PORTLAND – University of Maine coach Jack Cosgrove saw Lewiston tailback/safety Jared Turcotte play football twice last fall, in the first and last games of his season, both at Bangor.

“I remember coming away from the first one saying, ‘What an offensive football player that kid is,'” Cosgrove said, referring to a contest in which Turcotte accounted for 254 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. “After the second game, I said, ‘What a complete football player he is, because he was a much-improved defensive player.’ He was as big a force on defense that night as he was on offense.”

“I think that really, in our minds, made him a much more marketable football player because he could play on either side of the ball,” he added. “We’ve chosen to start him off on offense because the kid kind of indicated he’d like that. But with a kid who’s 6-2, 220, with a passion for the game that he has, you’re probably not going to make a mistake wherever you end up playing him.”

Turcotte officially became a Black Bear on Wednesday, one week after announcing his plans to attend and play football at the University of Maine. On the first day of the National Letter of Intent signing period, the 2006 Fitzpatrick Trophy winner joined Portland High School quarterback Chris Treister at Portland High for a signing ceremony showcasing Maine high school players who have committed to the state university.

“To get a scholarship to the University of Maine just goes to show the kind of loyalty they have to Maine guys,” said Turcotte, who plans to be a pre-med student at the university. “Being given this opportunity as a Maine high school football player just makes me want to prove … that Maine players can compete with any other state.”

Bangor offensive lineman Robert Seccareccia, Turcotte and Treister were the three Mainers listed among the 17 commitments announced by Cosgrove on Wednesday. This year’s class comprises five defensive backs, three wide receivers, two offensive linemen, two running backs, one defensive lineman, one tight end, a linebacker, a quarterback and “an athlete that could play several positions.”

Both Turcotte and Treister cited Cosgrove as a key to their choosing Maine because he took such an active role in their recruiting, whether they were visiting the Orono campus or he was driving south to see them in their homes. They said coaches at many of the other programs that recruited them left the bulk of such contact to assistants.

“Coach Cosgrove was the most personal of all,” Treister said.

They said the coach also helped guide them through the daunting recruiting process without putting undue pressure on them to pick Maine.

“He told me to just relax, take everything as it comes, make all the visits I needed to make, and make the best decision for myself,” Turcotte said.

Cosgrove said he made a straightforward pitch to each of the recruits, urging them to get as much out of the process as they could before deciding.

“The ultimate goal for us is to get them to come to Maine because they want to be here, not to try to keep them shielded from what’s out there,” he said. “I have always felt that regardless of what they see, if this is where they want to be, they’ll be here. You certainly don’t want a young man to come to your school wondering about, ‘Did I look at enough? Did I see other schools?'”

“I do feel, especially when you see the talent that these two young men possess, that when you feel you’re running a program the right way, you want to bring in people that will help make it better. And I really saw those things in them.”

The coach said he visited Turcotte at home and was impressed by the relationship between Turcotte, his mother, Nadine, and his little brother, Spence.

He also went to Lewiston High School and was deluged with testimony about Jared Turcotte the student and person.

“You go into Lewiston High School, there are coaches everywhere you look in that school,” Cosgrove said via phone from Orono. “I walk in and (Assistant Principal) Mike Hutchins, who was a head coach before, wants to brag to me about Jared, and then I go down the hallway and (Athletic Director) Jason Fuller wants to brag to me. Freddy Royer (a former teammate of Cosgrove’s and youth football coach of Turcotte’s) called me to brag about the kid and Skip (Capone) called me up here. Finally, you get to (Lewiston football coach) Bill County, and it’s like, ‘I’ve already heard this stuff, you know?'”

“It was just so special hearing so many people saying the same thing about him. And then to see it in his home (and) when he was on our campus …”

When Turcotte finally arrives on campus late next summer, he’ll be trying to find a spot on Cosgrove’s active roster as an “H-back,” which the coach described as a “multi-purpose guy,” with ball-carrying, pass-catching and blocking duties. But his role may evolve over the coming four years.

“The size that he has, he fits that role,” Cosgrove said. “What he ends up doing more of will be determined by how well he does those things. There’s nothing like a big one-back in the backfield if he can run the football with the kind of speed and tenacity we’ve seen. A back that can go outside, catch the football or block off the corner, I mean, that just adds to the package.”

As a first-year player, Turcotte faces the possibility of being redshirted for his freshman year. Redshirting involves using one or more of a student’s years at college to just attend practices but not play in order not to exceed the four years of athletic eligibility. Turcotte has said he’s determined not to let that happen, which is music to Cosgrove’s ears.

“If he wants to (play), he will. And I believe in that,” Cosgrove said. “We tell our players don’t think about redshirting until we tell you we need you to redshirt. Come in to compete to play.”

Three other prospects, Cony QB Gabe Hinds, Windham lineman Raibonne Charles and Portland lineman Eamon White, also attended the ceremony. They have a status of “preferred” walk-ons, meaning they’ll have a roster spot held for them in the fall, with the opportunity to obtain scholarships at UMaine.

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