May 2, 2013

Spring Football Game (Saturday, May 4, 12:30 p.m.) Preview

Manny Asam
Seamus O'Neill
Chris Setian

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DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire football program will hold a food drive to benefit Saint Thomas More Parish food pantry at the Blue-White Game that closes out spring football camp Saturday, May 4. Fans are encouraged to donate a canned food item at Cowell Stadium prior to the 12:30 p.m. scrimmage. Admission to the game is free.

Saturday's festivities include the presentation of the Todd Walker Teammate Award at the Walk of Memory in front of the UNH Field House at 10:30 a.m., presented to the player who demonstrates his selflessness and dedication as the ideal teammate.

The scrimmage will feature the offense (white) against the defense (blue) in a Team Wild versus Team Cats format. A complete position-by-position preview is listed below.

UNH head football coach Sean McDonnell announced Thursday that seniors Seamus O'Neill (Manchester, N.H.), Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass.) and Manny Asam (Bloomfield, N.J.) were elected captains for the 2013 season in a team vote. 

Wildcat football season tickets are on sale now at www.unhwildcats.com or by calling (603) 862-4000, extension 5.

The St. Thomas More Parish has been serving the spiritual needs of Catholic families and students in the Durham, Lee and Madbury areas since 1947. The parish serves the poor via an active community food pantry. For more information, visit www.stmdurham.org or call (603) 868-2666.

QUARTERBACKS

A year ago, the UNH quarterback position was up for grabs as the team sought to replace 2011 CAA Offensive Player of the Year Kevin Decker with unproven signal callers Sean Goldrich (West Haven, Conn.) and Andy Vailas (Bedford, N.H.) among those who competed right through fall camp. In spring 2013 the QB battle is once again wide open between Goldrich and Vailas, only this time the competition is between two proven men under center.

Goldrich won the neck-and-neck battle for the starting post in 2012 and promptly won the CAA Rookie of the Week award in week one after completing 21 of 31 passes for 193 yards and two TDs while rushing for 71 yards in the Wildcats' 38-17 win at Holy Cross.

Goldrich, though, was knocked out of commission a week later at Minnesota, which allowed Vailas to step in and take command. After guiding the 'Cats to a convincing 43-10 triumph versus Central Connecticut State in the home opener, the Phillips Academy product passed for 336 yards and five touchdowns to go along with a 67-yard rushing score in a wild 64-61 loss at No. 5 Old Dominion. Vailas won the CAA Offensive Player of the Week award the very next week when he went 23 of 36 for 315 yards and two TDs in a 34-14 defeat of No. 8 Delaware at Cowell Stadium.

Six weeks after suffering his shoulder injury at Minnesota, Goldrich reclaimed the starting role and led UNH to a come-from-behind 28-21 victory at Maine with four touchdown tosses to win his second CAA Rookie of the Week award.

Vailas finished the season ranked third in the CAA in passing efficiency (143.0), second in points responsible for/game (14.2), seventh in total offense/game (182.5) and ninth in passing average/game (141.6); Goldrich was ninth in the league in total offense/game (152.9) and 10th in both passing average/game (133.6) and pass efficiency (124.6).

Joining the veteran duo are understudies Adam Riese (Hamilton, N.J.), Hayden Jardine (Tokyo, Japan) and Chris McCormick (Winooski, Vt.), each of whom will take all-important snaps during the spring game.

RUNNING BACKS

During 2012 spring camp, senior Dontra Peters was coming off his second straight year as the Wildcats' leading ball-carrier and appeared headed to a third straight year as the incumbent at RB.  What a difference a year makes. Peters is off to an NFL tryout in Philadelphia after a successful conversion to cornerback during his senior campaign, a transition made possible by the rapid development of Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J.) and Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass.).

Steriti, a rising junior, rushed for 921 yards and ranked sixth in the CAA in rushing yards/game (76.8) while tallying a team-leading nine rushing touchdowns last season.

Setian battered his way to 490 rushing yards and five touchdowns to go along with 22 receptions for 185 yards and four TDS –all top receiving numbers among UNH running backs. 

The third member of the SOS Express is Jimmy Owens (West Deptford, N.J.), who averaged a backfield-leading 6.8 yards/carry en route to 411 yards on 60 rushes. The dependable running back stable helped the Wildcats rank third in the CAA and 15th nationally in rushing offense (220.8 yards/game).

Other RBs to watch in the spring game are redshirt freshman Dalton Crossan (Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.) and sophomore Jim Earley (Hopkinton, N.H.).

WIDE RECEIVERS

The preseason depth chart finds R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md.) and Jimmy Giansante (Jefferson Hills, Pa.) as starting wide receivers for new WR coach Ricky Santos, but both returning starters will be out of action during the spring game as they recover from scheduled offseason surgeries. That opens the door for a number of receivers to see meaningful reps Saturday, led by senior Justin Mello (Dartmouth, Mass.), who snared 21 receptions for 215 yards and a pair of TDs last season, and 2012 Todd Walker Teammate Award winner Tim Farina (Campton, N.H.), who seemed prime for a breakout season before a summer camp injury cost him virtually his entire junior year.

Jared Allison (Cliffwood, N.J.), who notched a 67-yard TD reception in last year's spring game, figures to play a larger role as a slot receiver in his sophomore season after collecting three receptions for 50 yards in the '12 campaign, but he will be out of action this weekend. Mike Kelly (Merrimack, N.H.), who flashed his big-play ability with five catches for 103 yards and two TDs in the fall Blue-White Game, will join a young corps of talented receivers that includes Kyon Taylor (Springfield, Va.), Mike DeTroia (Barnegat, N.J.), Cam Seymour (Hyannis, Mass.), Anthony Pante (Manalapan, N.J.) and Mark Accino (Hyde Park, Mass.).

