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 and announced at CAA Media Day on July 28 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md. Individually, Maine received three preseason All-Conference selections in defensive end Trevor Bates (Westbrook, Maine), center Bruce Johnson (Rochester, N.Y.) and linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga (Laval, Quebec). This is the second-straight year all three have been featured on the Preseason All-Conference team.
Villanova was selected as the preseason favorite, receiving 14 first place tallies. The Wildcats were followed by James Madison with five first place votes and defending CAA champions New Hampshire, also with five first place nods. William & Mary was selected fourth with Richmond and Delaware placing fifth and sixth, respectively. The Black Bears were selected seventh for the second-straight year with Stony Brook, Towson, UAlbany, Rhode Island and Elon rounding out the 12 team league.
Maine will look to improve on its 5-6 mark, 4-4 in CAA play, and seventh place league finish from a year ago. The Black Bears return 38 letterwinners, including 21 starters (11 offense, 9 defense and one specialist) featuring both starting quarterbacks, Dan Collins and Drew Belcher, their entire offensive line and leading rusher Nigel Beckford. Defensively, the Black Bears front seven will be a point of strength, centered around All-Conference selections Trevor Bates and Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga; Maine's top tackler over the past two years.
Last season, Mulumba Tshimanga earned Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) All-Conference First Team honors and was named Maine's Most Oustanding Defensive Player. The linebacker led the Black Bears with 95 tackles (42 unassisted), recorded 12+ tackles in four games and finished with 8.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, one interception, one pass breakup and forced a fumble. Mulumba Tshimanga ranked fifth in the league in tackles per game (8.6) and fourth on the team in tackles for loss (8.0).
Johnson was the anchor on Maine's offensive line and earned CAA All-Conference First Team honors. Maine's center, who started all 11 games, was named the team's Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman. Johnson played a large part in building Maine's run game which produced 100+ yard rushers in two of its final three games.
Bates was a force coming off the edge all season for the Black Bears, earning a spot on the All-CAA second team and Maine team MVP honors. A defensive end, Bates started all 11 games and ranked 10th in the league with three interceptions, 46th in the league, second among defensive linemen, with 5.5 tackles per game, and was sixth in the CAA in pass deflections. Bates finished the year with 60 tackles, third highest on the team, 9.0 tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a 33-yard fumble recovery and three interceptions, including one for a 23-yard score.
Maine opens the 2015 season on Sept. 5 at Boston College and will host Rhode Island on Sept. 26 in its home opener at Alfond Stadium. Black Bear season tickets are on sale NOW at 207-581-BEAR or by visiting GoBlackBears.com
2015 CAA Football Predicted Order of Finish (1st-Place Votes)
1. Villanova (14)
2. James Madison (5)
3. New Hampshire (5)
4. William & Mary
8. Stony Brook
11. Rhode Island