Picking a QB on the agenda as football practice begins
THE ice machines are full and stand ready to make much more. Tape in all types and sizes — white tape in one-inch and two-inch widths, stretch tape and the rest — is in the house and good to go on ankles and knees and thumbs.
The folks in the equipment room across the hall from the new digs that house the athletic training staff are gearing up for a harried Saturday morning of sizing newcomers for shoes, pants, jerseys, shoulder pads, helmets and assorted other football-wear.
All is in place for the first University of New Hampshire football practice of Sean McDonnell’s 15th season as head coach, which will commence at 2:30 on Saturday afternoon.
The goals for the season, once again, are lofty.
The Wildcats have been to the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision tournament each of the last nine years and intend to make it 10 straight come late November. They desire to do some damage in the playoffs after that.
“Nine years in a row is a big accomplishment for the program and we’d obviously love to continue that tradition this year,” said Seamus O’Neill, a senior tackle and co-captain out of Manchester Central High School.
UNH finished last season with an 8-4 record and shared the Colonial Athletic Association regular season championship with Villanova, Richmond and Towson. All were 6-2 in the league.
The Wildcats lost at Wofford, 23-7, in the second round of the playoffs.
They have yet to make it past the quarterfinals during thir nine-year run.
UNH was picked to finished third in the CAA preseason poll of coaches and media personnel, behind Villanova and Towson.
The preseason FCS Coaches Poll released earlier this week had UNH as its top CAA team at No. 8 in the country. Villanova was at No. 9, Towson was No. 12, Stony Brook No. 13, Richmond No. 14 and James Madison No. 15.
“This is a good, good football league right now,” McDonnell said.
“A lot of teams have high expectations,” said senior safety and captain Manny Asam. “We have to match those and build ours even higher. Defensively, we set high expectations. It’s what we’ve been talking about the entire summer.”
About 50 of the Wildcats stayed around town for much of the summer and lifted weights and worked out as a team to prepare for the season. They had last week off and report back, along with incoming freshmen, today.
The road to the tournament, which expands from 20 to 24 teams this year, begins with a game at Central Michigan, on Sept. 7. The Chippewas play a level up from UNH in the Football Bowl Subdivision and are in the Mid-American Conference.
Central Michigan won its last four games a year ago, including a 24-21 triumph over Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit, and finished 7-6.
One of the first assignments facing McDonnell and offensive coordinator Ryan Carty in preseason camp is to choose a quarterback between junior Andy Vailas out of Bedford and Bishop Guertin of Nashua, and sophomore Sean Goldrich.
Both played last year — sometimes in the same game and even the same series — and both proved capable of winning.
McDonnell wants to settle on one as his starter.
Both were untested last season, but Goldrich won the job out of fall camp and led the team to a season-opening win over Holy Cross. But he was hurt early in the next game against Minnesota and Vailas took over.
Vailas had the better statistics during the season. He completed 58.1 percent of his passes, while Goldrich was at 59.4. Vailas threw for 18 touchdowns and had three interceptions, while Goldrich was at eight and five.
Vailas also ran for six touchdowns. Goldrich rushed for a couple.
The Wildcats play at home only once before Oct. 12. After the opener at Central Michigan, they are home against Colgate on Sept. 14, are off on Sept. 21 and then play at Lehigh on Sept. 28 and at Towson on Oct. 5. Their only consecutive home games for the season are against Rhode Island on Oct. 12 and Villanova on Oct. 19. . . . Junior wide receiver R.J Harris needs 140 yards to break into UNH’s career Top 10 in receiving yards. Calvin Jones, who is 10th on the list, had 1,913 yards from 1993-96. Harris had 1,059 receiving yards last year and 714 as a redshirt freshman for a total of 1,773. Harris had 84 catches last year and 50 the year before for a total of 134. Chris Braune is No. 10 on that list with 155 from 1986-89.
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