#15 New Hampshire FCS Football 2017 Preview


New Hampshire Wildcats


Overall Rank: #15

#4 CAA

Coach Sean McDonnell enters his 19th season as the head coach of New Hampshire. The Wildcats have been amazingly consistent under Coach McDonnell and 2016 was no different. The team went 6-2 in CAA play last year and crushed Lehigh in the playoffs before falling to conference foe James Madison for the second time in the campaign. UNH should make their 14th straight playoff appearance in 2017 and this group has the potential to make a nice run once they get there.
2016 Record: 8-5, 6-2
2016 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Sean McDonnell (141-83 at New Hampshire, 141-83 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ryan Carty
Defensive Coordinator: John Lyons
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Trevon Bryant, RB, 496 yards
Passing: Trevor Knight, QB, 1,714 yards
Receiving: Neil O’Connor, WR, 834 yards
Tackles: Pop Lacey, S, 82
Sacks: Kyle Reisert, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: Prince Smith Jr, CB, 5
Other Key Returnees: WR Malik Love, WR Rory Donovan, LB Jared Kuehl, DE Jae’Wuan Horton, LB Quinlen Dean, CB Isiah Perkins
Key Losses: RB Dalton Crossan, QB Adam Riese, OL Tad McNeely, OL Andrew Lauderdale, DL Cam Shorey, CB Casey DeAndrade, LB DeVaughn Chollette
Five starters return to an offense that was not particularly efficient in 2016. Quarterback Trevor Knight threw for 1,714 yards and 14 touchdowns, but was intercepted ten times. Knight should be more efficient after a year of starting experience. The return of receivers Neil O’Connor, Malik Love and Rory Donovan will certainly help improve the passing game. And the passing game will need to improve if New Hampshire struggles to replace running back Dalton Crossan. He tallied 1,281 yards and ten scores on the ground last season and UNH will put a lot of pressure on sophomore Evan Gray to help pick up the slack.
The defense has some work to do as well after ranking ninth in the CAA in total defense. The good news is that seven starters are back and that experience should be very beneficial. The front four is the most experienced unit. Tackles Rick Holt and Ryan Sosnak are experienced tackles and Kyle Reisert and Jae’Wuan Horton have proven that they can get to the quarterback. At linebacker Jared Kuehl and Quinlen Dean are emerging talents who are capable of turning into major playmakers. The secondary may start five sophomores. While the group may not be the most experienced around, they have a ton of talent. Pop Lacey was the most productive of the group last year, leading the squad with 82 tackles. Prince Smith will be the new top cornerback. He certainly benefited being opposite of Casey DeAndrade, but Smith intercepted five passes last season and is capable of being the next All-American caliber cornerback at New Hampshire.
The Bottom Line:
Without Villanova and Richmond on the schedule, New Hampshire should compete for a conference title. Their toughest CAA game will come on October 28th with a trip to James Madison. Road trips to Albany, Stony Brook and William & Mary will not be easy, but UNH should stay in the CAA race until the very end. If the offense can remain balanced and the defense improves against the pass, New Hampshire should be a dangerous team come playoff time.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 181.2 (34th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 197.9 (77, 5)
Total Offense: 379.2 (65, 3)
Scoring Offense: 28.5 (46, 3)
Rushing Defense: 137.7 (38, 4)
Pass Defense: 239.8 (87, 12)
Total Defense: 377.5 (51, 9)
Scoring Defense: 24.3 (37, 7)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (42, 6)
Sacks: 1.85 (65, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.62 (87, 11)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#157 Riley Burns