New Hampshire Football Report

UNH defense has big-play guys

NOTE: This is one in a series of stories on position groups within the UNH football team as spring football heads towards the annual Blue-White game in Wildcat Stadium on May 4 (noon).

DURHAM – They are among the big-play guys on the University of New Hampshire football team.

In the good times, they break up passes and, better yet, pick them off and maybe even take them to the house for a touchdown. In tougher times, coverage breaks down and they get beat.

Senior Isiah Perkins and his fellow cornerbacks relish the challenge.

“I just like the isolation part,” Perkins said. “Knowing that you’re going to have to make a big play. It’s either going one way or the other. Nine times out of 10, the ball’s most likely coming to you if you’re one on one. That’s the adrenaline rush of it. Just knowing you can make a big play for the team. That’s pretty good.”

Perkins joins fellow senior Prince Smith, Jr. and junior Alonzo Addae as the Wildcat veterans who cover the two cornerback spots on defense, making the position one of the strong points on the defense and team overall.

The Wildcats passed the midway point of their spring practice sessions on Thursday morning. They have completed eight of the 15 practices allowed by the NCAA and are closing in on the Blue-White game that wraps up spring football on May 4 in Wildcat Stadium at noon.

“The good thing is we have three guys who have played an awful lot,” said defensive coordinator John Lyons, who coaches the cornerbacks. “Perk and Prince and Alonzo have all started for the last couple of years. We feel really good about those three with their experience, understanding the defense and the techniques. I think all three of them have really improved this spring. We’re just emphasizing being more consistent with what we’re doing with our techniques.”

Redshirt freshman Derek Thompson is pressing for playing time at cornerback. Perkins has started each of UNH’s 25 games the last two years.

“Perk has pretty much been our field corner for the last two and a half three years,” Lyons said. “He has a lot of experience. He has a really good understanding of the whole picture in terms of understanding what the offense is doing, how they’re trying to attack different coverages. He really studies that stuff. He has a good understanding of our schemes. He’s worked really hard and become more consistent with everything. He’s probably the most consistent overall with everything, with his coverage and his tackling and stuff like that.”

Two seasons ago, Perkins led the team with five interceptions and was named a Hero Sports sophomore All American.

Smith earned his first start three games into his true freshman season and started 10 games that year.

“Prince is probably our most physical guy back there,” Lyons said. “He’s a strong kid. He’s a good tackler. With Prince it’s just consistency. He came in and played very, very well his first year. He’s been a little inconsistent the last couple of years and that’s something we’ve talked about. He has all the tools. He just has to put it together and really focus and dial in with every snap and be consistent with what he’s doing.”

Smith was the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Rookie of the Year as a true freshman and returned two of his five interceptions that year for touchdowns. He took one of his two picks last season 22 yards for a TD against Stony Brook and has eight career interceptions.

Addae started the last three games of his redshirt freshman season and forced fumbles in playoff wins over Central Connecticut and Central Arkansas.

“Alonzo has very good feet and very good coverage skills,” Lyons said. “He didn’t play quite as much last year as Prince and Perk because of injuries. We’re working really hard with him to understand everything. He’s a guy that could play some nickel. He moves around. He has to be able to handle that part of it as well as playing corner. The thing we’ve done this year is play left and right with them. Both guys are playing into the boundary and into the field. I think that helps them in terms of being a little more versatile and having a better understanding of the whole coverage.”

Thompson is battling for time.

“Derek worked really hard in the offseason,” Lyons said.  “He’s a strong kid. He’s got good explosiveness, speed.”

The competition among the group at cornerback is helping everyone, Perkins said.

“It’s exciting knowing we’re halfway through the spring,” Perkins said. “It went by pretty quick. But we look good. We’re fast. We’re athletic. There’s a lot of competition out there, a lot of competition. That’s definitely helped us through the spring.”

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