6 questions as UNH football opens camp

  • Dartmouth offensive lineman John Paul Flores blocks New Hampshire defensive end Zach Garron (97) during their game in Durham, N.H., on Oct. 16, 2021. UNH Wildcats’ football season opener is Sept. 1. Rick Wilson / UNH Athletics

UNH Insider
Published: 8/7/2022 5:30:02 PM
Modified: 8/7/2022 5:26:45 PM

They reported to camp on Aug. 1, started getting their helmets that afternoon and hit the practice field for the first time Aug. 3 at 9:30 a.m.

And in less than four weeks – on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. in Wildcat Stadium – the University of New Hampshire plays host to new Colonial Athletic Association member Monmouth University in its opening football game of the 2022 season, the first under new head coach Rick Santos, a former star quarterback for the Wildcats.

Santos took over for Sean McDonnell after last season ended. McDonnell, who coached Santos, led the program to unprecedented success in his 23-year run that started in 1999.

Here are half a dozen front-burner questions Santos and his staff – including new coordinators in Garrett Gillick for the defense and Brian Scott for the offense – will be addressing over a busy four weeks leading into a Thursday Sean Night Throwdown vs. Monmouth.

What of QB Max?

How will starting quarterback Max Brosmer, who has played one game since November 23, 2019 – and that in what turned into a one-game spring season in March of 2020 – bounce back from a knee injury and surgery that cost him all of the 2021 season?

Good quarterback play is crucial to returning the Wildcats to the days of a high-powered offense that helped drive the program to a string of 14 straight FCS playoff appearances from 2004 to 2017, starting in the redshirt freshman season of their new head coach.

Brosmer passed for 12 touchdowns and 1,967 yards with 12 interceptions while starting the last 10 games of the 2019 season as a true freshman. He led the Wildcats in a bid for a playoff berth and to a 6-5 record.

“Max looks great,” Santos said Monday morning. “He loves the game. He loves the process of getting better at it. He’s one of our hardest workers, one of our best leaders. I think he’s eager for it and he’s hungry. If anybody can come back from that long hiatus, it’s him.”

Can the Wildcats establish a run game?

That’s the goal, given the experience on the offensive line, their desire to ease Brosmer back into things a bit and to make the best use of their No. 1 offensive weapon, junior running back Dylan Laube. Laube led the CAA in all-purpose yards with 147.4 yards a game last year and averaged 6.3 yards per carry.

The Wildcats also will look for contributions from sophomore running back Isaac Seide, another explosive player.

The O-line features junior Osho Omoyeni at center and grad student Patrick Flynn at left tackle.

Juniors David Perry and Matt O’Neill and grad transfer Matt Marvin, a standout while at Stonehill, will likely battle during the preseason to figure out who will be the starters at the guard spots, Santos said. Sophomore Dylan Poirier, redshirt freshman Mason Davis and freshman Beau Riley, who is 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds and who participated in spring football with the team are the leading contenders for the right tackle spot at the moment.

Where’s the strength of the team?

The defense has held the upper hand the last five or six years, Santos said, though he thinks the offense started to balance it up a little in the spring. Still, for now, he points to the defensive side.

The team’s most touted player – defensive end Josiah Silver – plays on that side of the ball and will look to follow up a monster freshman season in which he kept getting better and better and racked up all sorts of awards. Collecting 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss with six forced fumbles, among the best numbers in not only the league but the country, will bring those accolades.

The linebacking corps is probably the strongest unit on the team and the Wildcats have disrupting forces at all levels with the likes of junior Bryce Shaw and sophomore Oleh Manzyk at linebacker, senior safety Pop Bush, sophomore Noah Stansbury swapping from safety to corner and senior tackle Niko Kvietkus and Silver up front.

Where do the new guys fit in?

With loosened NCAA transfer rules, the Wildcats have picked up several new faces to go with the freshmen they have coming in.

Two of them are defensive end Pierce Devaughn and wide receiver Heron Maurisseau, both juniors, both transfers in from the University of Connecticut who could be factors early.

Maurisseau will be one of the fastest players on the team, Santos said.

Devaughn is 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds and will compete for the starting job opposite Silver.

“Pierce is big enough, he’s strong enough, he looks the part,” Santos said. “It’s going to be interesting to see when he puts on the pads. He played quite a bit of football for UConn, meaningful snaps, and he was very productive. Heron, just based on pure athleticism and his speed, we have to find creative ways to get him the football.”

Marvin was in camp last spring coming off an injury, and then was injured again and did not get the opportunity to compete.

“He should bolster an already deep offensive line,” Santos said.

Junior wide receiver Andrew Edgar is a transfer who put up big numbers early in his career while at Illinois State and is working his way back from a knee injury.

Defensive end Cameron Garner-Young at 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, defensive tackle Justin Fevrier at 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds and tight end Peyton Strickland at 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds are among the freshmen who will compete for early playing time.

How quickly can they put 2021 behind them?

Knocking off Monmouth, the champion of the Big South and an FCS tournament team two of the last three seasons, would be a step in the proper direction.

Monmouth quarterback Tony Muskett passed for 25 touchdowns with six interceptions while leading the Hawks to a 7-4 record last season. In the spring 2021 season, he had nine TD passes with a pair of picks as Monmouth went 3-1.

UNH makes it two CAA games in a row to start the season with a trip to UAlbany in Game 2.

The Wildcats follow that with their first nonconference game at home against North Carolina Central on Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.

The other home games are Homecoming against Stony Brook on Oct. 8 at 3:30, against Elon on Oct. 22 and against Rhode Island on Nov. 5 at 3:30 p.m.

The rest of the road schedule includes games at Towson on Sept. 24, at Western Michigan for an FBS game on Oct. 1, at Dartmouth on Oct. 15, at Richmond on Nov. 5 and at Maine on Nov. 19.

Where do the Wildcats go from here?

Last year stung and Santos wants his team to remember that and learn from the adversity while looking ahead, not back.

It’s all about a reset, regrouping and a new beginning said Kvietkus and senior wide receiver Brian Espanet – two of the team’s four captains along with Flynn and Bush.

Kvietkus said more than 70 players were on campus for optional workouts during July, the best turnout since he’s been around.

“Those numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “People are ready to go, ready to rock and roll and we’re ready to buckle up and get after it.”

Added Espanet, who caught seven of UNH’s 16 touchdown passes last season and leads the pass catchers with senior Coyne and junior tight end Kyle Lepkowski: “It’s a new identity at UNH. We talk about where we can go. We’ve got to start something new, start something fresh.” 




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