Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: A big 1-2 punch is coming Wildcats' way
One evening on Manchester West Memorial Field early last June perhaps offered a glimpse of what's to come down the road at Cowell Stadium in Durham.
The coaches in the University of New Hampshire football program long have hit the road for a week or so in early June to offer clinics at various sites around the state for young football players.
From time to time, players who will become future Wildcats take part in the clinics.
At least a couple of those showed up at West in June.
Will McInerney of Bedford High School and Jake Kennedy of Souhegan High School in Amherst both are headed to UNH next summer.
Both have verbally agreed to accept scholarship offers to play at UNH and plan to sign national letters of intent to make their decisions official when the signing period starts in early February.
Here's the fun part: Both are big, big guys, they've played basketball together and against each other and both are projected as offensive linemen and it's possible that in a couple of years they could be playing side by side for the Wildcats.
"I do see the potential of Will and Jake being one side of the line," said Mike Beliveau, who coached Kennedy at Souhegan. "UNH is getting a couple of high-quality kids."
Kennedy, 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, has received attention from recruiters the last several years and had seven scholarship offers to choose from, including from Massachusetts, Maine and Holy Cross.
McInerney, 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds and more of a basketball guy when he started high school, has been under the radar a bit. Plus, he sat out his senior football season to have surgery on each of his knees.
He had his first surgery on his right knee on Aug. 31 and has the second scheduled for Thursday on his left.
Rehabilitation on his right knee has gone well and hopes to be back to full speed in about three months. The knees, he and Bedford coach Kurt Hines said, should not slow him down at UNH.
"He should be better than ever," Hines said.
And that's pretty good.
"There's really no fat on him," Hines said. "He's an immense young man and he's a tremendous athlete. He's a real good athlete with great speed for someone his size. And one of the things we saw toward the end of his junior season was that he was starting to develop a chip on his shoulder, in a good way. He was starting to understand you can be a gentle giant at times and have a chip on your shoulder at the right time. It's exciting to see."
Fordham and Colgate had offered him scholarships, but pulled back when they found out he needed surgeries, McInerney said.
UNH stuck with him.
"I think it was at the clinic at West when they took me seriously," McInerney said.
He may be right.
"I watched them put the guys through a series of drills and their eyes were popping out of their heads when they watched Will," said Beliveau, who has resigned from the Souhegan coaching job. "Here's a guy who's 270 and he looks 230. He carried 270 pounds very easily and I think they're looking and thinking his frame can take another 30 pounds."
The night at Manchester West was important for Kennedy, too, Beliveau said.
"I think a couple of things happened that day," he said. "Will really caught their eye and got on their radar even more. And Jake had gone up to about 295 pounds and realized his best playing weight was 275. He immediately went into a real intense training program and went back to 275."
The UNH coaches, Beliveau said, were impressed with the way Kennedy looked and moved during the season.
Now it's on to Durham for the two big linemen.
"I think they could form a really good duo," Beliveau said. "That would be pretty cool."
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THE HOLIDAY BREAK continues for the No. 2-ranked UNH hockey team. The Wildcats put their 11-2-2 record up against No. 10 Dartmouth and its 7-2-2 mark in the first round of the Ledyard National Bank Classic on Dec. 30 at 7.
Bemidji State, 5-8-3, and Massachusetts, 5-9-2, meet in the first game of the tournament at 4 the same day.
UNH plays either Bemidji State or Massachusetts on New Year's Eve at 4 and Dartmouth plays at 7.
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THE MEN'S basketball team, 4-6 after a 61-59 overtime loss at Boston College on Sunday, plays at Penn State on Sunday at 11 a.m.
Penn State is 6-4 and 5-1 at home. The loss at home was to BC, 73-61, on Nov. 28.
The Nittany Lions have won their last two games, 80-76 over Delaware State in overtime and 78-70 over Army.
Patrick Chambers is in his second year as coach at Penn State. He spent the two years before that at Boston University.
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THE UNH WOMEN'S basketball team, which evened its record at 5-5 with a 77-54 win over Wagner at home on Monday night, plays at Cleveland State, 6-4, on Saturday at 1 in its first of three straight road games.
The Vikings have won five straight games and are coming off a 67-55 win over Mississippi.
UNH plays at Colgate on Dec. 29 and then opens the America East portion of its schedule at Vermont on Jan. 2.
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Allen Lessels covers college sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.