New Hampshire Football Report

UNH has no safety concerns

DURHAM – John Bowes, the new guy coaching on the defensive side of the ball with the University of New Hampshire football team, is working with a trio of safeties who are experienced but also have at least a couple of seasons ahead of them.

Rick Ellison and Pop Lacey, who will be juniors in the fall, each have been regular starters in their first two seasons. Sophomore Evan Horn started the second half of last season.

“They play really hard and it’s easy to coach those guys,” Bowes said. “And they’re hungry. They want to learn. Whether it’s new techniques or just how to get better from day to day or drill to drill. … That’s the fun part about it. They want to be good. They want to be one of the best secondaries, not only in the CAA, which is a very difficult league, but in the whole country. I think we have a chance to do that as long as we play up to our expectations and we play up to our standards.”

The Wildcats hit the halfway mark of spring practice this week. They wrap up the spring with the annual Blue-White game May 5 at 11 a.m.

UNH opens the 2018 season with a game at Maine on Thursday, Aug. 30.

Ellison, 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds, was third on the team in tackles last season with 43 unassisted and 26 assisted for a total of 69. He returned one of his two interceptions 50 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring in a win over Bryant.

“Ricky Ellison had a great season last year,” said Bowes, a veteran coach who was the defensive coordinator at Fordham last season. “He really came on and was very aggressive in the run. He had some great coverages in the playoff games and really stepped up when we needed him to step up. He’s taken that next step this spring. I think he’s the leader of the group. It helps that he’s probably the oldest guy in the group as well, taking that leadership role and really making it his and helping out the younger guys. He’s learning two spots so he can be very versatile for us in our defense.”

Ellison started all 13 games he played in last season, following up on his redshirt season when he started five games.

Lacey, 6-foot and 206 pounds, is also a junior. He had an outstanding season as a true freshman and started 11 of the team’s 13 games. Last season, injuries limited him to nine games with seven starts.

“He came out this winter and had great winter conditioning,” Bowes said. “He really stepped up what he had to do to get in better shape and get stronger, bigger and faster and he’s done all that and now that’s transitioned to the field. No one’s working harder than him, watching extra film, getting extra footwork in. He’s really taking to coaching very, very well. He’s really taken a great step to get back to the level he was freshman year.”

Lacey led the Wildcats in tackles as a freshman (63 unassisted, 19 unassisted for 82) and had a couple of interceptions and a fumble recovery. Last season he had 42 tackles (29 and 13).

Horn, 6-foot and 201 pounds, was second on the team in interceptions with three last fall and had 43 tackles (23-20-43).

“Evan played a lot in a lot of different positions last year,” Bowes said. “He’s definitely one of our smarter safeties, knows all three positions and can play all three positions. You can throw him in there and he’ll just figure it out. … He definitely will take that next step. He’s always in great athletic position. Very, very smart. He’s always in the right spot, everywhere he goes.”

Horn switched to basketball after the football season ended and played in 14 games with two starts for the Wildcats.

Juniors Matt Sherlock and Dean Adams, both listed at 5-11 and 197 pounds, are coming on strong this spring and will likely contribute as backups and on special teams.

Redshirt freshmen Pop Bush, 6-foot and 190 pounds, and Sheir-Ron Whittaker, 6-foot-1 and 170, sophomore Nelson Thomas, 5-foot-10 and 207, are also in the mix for playing time.

Allen Lessels is the UNH Insider. Follow him on Twitter: @unhinsider.


This is one in a series of stories that will be posted this spring about position groups on the UNH football team.

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