New Hampshire Football Report

UNH receivers playing catch-up

Allen Lessels
UNH Insider

A year ago, the task was daunting.
The University of New Hampshire football team entered the season with a much-depleted receiving corps and for starters had to replace super-productive R.J. Harris.

Now, the Wildcats must once again come up with a top receiver. This time, they have a stock of more proven pass catchers – along with a newcomer or two – looking to step up.

“It’s probably a more talented group overall than what we’ve had in the past,” said assistant coach Michael Ferzoco, who moves over to work with receivers after spending six years with the running backs. “There may not be the one R.J. Harris or David Ball, so to speak, but from top to bottom it’s an extremely talented group that we have.”

Ferzoco, the receivers and the rest of the Wildcats conducted their ninth of 15 spring football practice sessions Saturday morning.

Spring football wraps up with the Blue-White game – open to all and there is no admission fee – next Saturday at noon.

The 2016 season starts with a game at San Diego State, an FBS school, on Sept. 3.

Wildcats caught 308 passes for 28 touchdowns in the 2014 season. Players returning for 2015 had caught 80 of those passes for only two touchdowns.

The overall numbers dropped to 271 catches for 16 touchdowns last season. Players who caught 171 passes for 12 TDs are back for the 2016 season.

Seniors Dalton Crossan, a running back, and Jordan Powell, a tight end, lead the list of returners from last year with 46 catches each. Jared Allison, a senior last year, had a team-high 53 catches.

Senior Kyon Taylor is the leading wide receiver among the returners. He missed the first half of the season and then had 31 catches for 358 yards and a pair of scores in the final six games.

“Kyon has the talent to be a tremendous receiver on this team and in this conference,” Ferzoco said. “The biggest thing for him is to really take the next step with his practice habits, with his playmaking ability and keep the level of consistency we’ve had in the great receivers over the course of coach Mac’s tenure here.”

Taylor has been slowed by a leg injury through much of spring camp, but has shown what he can do in the past.

“He is a dynamic athlete,” Ferzoco said. “He has tremendous ball skills, has tremendous body control and knows how to do all of the little things to really help him become a great receiver in terms of his footwork, his release, the body control in and out of routes. Then when he has to go up and get the ball he has the ability to do it. The biggest thing for him as he steps into the senior role is just do it on a more consistent level.”

Ferzoco is counting on a couple of Taylor’s classmates, too.

“It will be interesting to see who can really step up and compete and execute,” he said. “I feel real confident with the three seniors we have with the improvement they’ve made over the course of the offseason with Anthony Pante, Mark Accino and obviously Kyon.”

Junior Aaron Lewis-Cenales and sophomores Neil O’Connor, Rory Donovan all showed some flashes last year and are back. Sophomore Kieran Presley returns after missing last season.

Malik Love was a true freshman last year and has been impressive in camp.

“Love is catching the ball well,” said head coach Sean McDonnell after practice on Thursday. “Whenever he gets the ball in space he makes people miss and gets positive yards. I really like Malik. He’s a tough, hardnosed competitor, plus a good athlete. Those are good things for us.”

Powell returns at tight end.

“The big thing is, who’s the next guy?” McDonnell said.

The contenders include sophomores Matt Torrey, Nick Derocher and John DiCaro.

“It’s a huge spring, huge spring, for backup tight ends,” McDonnell said. “It starts with Matt Torrey,Nick Derocher, John DiCaro and our freshmen Brendan Hill and Justin Malone-Woods. This spring is really huge for all those guys. The three sophomores have the upper hand right now in a lot of ways but the freshmen were very, very good players for us on the scout teams.”

Now it’s a matter of how things shake out over the final sessions of the spring.

“Some guys have changed spots at the receiver position,” Ferzoco said. “They may have to learn some new concepts and some new techniques and broaden their knowledge of the entire offense so they can help us and be more effective wherever we put them on the field. That will be important for us to score a lot of points and keep excitement at a high level as an offensive unit. . . . It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.”


Follow Allen Lessels on Twitter: @UNHInsider.

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