College Football: Wildcats' O-line will be tested against MaineBy ALLEN LESSELS
Special to the Union Leader
August 29. 2017 11:23PM
DURHAM — University of New Hampshire football coach Sean McDonnell is excited about the ways by which his team can attack opponents with its offense.
The key to the offense’s ability to gain yards and put up points is, as usual, how the Wildcats stack up in the front line.
“I feel good about the way this team runs to the football on defense,” McDonnell said during his weekly media session. “I feel good about how hard this team plays. I think if we can just jell in the offensive line, we’ll be OK.”
The revamped UNH line will need to come together quickly.
The Wildcats have a major test straight out of the box when they play arch-rival Maine Thursday at 7 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium.
Senior Will McInerny at right tackle and junior Dayne Herron at left tackle are the returning starters on the offensive line. Senior captain Jake Kennedy (Souhegan) at center and sophomore Nick Velte at right guard have started games as well. Redshirt freshman Jack Carroll is slated to start at left guard.
“They’re starting to get better,” McDonnell said. “I’ve seen some growth in the last week and a half or so. I saw some growth in the scrimmage. I saw some growth in practice. We’ve just got to keep chopping away at it and hope they get ready to go.”
Senior captain Donald Goodrich is one of the players who will be running behind the blocks of the guys up front.
“The offensive line has done a great job stepping up and the senior leadership has been unbelievable from them through Jake Kennedy and Will McInerny,” Goodrich said. “And Dayne Herron has done a great job. I’m excited for our offensive line this year. Overall, their blitz pickup and recognizing situations and their overall intensity as a unit has gone up.”
The Wildcats rushed for 181 yards a game last season, which was the fourth-best total in the Colonial Athletic Association, and scored 23 rushing touchdowns. They passed for 198 yards a game and threw 16 touchdown passes.
“The huge thing is, what can we do?” McDonnell said. “How can we control the interior part of the offensive line? The run game on either side of the ball is going to be a huge part of it. Can we stop the run and more importantly can we establish a running game? I know we have kids who can run the football and have the ability to see, make cuts and run through tackles and some of them have the speed to break away. The biggest thing is how we control the front.”
The Wildcats lost standout running back Dalton Crossan to graduation after last season and then Trevon Bryant went down with a knee injury during spring practice that will keep him out for the season.
“I remember sitting in this office and going ‘What are we going to do?’” McDonnell said. “Trevon was a productive kid for us. Every time he touched the football good things happened. We had to find somebody who could do that and we found three or four guys I think can do it.”
Goodrich, sophomore Evan Gray, redshirt freshman DeUnte Chatman and senior Jerickson Fedrick (Salem) are lined up their shots at running back.
The offensive line will also be tasked with buying time for quarterback Trevor Knight (Nashua South), who can also run effectively, to find a talented group of receivers.
“It’s multiple parts,” McDonnell said. “I think Neil O’Connor’s a really good receiver. I think Malik Love’s a really good receiver. I think Rory Donovan brings something to the table there. But none of that can happen unless the five guys up front and Trevor do their job.”
Knight is back for his second season as the starter.
“Trevor has played very well in camp,” McDonnell said. “He’s probably in the best physical shape of his life and he’s done a really good job of getting himself from last January to this Aug. 31st date. He has gone out and done all the little things, taking care of his body, getting stronger, has done a great job with diet and everything we’ve asked the kid. He’s playing better. The thing he’s got to still continue to do is learn to distribute the ball to the guys in the right places in the right spots and then use his legs to the best of his ability.”
Redshirt freshman Christian Lupoli, of East Haven, Conn., earned the backup job at quarterback over sophomore Ivan Niyomugabo (Merrimack Valley) and redshirt freshman Will Pollard (Kennett).
“Looks like Chris Lupoli will back Trevor up,” McDonnell “We won’t be afraid to play Ivan or Will Pollard if the call is needed on those two guys.”