TIGHT ENDS

Harold Spears (Perkasie, Pa.) made the most of his first year as starting tight end by earning a berth on the All-CAA Third Team. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound junior will be seeking to build on a season in which he registered 20 catches (four TDs) for 305 yards. Brian Ciccone (Manchester, Mass.) is in line to serve as backup tight end once again in '13, and up-and-comers Ekene Nwokoye (Hanover, N.H.) and Jordan Powell (Forked River, N.J.) will be seeking a chance to climb the depth chart as well.

OFFENSIVE LINE

New Hampshire's front line brings back three starters: All-CAA and All-New England left tackle Seamus O'Neill (Manchester, N.H.); third-year starting center and All-CAA Third Team member Mike Coccia (Bethlehem, Pa.) and right tackle Rob Bowman (Cheshire, Conn.). However, injuries are precluding those three from participating in the spring game. Austin Heter (McKees Rocks, Pa.) and George Kallas (Beverly, Mass.) are also sidelined Saturday, leaving the offensive line thin for the Blue-White Game. A host of candidates are in line to replace graduating guards Chris Zarkoskie and Mickey DiLima, starting with senior Sean Ryan (Londonderry, N.H.), who is slotted as the first-string left guard. Converted defensive tackle Tim Johnson (Oakdale, Pa.) is making a strong case for the right guard position.

Alex Blane (North Andover, Mass.), Zach Hundertmark (West Windsor, N.J.) and Tad McNeely (Whitehall, Pa.) are candidates looking to gain a foothold in the battle for playing time in the trenches. Other offensive linemen to look for in the spring game include Curtis Nealer (Pitman, N.J.), Jesse Trottier (Derry, N.H.), Alexander Morrill (Lebanon, N.H.), recently converted tight end Andrew Lauderdale (Concord, N.H.) and former defensive tackle Ryan Welch (Dunstable, Mass.).

DEFENSIVE LINE

Though the Wildcats need to offset the departure of Seattle Seahawks' draft pick Jared Smith, there is still much depth and experience in the front four. Sean McCann (Avon Lake, Ohio) and Matt Kaplan (Franklin, N.H.) bring five combined years of experience to the tackle position. Kaplan led all UNH linemen with 47 tackles while starting all 12 games a season ago, and McCann chalked up 33 stops. Jullian Turner (East Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Rashid Armand (Brooklyn, N.Y.) acquired valuable experience last season, and each will be leaned upon heavily in '13. Jimmy Vailas (Bedford, N.H.) and Danny Riley (Danielsville, Pa.) will also see action at tackle this season, though they are questionable for Saturday's scrimmage.

The 'Cats have the fortune of returning both starting defensive ends in Jay Colbert (Langhorne, Pa.) and Cody Muller (Telford, Pa.). The Keystone State bookends teamed up for 62 tackles and five sacks and proved their durability by playing in all 12 games a year after missing the entire 2011 season. Robbie Zauck (Ocean City, N.J.) is back after amassing 16 tackles, including two sacks, and Dab Ukwuani (Gaithersburg, Md.) is primed for an increased role after playing in three games last season. Cam Shorey (Calais, Maine), who was a tight end during his true freshman season, has transitioned to DE.

LINEBACKERS

The biggest shakeup comes at linebacker, where the 'Cats are forced to replace a pair of three-year starters, one of whom just happened to be the school's all-time tackle leader, Matt Evans. Evans and Alan Buzbee graduate after combining for 195 tackles for the CAA co-champions. Shane McNeely (Whitehall, Pa.) will be expected to step up at one starting MLB position after notching 33 tackles during his sophomore season. Akil Anderson (Morristown, N.J.) is penciled in at the other middle linebacker slot this spring, but competition will be fierce among DeVaughn Chollette (Scranton, Pa.), Ryan Farrell (Westwood, Mass.), Steve Collister (Rochester, N.Y.) and Kevin McNally (Cornwall, N.Y.). Each will get an opportunity to state his case at the Blue-White Game.

CORNERBACKS

Chris Houston (Harrisburg, Pa.) is poised for his third straight season as a starting cornerback after notching 59 tackles, two interceptions and three pass breakups in '12. Steven Thames (Fort Washington, Md.), who started four games last season and saw significant action in all 12 games, is in line to take over the starting corner position formerly occupied by graduating Dontra Peters on a full-time basis.

However, Thames will miss the spring game, which frees up playing time for Lamar Edmonds (Worcester, Mass.), Casey DeAndrade (East Bridgewater, Mass.) and Kalil Bailey (Lancaster, Pa.).

SAFETIES

With Chris Beranger (Winthrop, Mass.) and Manny Asam (Bloomfield, N.J.) out of action, the Wildcat secondary will be without its two active career leaders in tackles for the spring game. Nick Cefalo (Basking Ridge, N.J.) posted 44 tackles after replacing the injured Beranger as the starting free safety in week 5. Hayden Knudson (Alexandria, Va.) and Tre Williams (Syracuse, N.Y.) will vie for playing time at 'whip' safety, with Keith Parkinson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Tim Pike (Bedford, Mass.) representing experienced reinforcements.

Ryan Lynch (Atkinson, N.H.), Dougie Moss (Huntsville, Ala.) and Khyheem Finley (Staten Island, N.Y.) all saw playing time last year, while Daniel Rowe (Orange, N.J.) will miss the scrimmage with an injury.

SPECIAL TEAMS

All-CAA Third Team kicker Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) enters his senior year as the starter for the fourth consecutive year and starting punter for the third year in a row. Brad Prasky (Groton, Mass.), Anthony Guidice (Nashua, N.H.), Christian Breda (Needham, Mass.) and Joe Ghiloni (Warwick, N.Y.) all will see action in the Blue-White Game.

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