New Hampshire Football Report

UNH defense has talent on the edge

DURHAM – Be disruptive. Aggravate offenses — particularly quarterbacks, with an eye on creating turnovers.

Those are among the goals for the University of New Hampshire football defense as it steams toward the 2018 season.

Chris Ellis, in his second year as a Wildcat assistant coach and working again with the defensive ends, figures he has just the deep group – led by seniors Jae’Wuan Horton and Kyle Reisert – to help the defense turn up the heat on opposing offenses.

“The way the game is today, you’re not really holding teams to zero points any more, just due to the rules,” Ellis said. “But aggravating an offense, getting quarterbacks off their spot, making them kind of a one-trick pony. If you win on first and second down, now you’ve dictated that they’re going to throw the ball on third down. With us having dynamic pass rushers and experience up front and different abilities from burst to strength to a lot of reps, you’re going to see us elevate, I believe, as a defense.”

The Wildcats finish spring practice with the annual Blue-White game May 5 at 11 a.m. The 2018 season begins with a game at Maine on Aug. 30.

Horton, 6-foot-2 and 244 pounds, led the team in sacks last year with nine, in quarterback hurries with four and forced a couple of fumbles to tie for the lead in that category. Reisert, 6-foot-2 and 247 pounds, led the team with 4.5 sacks in 2016, but dealt with injuries last season and was limited to six games.

Junior Josh Kania started the first two games last season, but missed the rest of the season with an injury. Sophomore-to-be Brian Carter stepped up and started six games last year.

Horton’s been a go-to defensive end throughout his career and has started UNH’s last 37 games, dating back to the third game of his redshirt freshman season.

“Jae’Wuan’s been durable,” Ellis said. “He played a lot of snaps last year and I think that benefited him and his development. This is a guy who’s truly determined to make all conference this year and kind of show what he really can do.”

Horton’s nine sacks last year was tied for the top total in the Colonial Athletic Association.

“He can play the run as well,” Ellis said. “But he really showed up as a pass rusher last year, getting us out of some big games. Central Arkansas he had a turnover at the end of the game to seal the win for us. He’s a bigger guy with a lot of experience. He can help us down inside as well and that leaves us real multiple when we want to get after the pass rush and get off the field on third down.”

Reisert was named the CAA Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2017.

“You think of a guy like that, it seems like he gets an award every week due to academics,” Ellis said. “That also helps him in his leadership role with these guys. Kind of shows them the blueprint of what it is to be a student athlete. . . . His strengths cover every category. He can play the run. . . . In the pass rush he can get after it. He’s kind of a jack of all trades.”

Creating turnovers is always a goal. UNH was fourth in the CAA with a plus-seven turnover margin last season.

“We get into these tough games against the JMUs of the world, we can see ourselves making an impact on defense,” Ellis said. “We already feel like we’re efficient on defense, but how can we get better? How can we be more efficient? How can we cause turnovers and really be disruptive? That starts up front with those guys having so many reps they now are starting to understand and sort of see it from a coach’s perspective vs. as an individual player, which is really nice because it’s kind of like having coaches on the field.”

Carter, 6-foot-2 and 236 pounds, and Kania, 6-foot-3 and 246, are expected to play major roles as well.

“Brian Carter was raw as a pass rusher, but now it’s starting to click,” Ellis said. “He had to get thrown into the fire there and get a lot of reps. He still needs to develop and get a little heavier, but strength-wise he’s there. That will help him in the run game to be an every down player, but pass rush-wise he has some abilities, some length that you really don’t see around the conference. . . . . He really started to shine towards the end of the year.”

Kania had 2.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

“Tough guy,” Ellis said. “He likes to do it all. He’s going to help us inside as well. We kind of envision when we’re on third down getting most of our ends on the field. When you get three or four ends on the field for pass rush, that creates a dynamic and we’re able to do some different things up front.”

Among the players adding depth at defensive end are junior Robbie Schumacher, 6-foot and 252 pounds, sophomores Riley Ammerman, 6-foot-3 and 232, and Carson Leary, 6-foot-2 and 233 pounds, and redshirt freshman Gunner Gibson, 6-foot-3 and 239.


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

This is one in a series of stories New Hampshire Football Report will be posting this spring about position groups on the UNH football team.

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