New Hampshire Football Report

UNH has QB options

Allen Lessels
UNH Insider

It is easily the No. 1 priority and biggest question mark surrounding the UNH football team during a spring season that started last week and will continue through the Blue-White spring game on May 7.

Who will be the starting quarterback when the Wildcats open the 2016 season with a game at San Diego State on Sept. 3 and then open the new Wildcat Stadium Sept. 10, with a home game against Holy Cross?

The contenders for the starting spot at quarterback are left-hander Adam Riese, who will be a senior in the fall and is from Hamilton, N.J., and Trevor Knight, a sophomore out of Nashua South High School.

The third quarterback on the roster is redshirt freshman Ivan Niyomugabo, who worked with the scout team as a true freshman last fall and starred at Merrimack Valley High School in Penacook before that. Christian Lupoli, who played at Notre Dame High in West Haven, Conn., is a recruit for next season and will join the team when fall camp begins in early August.

Riese has an edge in his knowledge of the system and game experience. He started against Elon and Central Connecticut last year when Sean Goldrich was out with an injury and led the Wildcats to a pair of wins.

He also got a key game against Richmond off to a rousing start by driving UNH to a score on its first possession before Goldrich took over at quarterback.

Knight has shown an ability to scramble and make something out of little and has a very strong arm, but has seen more limited playing time.

“The competition between us is going to be fun,” Riese said. “It’s going to be a good time. I’m going to be looking forward to seeing Trevor doing some good things and push me forward and hopefully I can push him forward, too.”

Knight is counting on it.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “We’re both making each other better. At the end of the day it’s just going to make the team better because the better we are, the better the team can be. I can’t wait to get in some live situations. It’s been a long winter. We had a great winter as a team and to finally get out here and everyone gets to play there’s a lot of excitement. Defense, offense, we’re all competing.”

Head coach Sean McDonnell and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Carty have not been in this situation for a while.

The last four years, the Wildcats were led by a combination of Andy Vailas, who played his last season in 2014, and Sean Goldrich, who played through last fall. The two pretty much took turns running the team with much success.

“It reminds me of four years ago when Sean and Andy were the guys after Kevin Decker left and we weren’t exactly sure who the guy was going to be,” Carty said. “Both of the guys had proven some things over the seasons but you weren’t exactly sure what was going to happen.”

McDonnell makes the same comparison.

Riese and Knight will be given opportunities to make their case.

“They’ll both be guys that take first team reps and they’re both going to take second team reps and we’re going to make sure we get each of those guys a good chance at success and get them with the one receivers and the one tight ends and the one O-line,” Carty said. “Adam’s had a good jumpstart to the competition because of what he did last year. In fairness, Trevor didn’t do poorly when he was playing last year either. He just played less. We’ve got to get both those guys in a situation where they’re ready to compete on a daily basis and get us better as a team.”

McDonnell expects an extended competition. Knight may have had a slightly better day on the second practice of the spring last Friday, the coach said, and before he got a chance to look at the tape after Sunday’s practice, he felt Riese may have fared a little better that day in the third session.

“It’s going to be a long camp,” McDonnell said. “Long in a good way. We’re going to have a good chance to evaluate and do all these things we’re doing.”

Riese and Knight each had more experience last season than Vailas and Goldrich did going into the 2012 season.

Vailas played in a couple of games in 2011. He rushed three times for 26 yards and completed three of his four passes and had one interception. Goldrich was a true freshman in 2011 and did not play.

Riese played in 10 games last year and completed 54 of his 79 passes for 513 yards with six touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.

“Adam’s a very smart kid,” Carty said. “He’s not just a book smart kid. He’s very good at processing information. He’s been very good and he’s gotten better over the years. That’s what I love to see about him. He’s always trying to improve. He works extremely hard in the offseason at making sure whatever we tell him might be the things he needs to improve, he’s working specifically on those things. You really have to commend him for that and appreciate his effort in that.”

Knight played in six games last season and was 10 for 19 passing for 124 yards with one touchdown and had one interception. He also ran 18 times for 52 yards and a score.

“Trevor is again a talented kid,” Carty said. “He’s also very intelligent. He’s got a very strong arm and he’s a fast kid. Not to take anything away from his mental ability because he has proven in the reps he’s gotten that he has no problem making reads and staying in the pocket and that stuff, but he is extremely talented when he slings it. When he slings it, he slings it.”

Knight looked good early in spring practice last year, but then hurt his ankle in a scrimmage and missed out on valuable development time.

Now, the competition is on.

“The quarterback position’s going to be really interesting because for the last four years you’ve had Andy and Sean, Sean and Andy, then you had Sean,” McDonnell said. “Now it’s Adam and Trevor. It’s huge for me right now for me to see how they manage the football team, how they secure the football. . . . There are not going to be answers until we finally get somebody in the heat of battle and that will come in scrimmages and challenging situations in practice. Spring game will help. We’ll reevaluate after we get done with all that and then take it to the summer and figure out where we’re going.”


Follow Allen Lessels on Twitter: @UNHInsider

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