DURHAM --- There are currently two New Hampshire residents penciled in as starters on the University of New Hampshire’s offensive line. That number could grow to three at some point, perhaps even before UNH’s opens its season Aug. 31 against Maine.
Bedford’s Will McInerny is a projected starter at one of the tackle spots, Amherst’s Jake Kennedy is at the top of the depth chart at center and Derry resident Noah Robison is among those competing to earn a starting job as well.
Robison, who played at Pinkerton Academy, had to sit out last season per NCAA rules after he transferred to UNH from Coastal Carolina. Although he’s a junior academically, Robison has three years of athletic eligibility remaining.
“Right now he’s battling for a starting position on the offensive line,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “Here’s a kid who came back to the state of New Hampshire and weighed 250 pounds soaking wet. He came into this camp around 280 pounds. His strength total has gone up. He’s athletic. He had to sit out a year after transferring from Coastal and now he’s got a chance to play two or three years here.”
Robison, who is 6 feet 6 inches tall, said one semester at Coastal Carolina was all he needed to know it wasn’t the place for him.
“When I got down there I never felt like I really fit in,” Robison said. “The team ideals and stuff … I just wasn’t buying in. I just didn’t think I was with the right crowd. Here it’s totally different.
“I had a few people questioning if I had made the right decision when I was talking about transferring, but I definitely think it was the right decision. I clicked with the team very quick. I think if anything it helped me with the transition because I got that extra year to learn the offense, get comfortable with my teammates, get comfortable with the coaches and really buy into the program. It is something that wasn’t great in my career, but I think it helped me in the long run in terms of getting adjusted to everything.”
McDonnell said the offensive line was the team’s No. 1 issue entering preseason camp. McInerny and tackle Dayne Herron are the returning starters on that unit. Kennedy, a senior, is the team’s only other offensive lineman with significant playing experience.
“We’re young, and we’re young in some positions where we have to grow up in a hurry — and it starts with the offensive line” McDonnell said. “(Jack) Carroll, (Matt) Mascia, (Matt) Matulis, Robison ... those are guys who have to grow up and we’ll find out how ready they are on that Thursday night game against Maine.
“I like that they had a great summer in the weight room. The numbers have shown that they’ve improved strength-wise. Now what do they do taking it to the field?”
Robison had shoulder surgery that prevented him from playing in his sophomore season at Pinkerton, but he was a starter in his junior and senior seasons. The Astros won the Division I championship in his senior year.
Although his 6-foot-6-inch frame suggests he might be best suited to play tackle, he could also move inside.
“Right now I’m at right tackle, but I’ve moved around a lot since I’ve been here,” Robison explained. “Worst-case scenario I could step in and play some guard. I’m with the twos right now, but you never know what could happen. I’m out here trying to prove every day that I can play in that starting spot.”