New Hampshire Football Report

UNH offense playing catch-up

DURHAM – Make that five spring sessions down, 10 to go for the University of New Hampshire football program.

The NCAA allows football programs 15 practices during the spring and the Wildcats conducted session No. 5 at a chilly and sunny Bremner Field on Thursday morning.

“It’s definitely going by quickly,” said safety Pop Lacey, who will be a senior in the fall. “We’re already in the second week, about to have our second scrimmage on Saturday. I think we’re flying around, having some good juice, having some good energy out there.”

The Wildcats have nine more practices on tap leading into the Blue-White spring game that wraps things up May 4 at noon in Wildcat Stadium.

Lacey has been among the leaders on defense in the early-going this spring.

“There have been some good signs on both sides of the ball,” McDonnell said. “The defense is ahead of the offense right now. The experience they have at the second level is really helping this team. I think it’s going to be a strength of the defense, between the safeties and the corners and the two inside linebackers. I think we’re going to be OK at those positions as long as we stay healthy.”

The coach cited the play of senior linebacker Quinlen Dean and Lacey in particular. Both have twice been named to CAA all-conference teams and have been starters the last two seasons. They shared the team lead in tackles last season with 79 each.

“I’m pleased with the way Quinlen Dean’s playing,” McDonnell said. “I’m pleased with the way that Pop Lacey is playing. You watch those two guys as the two interior guys of our defense. They’re both all-conference players. They’re practicing and doing some very, very good things. Those are the guys I think right now are leading from the front.”

Offensively, McDonnell has liked the looks of the offensive line – especially redshirt freshman Riley Burns, who started the third game of the season against Colorado but was hurt during it – and the running game.

“I think Riley Burns has played extremely well in the first four or five practices,” McDonnell said. “That’s good to see after he got injured last year and missed most of the season.”

The running back position could also be a strength.

“Carlos Washington, Jr. and Dylan Laube have been pretty impressive as running backs,” McDonnell said. “They’ve been doing some good things with the ball in their hands and doing some things that show us we have some guys. Evan Gray is still Evan Gray, which is good, so I think we have three good running backs.”

Laube sat out last year as a true freshman.

“Dylan’s a good athlete,” McDonnell said. “He can run. He can catch. He’s had some pretty good runs. He’s had some explosive plays already. He’s a guy who has opened some eyes – on the kids and the coaches – in the first five practices.”

The battle for the starting job at quarterback continues with a field of five in the running.

“It’s still wide open,” McDonnell said. “Tommy Herion is doing a nice job with that. We’ve got a lot of work to do with it. The kids are working their tails off doing a really good job. We’ve got to keep progressing.”

Herion, a sophomore, saw limited action last season and is the only player in the group who has taken a snap at quarterback in college.

The other QB candidates are redshirt freshman Bret Edwards; freshman Max Brosmer, who enrolled at UNH in January; Ivan Niyomugabo, a senior out of Merrimack Valley High School in Penacook, who spent time last season at wide receiver and was moved back to quarterback because of injuries; and Stephen Hedberg, who played at Phillips Andover after starring at St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover.

Lacey said the Wildcats are eager to bounce back from an uncharacteristic season in 2018.

They had a 4-7 record, snapping a string of 14 straight winning seasons that led to a nation’s-best string of 14 straight appearances in the FCS tournament.

“Honestly, I feel like last year was a wakeup call for us,” Lacey said. “We know that we can’t just walk into the playoffs. We’re going to have to show up day in and day out and we’re going to have to bring a lot of effort and energy. I felt like sometimes the effort wasn’t there from both sides of the ball last year and I felt sometimes we gave up on ourselves.”

He appreciates the attitude of the team.

“This year, we know we can be a great team,” Lacey said. “We just know that was a bump in the road and we’ve got to get over it. We’ve got to make sure that every day we’re working hard to get better than the last day. There is some bitterness. We missed out on the playoffs and that’s the first time that’s happened in this program in a long time.  … We’ve got to fill the gaps that we’ve lost and we have to move forward and can’t look back at last year. We’ve got to learn from it, correct the mistakes that we made last year and we’ve got to continue to move forward.”


  • McDonnell begins his 21st season as head coach with a game at Holy Cross on Sept. 7.
  • The Wildcats play at Florida International in Miami on Sept. 14.
  • They play three straight home games starting with Rhode Island on Sept. 21.
  • UNH plays its Family Weekend game against Duquesne on Sept. 28.
  • The Wildcats face Elon for Homecoming on Oct. 5.
  • The other home games are against Villanova on Nov. 2 and against Maine on Nov. 23.

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