New Hampshire Football Report

Wildcats are back at it

DURHAM – The early rounds of off-season training and conditioning are in the books. On-field work is up next.

The University of New Hampshire football team, one of the top bounce-back stories in the country last season, opened spring practice early Monday morning on Bremner Field. The Wildcats will get their NCAA-sanctioned 15 spring sessions in between now and their Blue-White game on Friday night, April 14.

Here are half a dozen football thoughts to ponder as second-year head coach Rick Santos and his team step up preparations for their season opening game at Stonehill College just under six months from today on Sept. 2.

There will be no sneaking up on anyone 

Santos early on delivered the message to his team that this season will be different than last, when UNH rebounded from an extremely uncharacteristic 3-8 mark in 2023 to a 9-4 overall record, share of the Colonial Athletic Association championship at 7-1 and a return to the FCS playoffs, one of the best turnarounds in the country.

“I talked to them about how it’s one thing to be picked ninth of 14 teams (in the league) and it’s easy to have a chip on your shoulder to prove people wrong,” Santos said. “We did that and handled that. It’s a completely different animal now. We’ll probably be picked in the top two or three and probably ranked in the Top 10 in the country and everyone is going to have UNH circled on their schedule again. We’re going to get everyone’s best shot. We’re not sneaking up on anyone. If we want to get back to where we want to be next year, we’ve got work to do, so much more work to do.”

That said, Santos liked the way the players have responded to various individual challenges to get stronger, faster, quicker and such so far in the offseason.

To the coach’s point on expectations: Craig Haley, a longtime FCS writer and champion of the division, listed UNH at No. 8 in a recent early Top 10 story he posted, citing especially the return of senior running back/all-purpose threat Dylan Laube, junior quarterback Max Brosmer and the disruptive dynamic duo of junior defensive ends, Josiah Silver and Dylan Ruiz.

Returning some major offensive punch 

Laube and Brosmer, of course, were two of the prime reasons the Wildcats, under offensive coordinator Brian Scott, were able to boost their scoring last season to 29.7 points a game, the team’s best total since putting up 36 a game in 2014.

Laube led the nation in all-purpose yards at 194.3 yards a game, averaged 100.7 yards rushing per contest, led the league with 15 rushing touchdowns, added a couple of receiving scores and had a 92-yard punt return.

The plan, Santos said, is to again put the explosive Laube in position to lead the country in all-purpose yards.

Brosmer, who had played one game since 2019 after missing the 2021 season while recovering from a knee injury, completed 62.6 of his passes for 3,154 yards – the fifth highest total in school history – and 27 touchdowns.

Last Month, Brosmer was named the a co-winner of the CAA’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.

“That epitomizes who Max is,” Santos said. “He’s as mature a young man as I’ve ever coached. He always does the right thing and he cares equally about his academics as what he does on the football field. He works extremely hard and is very well rounded. I can’t think of anyone more deserving. What I also love is he says his goal for next year is to get Player of the Year. He wants the football part to be recognized.”

A couple of new names to keep in mind 

Santos is happy with the recruiting class his staff compiled.

“I think we did a really good job bringing in some talent,” he said. “We have some linemen we like on both sides of the ball and brought in some good skill players as well.”

Here are two new names to watch for on offense: Logan Tomlinson and Mason Pline. Santos is excited about both.

Tomlinson transferred and enrolled at UNH this winter after a couple of very productive years as a wide receiver at Division III Wesleyan and will add to what is already a deep and talented position for the Wildcats. He had 59 catches for 847 yards and five touchdowns his first year at Wesleyan and 72 catches for 979 yards and 10 TDs last fall, helping the Cardinals to 6-3 records each year.

Coming out of Manchester (Conn.) High School, Tomlinson was a quarterback and highly recruited by Ivy League schools, but interest fell off after he had an ACL injury, Santos said. He is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds and switched to receiver at Wesleyan.

“He has elite body control and good leaping ability,” Santos said.

Pline is 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds and started his collegiate career as a basketball player at Division III Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. before switching over to football and helping the Bulldogs to the last two Division II national championships. He’s been used primarily as a blocking tight end and the Wildcats have plans for him in the passing game as well.

“They run the ball a lot and he’s a true in-line blocker and very physical,” Santos said.

Ferris State averaged 427 yards of offense (217 rushing and 210 passing) and 35.8 points a game while running up a 14-1 record last fall.

Tight end should be another strong spot. Senior Kyle Lepkowski returns, but he is coming off surgery and Santos and his staff were looking for another veteran to join redshirt freshman Colby Ramshaw and others at the position.

Newcomers on the sidelines, too 

Randall Jette and Luke Carrezola have joined the staff as assistant coaches, both on the defensive side of the ball.

Both most recently worked at their alma maters. Jette played defensive back at the University of Massachusetts from 2011-15 and Carrezola played defensive end at Connecticut from 2014-17.

Jette will work with UNH’s cornerbacks with Casey DeAndrade switching from cornerbacks to safeties. Carrezola will be with the defensive line.   

Auditions on the offensive line 

While there is always competition for playing time and starting spots, the offensive line – a place of nice stability and progress last season – does return four of five starters. Left tackle Patrick Flynn is gone. Center Osho Omoyeni, left guard David Perry Jr. and right guard Matt O’Neill are all back and will be seniors. Right tackle Dylan Poirier, a junior, and returns as well.

Among the many vying during spring camp for a job and time on the line are sophomore Mason Davis, redshirt freshman Beau Riley and Jason Trotta, a freshman who enrolled in January.

Schedule matters 

The 2023 Wildcats will need to get comfortable being on the road early: Their first two and three of their first four games are away from Wildcat Stadium.

After opening the season at Stonehill, which finished with a 4-5 record last season in its first year of Division I play, the Wildcats play their FBS game at Central Michigan on Sept. 9.

The home opener is against Dartmouth on Sept. 16.

It’s all Colonial Athletic Association games from there, starting at Delaware on Sept. 23.

UNH plays Towson at home on Sept. 30 for Family Weekend, has the Saturday off, and plays UAlbany for Homecoming on Oct. 14.  The Wildcats are back on the road for games at Stony Brook on Oct. 21 and Rhode Island on Oct. 28.

Two of the final regular season games are at home with Villanova on Nov. 4, followed by a game at Monmouth on Nov. 11 and then closing with a home game against Maine on Nov. 18.


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