ORONO — As self-critiques go, Jared Turcotte’s evaluation leaves one to wonder whether he’s been watching himself on film or standing in front of a fun house mirror.

“Watching the film from last year, I didn’t like how slow and out of shape I looked,” he said.

Countless football players would give their Twitter account to look so slow and out of shape. Turcotte cut an impressive figure as a redshirt freshman last year, beginning the season as primarily a blocking back, then ending it as the University of Maine’s breakout star.

Although few outside the state had heard of the Fitzpatrick Trophy winner from Lewiston last August, the entire Colonial Athletic Conference knows now who the 6-foot-2, 221-pound fullback is. Turcotte has been named preseason all-conference and also has a spot on three different preseason All-American teams.

Yet while that is considered quite the feat for a sophomore, it doesn’t impress Maine coach Jack Cosgrove.

“I don’t know what a preseason All-American is. I only know what a
postseason All-American is, and that’s a damn good player,” Cosgrove
said.

“But,” he added, “Jared has worked very hard not only as a football player,
he’s worked hard to be a prominent leader of this football team.”

Breakout year

Turcotte surged into prominence about a month into last season when starting senior tailback Jamal Fluellen was sidelined with an injury. He rushed and received for 109 yards in Fluellen’s first game out, then broke out with 189 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in overtime against Hofstra three weeks later. 

The power running continued even with Fluellen’s return to the backfield the following week. Turcotte ended up leading the Black Bears in rushing (625 yards, 7 TDs) and receptions (25) while helping them earn a bid in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

“His opportunity would have come with Fluellen there or not,” Cosgrove
said. “It’s just that it came sooner and more dramatically than people
were ready for, and actually had more of an impact on us that we
thought it would.” 

The impact was even more startling considering Turcotte wasn’t running at 100 percent. He was still dealing with the effects of a knee injury sustained while he was at Lewiston.

The left knee he had operated on the previous off-season hadn’t fully recovered at the start of the year. Then he tore the meniscus in his
right knee in the middle of the season.

“It wasn’t really painful, it was just discomfort,” he said. “I didn’t think about it (while running).”

Turcotte had the right knee scoped shortly after the season ended and was ready to go for spring football. Not long thereafter, the preseason accolades started to roll in. Outside of using them for a little extra motivation, though, Turcotte brushes off all the attention he’s received before he even steps on the field this year.  

“That’s how it was in high school, and coming up to Maine and playing
in the home state, people probably make it out to be bigger than it
really is,” said Turcotte, who has been battling groin problems during training camp. “Preseason doesn’t really mean anything. I could
go out there and blow it this year, you know. It’s good to have those
high expectations, something to push me and make me work harder and
make me want to prove them right. I realize that it’s just preseason
and I have to go out there and perform.”

“Once you go out and perform, you set a standard for yourself and
teams realize the things you can do on the field,” he added. “I guess it
puts a target on your back and makes you have to perform at even a
higher level and go out and prepare better.”

The bellwether

In terms of his role, Turcotte isn’t taking anything for granted. His approach to this season isn’t much different than last. He won’t need a Fluellen to go down to get carries, but the Black Bears still have a deep and talented backfield.

Cosgrove says he doesn’t expect Turcotte to become a workhorse back this season, which opens Thursday against St. Cloud State. He’ll be more of a bellwether back.

“Certainly in the key situations in a game, we’re going to have a guy
that we want to have the ball. Is that Jared Turcotte? I think so,” he
said. “But there could be a week where maybe it’s somebody else because
we’ve done so much with Turcotte that people are going to be expecting
that.” 

Turcotte isn’t just willing to share the load. He hopes he can create opportunities for fellow running backs such as fellow sophomores Pushaun Brown, Derek Session and Roosevelt Boone.

Regardless of how many carries he gets, Turcotte plans to make more out of each one. He believes he was slow and out of shape last year because he didn’t finish off his longer runs well enough. Improving his speed was a priority in the off-season. 

“Once you get through the second and third levels of the defense,
you’ve got to be prepared to outrun guys for 50 or 60 yards or however
long it’s going to be if you want to score touchdowns instead of
getting knocked out at the five yard line,” he said.

Perhaps with a few more touchdowns this year, Jared Turcotte the film critic will give Jared Turcotte the fullback a thumbs up.

University of Maine fullback Jared Turcotte.


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