New Hampshire Football Report

UNH’s men in the middle

Allen Lessels
UNH Insider

DURHAM – One of the goals for the University of New Hampshire football defense a year ago was to shore up its efforts against the run. Thanks in large part to the men in the middle – senior Rick Holt and junior Ryan Sosnak – the Wildcats were able to do that.

Holt, 6-foot-4 and 293 pounds, and Sosnak, 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, are back to anchor the defensive line from their tackle spots again. Holt and Sosnak, first-time starters last season, are having a good spring with the football team.

Spring football for the Wildcats wraps up with the annual Blue-White Spring Game on April 29 at noon in Wildcat Stadium.

“In the interior, Holt and Sosnak have done a real good job of getting better at the things that we asked them to get better at,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “We talked about gap control. Talked about bull rushing. We talked about using hands and the integrity of the defense and both the kids have done a real good job with that.”

Holt led the returning defensive linemen with 27 unassisted tackles and 20 assisted for a total of 47 tackles last season. Sosnak had 16-12-28 totals and his 39-yard return of a fumble for a touchdown against Towson was one of the defensive highlights of the season.

Sophomore Elijah Lewis and junior Cyrus Boone, who missed all of last season with a foot injury, look to be part of the rotation as well.

At defensive end the Wildcats need to replace the production and leadership of Cam Shorey, who led the team with 10 tackles for a loss and was named the Colonial Athletic Association Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year for football.

Juniors Jae’Wuan Horton and Kyle Reisert saw the most time of those returning at defensive end and sophomore Josh Kania was very productive when he got his chances.

“The No. 1 thing you notice about Jae’Wuan is just his effort,” said assistant coach Kyle McAllister, who works with the defensive ends. “It was very apparent right from the get-go even when he was a freshman on scout team. Everything he did he was always running around. His work ethic was unbelievable. That makes it easy as a coach when a guy works that hard, wants to compete wants to get better, wants to learn.”

Reisert is out of the same mold.

“Kyle works as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen,” McAllister said. “You talk about how great he is as a student. The fact he’s had a 4.0 in mechanical engineering for all his time here so far. But also the fact, despite how much time he has to put into that, he is still able to do all the things he does on the football field. Both those guys it just starts with how hard they work and how much they love the game. Everything else kind of snowballs after that.”

Riesert had 36 tackles with a team-leading 4.5 sacks and Horton had 28 tackles and four sacks last year.  Kania made 37 tackles.

“Josh is one of the more physical guys we have up front,” McAllister said. “And he’s done a great job of picking up our defense pretty quickly.”

Senior Mike Boryeskne, who has been slowed much of his career by injuries, and redshirt freshman Brian Carter are also in the picture for playing time at defensive end. So, too are sophomore Robbie Schumacher and redshirt freshman Riley Ammerman.

The defense improved from last in the league at 199 yards allowed rushing in 2015 to fourth at 138 yards a game in 2016.

The mission for 2017 is to continue that improvement, get more of a pass rush and cut down on X-plays – big plays – allowed.

Holt and Sosnak will be called upon again.

“Those two guys did an outstanding job last year,” said Pete McCarty, the assistant coach in charge of defensive tackles. “They did a great job in the run game. . . . I’ve told both of those guys that I anticipate a higher level of play from them. They’re a year older and a year older being smart, too. I think they have to be the leaders in the forefront for young guys.”

Lewis, who played as a true freshman last year, is one of the young players. Redshirt freshmen Jacob Bradshaw and Patrick Kaplan and sophomore Sean Burns are among the others. Senior Odaine Franklyn is out with an Achilles injury.

“The biggest thing is we want to be able to get a third and a fourth guy in there so those other two guys (Holt and Sosnak) can be taken off the field and not fear we’re going to get a significant dropoff,” McCarty said.

“So far, the spring has proven to be pretty good,” said defensive coordinator John Lyons. “We’re making improvement in stopping the run, eliminating x-plays and also pressuring the quarterback. And those are three of the main things we were looking to do this spring.”

Follow Allen Lessels on Twitter: @UNHInsider

You must be logged in to post a comment Login