DURHAM — With Friday’s practice in the books, training camp is officially underway at the University of New Hampshire, and with it comes the opportunity for the Wildcats to start the 2019 football season off on the right foot.
Gone is the memory of last year’s disappointing 4-7 finish, which caused UNH to miss the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. It’s time to start over.
Despite the positive vibes, there are pressing questions surrounding this football team and none stands out more than the quarterback position. The Wildcats don’t seem to have an obvious heir apparent to Trevor Knight, who they lost to graduation. Instead, coach McDonnell will have a grab bag of options he’ll need to sort out.
“Max Brosmer, Bret Edwards and Tommy Herion had an edge coming out of spring ball,” he said. “All three of those guys worked extremely hard during the summer. I also thought Stephen Hedberg and Ivan Niyomugabo got better over the summer. So, what it does is tighten the reins a little bit. We just have to hope they carry over what they did in spring practice and summer to fall camp. Today was a big day. We’ll have to watch the tape and see how they all did.”
Brosmer, a true freshman, impressed in the spring game, completing 12 of 19 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns, including a 48-yard score. Edwards, a redshirt freshman, and Hedberg, a sophomore out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover, haven’t seen game action, and Niyomugabo, a senior from Merrimack Valley High of Penacook, hasn’t thrown a pass as a quarterback in three years.
Of the group, sophomore Tommy Herion is the most experienced. He appeared in 10 of 11 games last year and made his first career start in the Wildcats’ season finale against the University of Rhode Island, completing 14 of 29 passes.
“I’m just working hard and really listening to coach (Ricky) Santos,” Herion said. “He’s been great since coming in here and taking over the QBs. And then just all the quarterbacks really pushing each other and being really competitive and everyone learning from one another. I’m just trying to lead the way for the team.”
Whoever wins the job will be protected by an offensive line that senior Pop Lacey says is “probably the best group I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
McDonnell stressed how important that was given the youth of his quarterbacks. They’ll need as much time as they can get to make the proper reads and, in turn, will unlock the running game.
Defensively, McDonnell will look to Lacey and Evan Horn to lead a group that finished second in the conference in total defense.
“We need to bring the energy and bring the juice and focus on the little things,” Lacey said. “Turnovers, doing your own job on defense and making sure we’re hitting the gaps and are on the same page. If we’re all on the same page doing one thing and flowing as one team and one defensive unit, we’re going to be just as good as we were last year if not better.”
There are four weeks remaining before UNH starts its regular season at Holy Cross on Sept. 7, but the Wildcats are excited.
“We started a little bit late because we didn’t take a 12-game (schedule), which is good for us,” Lacey said. “We’re just anxious to get back out here. If you were watching practice you saw a lot of energy and a lot of juice so we’re happy and excited. It’s my senior season so you got to go out with a bang, right?”