SO YOU’RE a University of New Hampshire football fan who plans to attend Saturday’s spring game. What do you want to see?
Some good stuff from the offense, that’s what.
The Wildcats finished last season ranked 11th out of 12 Colonial Athletic Association teams in scoring offense (17.8 points per game), 11th in total offense — 10th in rushing offense (108.3) and 10th in pass offense (174.8) — 11th in sacks allowed (37) and 11th in red zone offense (63 percent).
As you can see, it was not what you would call a typical UNH season on that side of the ball.
The defense was more than respectable. UNH was second in total defense (310.0) and fourth in scoring defense (22.8) — but that wasn’t enough to rescue an offense that was without starting quarterback Trevor Knight for much of the season due to injury. Injuries also took a toll on the offensive line, which rarely started the same five players in consecutive games. The good news up front is this: Seven of the nine offensive linemen who started at some point last season are back.
That kind of experience doesn’t exist at quarterback or at wide receiver, where the Wildcats must replace the production of graduated seniors Neil O’Connor and Keiran Presley. Between them, O’Connor and Pressley caught 104 passes for 1,251 yards last season. Sophomores Brian Espanet and Sean Coyne, and junior Nick Lorden are among those who seem capable of having a breakout year at the receiver position, although both Espanet and Lorden have been limited by injury this spring.
The players vying to be the starting QB are guys we know little about. Not only did Knight graduate, Christian Lupoli, the No. 2 QB on the depth chart last season, transferred. Among those fighting for the job, only Tommy Herion, a former walk-on at Iowa, has thrown a pass in a collegiate game.
“The quarterback position is going to take a while to figure out,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “The progress a young QB can make in the offseason — it’s significant. The last practices of spring, through the summer and then in fall camp is when you see people take off and get the most out of what they’re doing.”
While many will focus on the skill positions during Saturday’s scrimmage, their offense is unlikely to make any strides without improved play — and improved health — from the offensive line. The Wildcats lost Dane Herron for the season after Week 2 last fall, and the injuries continued to pile up after that.
“It’s one thing to miss a guy here or there, but to have three or four throughout the year it can set you back a little bit,” UNH offensive line coach Alex Miller said. “If we can take the experience from last year and build on it, that’s a good thing in the long run. That’s how I’m looking at it.”
You can look for yourself Saturday at noon.
ICYMI: Nashua’s Josh Goulet set the Plymouth State record for home runs in a season when he hit home run No. 10 during Wednesday’s 9-4 loss to Middlebury.
Goulet, a senior outfielder who played high school baseball at Nashua South, added to his home run total on Thursday, when he hit a solo home run in an 8-4 triumph against New England College. After Sunday’s doubleheader against Western Connecticut, Goulet is hitting .413 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs in 32 games this season. He has reached base in all 32 games.
It’s hard to identify the team to beat in NHIAA Division I softball. Salem (3-0) is the only unbeaten team in the division, but has played far fewer games than any other team near the top of the standings. Things became even more muddled last week when Dover (7-1) knocked off previously unbeaten Winnacunnet (6-1), and Windham (7-2) beat previously unbeaten Spaulding (5-1). Exeter (5-1) and Concord (5-2) are also off to strong starts.
We should learn a lot in the next seven days, beginning with Monday’s contest between Winnacunnet and Spaulding in Rochester.
Here are some of the other big games that will be played in the next week:
Tuesday: Spaulding at Salem, 4 p.m.
Wednesday: Dover at Exeter, 4 p.m.
Friday: Dover at Spaulding, 6:30 p.m.
Monday, May 6: Spaulding at Exeter, 4 p.m,
One man’s opinion on the top 10 NHIAA baseball teams in the state:
1. Londonderry (6-0)
2. Bishop Guertin (7-0)
3. Concord (7-0)
4. Exeter (6-1)
5. Pinkerton (3-2)
6. Portsmouth (5-1)
7. Bow (4-0)
8. Hollis/Brookline (4-0)
9. Keene (6-2)
10. John Stark (4-0)
The first New Hampshire high school baseball/softball column of the season, with statewide rankings, will start this week. It will run Fridays and continue through the rest of the season.
The FCBL’s Nashua Silver Knights will have plenty of local products on the mound this summer. Seven of the 19 pitchers on the team’s roster are New Hampshire residents: Spencer Bergeron (UMass/Nashua), Griffin Gilbert (Fairleigh Dickinson/Concord), Joe Grassett (Hartford/Amherst), Patrick Harrington (Assumption/Bedford), Manny Ray (Tufts/Bedford), George Welch (St. Joseph’s/Derry) and Griffin Young (Wheaton/Dover). Catcher Jack Arend, who lives in Newfields and plays at Bates, is the other New Hampshire resident on the roster.
A reminder that the George “Butch” Joseph One Pitch Softball Tournament will be held May 11 at Gill Stadium and Wolfe Park in Manchester. The championship game will be played at Gill Stadium. The George “Butch” Joseph One Pitch Softball Tournament successfully raised over $8,000 and will award the first two scholarships this spring.
Contact your guidance department for information about applying for this year’s scholarship. If you would like the opportunity to be a tournament sponsor, volunteer or donor, contact Vinny Langella at 540-5029 or visit the George Butch Joseph Foundation on Facebook.