrey DeVaughn (5-foot-10, 170 pounds, Folcroft, PA), Darrius Hart (6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Toms River, NJ), and Mozai Nelson (6-foot, 197 pounds, Uniondale, NY).
Cosgrove credited the signings to his coaching and recruiting staff. That includes Stevens and former Livermore Falls star Shawn Demaray, who is Maine’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.
“Shawn has taken on a tremendous level of responsibility,” Cosgrove said. “As our recruiting coordinator, he coordinates all of our efforts and works directly with me, putting me in a position through his guidance to visit our top prospects. He’s in on the decision-making process, ranking how hard to pursue those prospects.”
“(Recruiting) is a complicated and competitive situation,” said Cosgrove, whose program won its first Colonial Athletic Association title last season before falling to CAA rival New Hampshire in the FCS playoffs. “It’s as competitive in a lot of ways as what we do on Saturday afternoons in the fall, and we’re competing with the same schools. It’s a lot of hard work for a long period of time, and we’ve been able to identify some very, very good football players, students and young men. Getting them to join us is exciting.”