Playing time up for grabs at Sunday’s UNH Blue-White football scrimmage

  • University of New Hampshire cornerback Prince Smith, Jr. (left) lines up wide receiver Benyeal Hill, Jr. (right). Hill will be among the young Wildcats looking to earn regular-season playing time during Sunday’s Blue-White scrimmage that wraps up fall camp. Smith is part of a veteran secondary that should be one of the best in the Colonial Athletic Association and the entire Football Championship Subdivision. Courtesy of UNH Athletics

UNH Insider
Published: 8/23/2019 5:52:03 PM

The University of New Hampshire football team opens the season in two weeks at Holy Cross and then travels to Miami to face Florida International University. How the Wildcats look in their opening road games will be determined in part by what happens at home on Sunday morning.

That’s when UNH will play its annual Blue-White game, which will help coach Sean McDonnell set up the team’s depth charts before the ’Cats take their show on the road. Here are a few spots the coaches will be paying special attention to during Sunday’s scrimmage, scheduled to start at 10 a.m. at Wildcat Stadium:

■Since Trevor Knight ended his multi-year reign as starting quarterback last November, the battle for the first-string job has been on. Redshirt freshman Bret Edwards and true freshman Max Brosmer, who enrolled in school last winter and was with the team through spring football, have emerged as the frontrunners for the job.

Sunday’s action will certainly play a role in the decision, but this is one that may extend close to game time of the opener. Heck, it may last even longer than that.

Sophomore Tommy Herion, the only quarterback on the roster with collegiate experience, is slotted behind the top two at the moment and is being pushed by classmate Stephen Hedberg.

■Senior Michael Balsamo, who started as a safety as a redshirt freshman, moved up and has been a regular at linebacker the last two seasons and is the leader of that group.

After that, there are opportunities for playing time at linebacker and this is a spot where younger players – including freshmen such as Oleh Manzyk, Zedane Williams and Ryan Toscano – will no doubt get a chance to shine.

Redshirt freshman J.J. Jerome had an impressive scrimmage the other night and senior Cameron Brusko and senior Nelson Thomas are among others in the mix.

■Who’s catching those passes thrown by whomever gets to throw them? Senior Malik Love is back after missing almost all of last season to injury and that’s reassuring. Beyond that, the grabs are, well, up for grabs.

Redshirt freshman Charles Briscoe III and freshman Griffin Helm have been among those earning early kudos from coaches, and guys such as senior Mike Vailas and sophomores Benyeal Hill Jr. and Brian Espanet are looking for playing time as well. Sophomore C.J. Turner and redshirt freshman Symir Blacknall have been slowed by injury.

“They all have some ability,” wide receivers coach Michael Ferzoco said. “Some have different talents from others, but they have the ability to play multiple positions, which gives us a lot of flexibility so that we can find a way to get the best three on the field. On the inside, Malik’s had a really good camp and he’s done a good job keeping himself healthy and finding ways to get open. ... The good thing is they’ve all performed on one day or the other. It’s finding that level of consistency we’ve had from guys in the past.”

■Here’s something to watch just for fun – the defensive secondary of safeties Pop Lacey and Evan Horn and cornerbacks Prince Smith, Jr. and Isiah Perkins.

Horn is a junior and the rest are seniors and between them they’ve started a ton of games and made a ton of big plays over the course of the last three seasons. They intend to make a case for themselves as one of the best units in the Colonial Athletic Association and the entire FCS.

Last year UNH returned four interceptions for touchdowns, tied for the most in the FCS. Horn had a pair of pick-sixes and Lacey had one.

■Sunday’s scrimmage will be followed by a barbecue for season-ticket members featuring a meet-and-greet with coach McDonnell and his staff. Season tickets, starting at $99, will be sold at Sunday’s game and are available at

The Wildcats home opener will be Sept. 21 against Rhode Island, and eight of UNH’s games will be broadcast on

(Allen Lessels is the UNH Insider and can be reached at or on Twitter @UNHInsider)

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