New Hampshire Football Report

UNH opens spring practice

DURHAM – Just over four months removed from their latest in a record string of appearances in the NCAA Division I tournament and less than five months before they open the 2018 season at Maine, the University of New Hampshire gets back on the football field early Tuesday morning.

The Wildcats kick off their 15-session round of spring football at 6:15 a.m. on Bremner Field.

“Can’t wait to get going,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “I’ve had enough of this stuff: being away from it, the snow, everything.”

The Wildcats get right back at it as they continue preparation for a season that begins with a night-time showdown against arch-rival Maine on Aug. 30.

UNH will play six home games in Wildcat Stadium, starting Sept. 8 against Colgate. Other home games are against Holy Cross on Oct. 6; against Stony Brook for Homecoming on Oct. 13; against Delaware for Family Weekend on Oct. 20; against James Madison on Nov. 3; and against Albany on Nov. 10.

McDonnell is heading into his 20th season as head coach with an overall record of 150-88 and a Colonial Athletic Association mark of 95-60. He has led the Wildcats to the FCS playoffs in each of the last 14 seasons, the longest such streak in the country.

Among the several position groups and challenges that McDonnell and his staff will be focused on between Tuesday morning and the annual Blue-White Spring Game that brings the spring session to a close at noon on May 5, is revamping the offensive line.

The graduation of Jake Kennedy and Will McInerny leaves a couple of starting jobs available on the line.

Senior Dayne Herron and sophomores Jack Carroll and Matt Mascia each started at least 11 games and juniors Nick Velte and Noah Robison each started a couple of games last season. Juniors Matt Matulis and Jeff Carter have been backups.

“I think the first place that we’ve got to show improvement is in the offensive line,” McDonnell said. “Some of the young kids are going to get their opportunities. You look at it. Patrick Flynn. Cam Rush. Riley Burns. Curtis Linton, Jr. These four guys are now going to get a chance to compete against the other guys that are there. I think it’s a huge spring for Noah Robison to see if he can continue to develop after starting the last two games last year.”

The Wildcats need someone to take over at center for Kennedy.

“We’ve got a couple of kids in the program, Mascia and Velte, that have played the position,” McDonnell said. “Unfortunately, Velte won’t go this spring because of knee surgery. You look at it. Hopefully Matt Matulis gets a green light to get back. He’s been a little nicked up. You just get all these guys an opportunity to improve on what they’re doing and see where they’re going. It will be huge.”

Trevor Knight is back for his senior season at quarterback, coming off one of the best seasons in school history.

He completed 291 of his 471 passes last season (61.8 percent) for 3,433 yards and 26 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. The yardage total was the second-best in program history.

Knight will be working under a new coordinator and new quarterbacks coach.

Michael Ferzoco, who coaches wide receivers, has moved up to also become pass game coordinator and is working alongside Alex Miller, the run game coordinator and offensive line coach. Former Wildcat wide receiver Keith LeVan has returned to the program as quarterbacks coach.

“I think Trevor has got to grow on what he’s done,” McDonnell said. “I think it’s good we have change. That will keep his antennas up. He’s a really good football player who’s got some things he can improve upon.”

Knight leads a group that includes sophomore Christian Lupoli, who came on for an injured Knight and led UNH to a win at Central Arkansas in the second round of the playoffs last December, redshirt freshmen Stephen Hedberg and Tommy Herion.

“I think Trevor’s got to really help bring along Tommy Herion and Hedberg and Lupoli in all those things we’re doing,” McDonnell said.

The Wildcats recruited Herion, who’s from Chicago, out of high school and he went to the University of Iowa as a preferred walk-on recruit before transferring to Durham.

Junior Ivan Niyomugabo, who has been playing quarterback, will get a look at wide receiver.

“We’re going to give Ivan a shot at wide receiver,” McDonnell said. “Give him an opportunity to get out there and get some playing time. I want to see how that develops. If it goes the way I think it will go, I think it will add depth to that position and give us some help in some things. At the same time, I’m not so sure that he couldn’t end up back at quarterback at some point.”

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