UNH Insider: Football team begins prep for 2019 season

  • Pop Lacey (left), Jacob Post (center) and Evan Gray (right) sprint through a gauntlet of their University of New Hampshire football teammates on Friday at Wildcat Stadium in Durham. UNH is just beginning its training camp and will play its season opener on Sept. 7 at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. The Wildcats went 4-7 last season and missed the FCS postseason for the first time in 14 years. ALLEN LESSELS / UNH Insider

  • University of New Hampshire football coach Sean McDonnell (center, khaki shorts) watches his team practice on Friday at Wildcat Stadium in Durham. ALLEN LESSELS / UNH Insider

UNH Insider
Published: 8/9/2019 10:06:39 PM
Modified: 8/9/2019 10:06:27 PM

DURHAM – Freshmen reported for testing in the athletic training room on Thursday morning. Upper classmen checked in later in the day.

Friday, all segments of the University of New Hampshire football team – 2019 edition – were on the field in Wildcat Stadium for more testing in the morning and their inaugural practice in the afternoon.

It’s time. Finally.

“We feel like everybody else in the CAA is already in camp,” said senior safety Pop Lacey. “It’s been a while since we’ve been able to get back in there and put the pads on. We’re excited. We’re ready. We’re in good condition. We’re ready to attack the challenge.”

Fact of the matter is, every other Colonial Athletic Association team did beat the Wildcats to camp this season.

UNH plays its first game a week later than the other teams in its league – the ’Cats get under way at Holy Cross on Sept. 7 at 1 p.m. – and thus is a week later to open camp.

The Wildcats play their FBS level game at Florida International in Miami on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. and then return to Wildcat Stadium for their home opener against Rhode Island on Sept. 21 at 6 p.m.

The challenge Lacey mentioned is a bit different for the Wildcats this year as well. For the first time in a decade and a half, UNH enters a new season looking to bounce back from a tough year.

The Wildcats finished with a 4-7 record last year, ending a nation’s-best streak of 14 straight appearances in the NCAA’s FCS tournament. Their accompanying streak of 14 winning seasons in a row was the longest in program history.

“Last year happened,” said senior running back Evan Gray. “You can’t act like it didn’t. We’re just trying to learn from it. We don’t want to be back in that situation again. It was a pretty bad feeling knowing other teams are in the playoffs and we’re not. It’s getting to back the drawing board and being ready.”

The rough season helped motivate the Wildcats through winter workouts, spring ball and the summer.

“It was a sour taste,” Lacey said. “Everybody has that feeling in the back of their minds, in the back of their heads. As seniors, is that really what we want to do? Is that how we want to leave our legacy? Having a losing record, not making the playoffs?

“Honestly, we’re just ready. We have a chip on our shoulder and we’re ready to prove something to a lot of people and prove something to ourselves. We know we have the talent and we know we have the energy and ability to do it.”

The top priority in fall camp for head coach Sean McDonnell and his staff remains developing a quarterback to take over for the graduated Trevor Knight, who was slowed by injuries last season.

Freshman Max Brosmer and redshirt freshman Bret Edwards, along with sophomore Tommy Herion, who saw limited time last season and is the only quarterback with collegiate experience, separated themselves from the pack a bit during spring practice, McDonnell said.

“Everyone’s going to have a chance to shine,” McDonnell said. “Those guys are slightly ahead of everybody else, but everyone will have their shot.”

A pair of quarterbacks out of New Hampshire – senior Merrimack Valley graduate Ivan Niyomugabo of Penacook and sophomore Stephen Hedberg of Dover – are also in the mix.

“It’s a position that’s got some very good athletes in it,” McDonnell said. “You’ve got five people who are good football players. Somebody’s got to come to the forefront and some of those kids have worked extremely hard this summer to do it. It’s going to be a great two weeks of camp to see who’s going to take the next step in the program.”

Fall camp leads to the Blue-White game Aug. 25 at 10 a.m. and then the team will turn to preparing for the opener against Holy Cross.

McDonnell is not sure when a starting quarterback will be named.

“I’ve gone into the final scrimmage as the earmark a bunch of years,” the coach said. “I’ve done that with Ryan Day and Mike Apple. I’ve done it with Sean Goldrich and Andy Vailas. I did it with Kevin Decker and R.J. Toman. Trevor came in the last two years and the guy was head and shoulders above. It’s a little bit different this year.”

(Allen Lessels can be reached at Allen.Lessles@unh.edu or on Twitter @UNHInsider)



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