New Hampshire Football Report

Horton primed for big season

DURHAM– One of the primary goals of the University of New Hampshire football defense in 2018 is to be more consistent.

“There were times last year when we did a real good job stopping the run and as a result we won those games” said defensive coordinator John Lyons. “We’ve got to be more consistent. I would say just be more consistent across the board. There were a lot of times we did a lot of good things, but then we broke down in certain areas and it really hurt us.”

Senior defensive end Jae’Wuan Horton – one of three Wildcat captains along with senior linebacker Jared Kuehl and senior running back Trevon Bryant – will be one of the central figures in bringing more consistency to the defense.

Horton has been one of the most durable and reliable Wildcats throughout his collegiate career. He has started 37 straight games headed into the 2018 season, dating back to the third game of his redshirt freshman season.

UNH opens the season at Maine on Aug. 30 (7 p.m.).

Horton had a career-best 55 tackles last season and his 8.5 sacks ranked just behind the nine of the league leaders in the category, including his teammate, Ricky Holt. UNH coach Sean McDonnell and defensive ends coach Chris Ellis both cited the job Horton has done in camp thus far.

“He’s been doing great,” Ellis said. “He finished the season last year and was taking a lot of reps due to injuries up front, which only helped his progression and showed his durability. He’s a smart kid, too, so his football IQ is way up. Not only is he bringing the younger kids along but he’s taking another step with his expertise with how many reps he’s gotten over the years with UNH.”

Ellis and Horton are looking for a big senior year.

“He had goals coming into this year,” Ellis said. “He wasn’t shy about his goals. He wants to be an all-conference player and he’s done everything he needs to do to be one. He was up here during the summer preparing to be an all-conference player. So now it’s getting him to see the bigger picture and take that next step, which he’s doing.”

Horton, 6-foot-2 and 244 pounds from Stafford, Va., said he’s excited about how preseason camp has gone and about the season to come.

“Defense and offense are bringing a lot of juice,” Horton said. “I think the chemistry of the team is really good. We’re getting after it.  … We’ve played longer together. We’ve been through ups and downs and some of that stuff has brought us closer. I think that’s helping the team jell better together.”

The defense helped the Wildcats to a 9-5 record and 14th straight appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament last year, the longest such streak in the country.

UNH gave up 21.5 points a game last year, which was sixth-best in the Colonial Athletic Association. Nearly half the 301 points the defense gave up last year came in three games: The Wildcats allowed 145 in losses at Holy Cross (51-26), Stony Brook (38-24) and South Dakota State (56-14). They allowed 156 combined in their other 11 games for an average of 14.2.

“For us, it’s just competing against ourselves and making ourselves better than we were last year,” Horton said. “We were a pretty good defense last year but we could be better.”

Having sophomore Brian Carter, junior Josh Kania and senior Kyle Reisert join him in a rotation will only help the team and Horton, Ellis said.

Kania and Reisert, who is still recuperating and may miss the start of the season, both started when they played but missed much of last season due to injuries.

“Those four have the ability to not only be starters but to be playmakers throughout the conference,” Ellis said. “The beautiful part about that is they’re each other’s own push and competition. I describe it as I have four starters in the room.”

Horton leads the way.

“He’s a smart player,” Ellis said. “There’s not a lot of wasted footwork and he’s always in the right place at the right time. He does a great job of watching film as well. It’s the true mark of a veteran, a guy who’s taken a lot of snaps.”

And of a guy who is slated to take a lot more to cap his senior season.

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