DURHAM — When the University of New Hampshire football team opens the 2019 season Sept. 7 at Holy Cross, it will do so with inexperience at the quarterback and the wide receiver positions.
Those are the areas with the most uncertainty on the UNH offense, which is why UNH head coach Sean McDonnell had to like what he saw from Brian Espanet and Bret Edwards during Sunday morning’s Blue-White scrimmage at Wildcat Stadium.
Espanet, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore receiver from Hopedale, Mass., caught 11 passes for 169 yards and three touchdowns in the scrimmage, which was the team’s final workout before it turns its attention to Holy Cross. He caught two of those TD passes from Edwards, a redshirt freshman QB who completed 18 of 19 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
“This is a big year for me where I really have to step up and hold my own,” Espanet said. “If I can (provide) some production and other guys can do that as well, we should be on the right track.”
UNH graduated receivers Neil O’Connor and Kieran Presley, who accounted for 104 of the team’s 183 receptions last year. Espanet finished the 2018 season with three catches for 19 yards.
“(Espanet is) a talented kid, and now we have to make sure that he continues to practice like he (played) here,” McDonnell said. “Can’t happen once. It has to happen every day, in my mind. Things we saw on high school tape showed up here today. Those things usually don’t lie, but he’s gotta get better. Gotta keep getting better.”
Edwards, who played high school football at Central Catholic in Lawrence, Mass., missed much of spring practice with bicep tendinitis.
“Last year was a learning year for me so I was out there timid, not knowing where to put the ball sometimes, but this year I’ve put in a lot of work,” Edwards said. “Santos (quarterback coach Ricky Santos) has helped us out a lot with reads and coverages and just making us feel comfortable back there.
“(Espanet) is very reliable,” Edwards continued. “He’s a big target so there’s a lot of wingspan to throw to and he can catch it and make a play.”
Edwards and QB Max Brosmer, a true freshman, were both in red shirts (no contact) during the scrimmage. McDonnell also said he liked what he saw from Brosmer, who completed 6 of 8 passes for 99 yards. He tossed a touchdown pass and was intercepted once.
“Still a competition though,” McDonnell said. “Walking away from here we’re about 15, 16 practices in. Next week, real important, we’ll figure out where we’re going with that (QB) position.”
The TD passes Edwards threw to Espanet covered 26 and 4 yards. Espanet’s other TD reception came on a 13-yard pass from Brosmer
“Thought I had some good weave in my routes to be able to get separation,” Espanet said. “Offensive line did a great job giving Bret and Max time to get the ball out. … I think I did my job well getting open and securing the ball. We’re on to the Purple. On to Holy Cross.”
Freshman linebacker Ryan Toscano, New Hampshire’s Gatorade Player of the Year during his senior year at Bedford High School, made a game-high eight tackles (six solo). …
Sunday’s other touchdowns came on a 1-yard run by former Timberlane of Plaistow running back Jacob Post, a 40-yard interception return by cornerback Isiah Perkins, and a 12-yard run by quarterback Stephen Hedberg, who played at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover. … UNH missed both of its field goal attempts. Timberlane grad Jason Hughes missed a 47-yard kick, and Jordann Conn missed from 41 yards. … UNH’s 2019 captains are Perkins, safety Pop Lacey, linebacker Michael Balsamo and running back Evan Gray.