Competition begins to see who will quarterback UNH
DURHAM - They grabbed the brand-spanking new footballs and lined up in Lundholm Gymnasium late on Monday afternoon and started throwing them around to check out a couple of different models.
This morning, the three guys who hope to be quarterback of the University of New Hampshire football team when the 2012 season begins in late August line up and continue their competition for the starting job.
'I'm excited and yeah, probably a little anxious,' said Andy Vailas of Bedford, who will be a sophomore in the fall. 'This could determine what happens my next three years.'
Vailas, senior James Brady and redshirt freshman Sean Goldrich all want to be the guy to succeed Kevin Decker, UNH's quarterback last fall and the Offensive Player of the Year in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Spring football begins today at UNH, leading up to the Blue-White game on May 5.
'We emphasize competition in everything we do,' Brady said. 'Me and Andy and Sean have been competing the said whole time we've been here. Last year, we were behind Decker and learning from him and competing for his backup spot. We embrace it. We love every second of it. We push each other and make each other better in everything we do, so it's a lot of fun.'
This is new ground for the UNH football program. For the past decade, from Mike Granieri to Ricky Santos to R.J. Toman to Decker, there has been a clear line of succession and at least one quarterback-in-waiting each season.
Now, the starting QB job is wide-open on a team that returns a bunch of weapons and has been to the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision tournament eight straight years and has every intention of running that streak to nine.
They'll need to do it with a quarterback untested at the start of the season.
Brady and Vailas backed up Decker last season and saw limited playing time. Brady got into three games and completed one of the two passes he attempted. Vailas played in two and completed three of his four.
Goldrich was a true freshman last fall and redshirted and did not play in a game.
'For the first time in nine, 10 years, we're going out without having a good feel for who can play and who can't,' said coach Sean McDonnell. 'These guys haven't been in the hot water. We don't know how they'll be. We'll find out the best we can this spring.'
Adding to the intrigue is that the Wildcats are working with a new offensive coordinator in Ryan Carty, who replaces Tim Cramsey. Carty was with the wide receivers last year and can't wait to see what his quarterback candidates can do.
'I think it's going to be quite a battle,' Carty said. 'It's exciting. It's going to be fun.'
Brady, who started games at Georgetown before transferring to UNH, has the most experience of the group. At six-foot, he gives up a couple of inches to Vailas and Goldrich.
McDonnell and Carty both rave about the athleticism of Vailas and Goldrich in particular.
Brady and Vailas have a step up, having been in the program for a couple of years.
'They'll get the opportunity to run with the 'ones' earlier,' McDonnell said. 'They know the system. But all three guys have got a shot. The experience of Brady and Vailas probably gives them an advantage, but now what are they going to do with it? We've got 15 practices. It'll be very interesting.'
Vailas played running back and wide receiver as well as on defense at Bishop Guertin before stepping in to run the show when the Cardinals needed a quarterback his senior year.
He led them to a Division II state championship before moving on to play another year at QB at Phillips Andover. His brother, James, will be a junior and is a UNH defensive lineman.
Goldrich passed for 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for eight scores as a senior at Notre Dame High School in West Haven, Conn.
Whether one of the three quarterbacks takes charge of the team or the competition runs into fall camp and right up to the Aug. 30 opener at Holy Cross, remains to be seen.
'You can't tell,' McDonnell said. 'If one of them took off and ran with it, that would be one thing. I don't know. But I do know competition is good.'
His quarterbacks know, too.
'No one wants to take a backseat,' Goldrich said. 'But we all want what's best for the team.'
Brady concurs: 'Whoever the best man is, he deserves to be out there. We want to win football games, first and foremost.'