#4 New Hampshire 2018 FCS Football Preview

New Hampshire Wildcats
Overall Rank: #4
#2 CAA
 New Hampshire Logo
New Hampshire made their 14th straight playoff appearance in 2017, but it was not easy. The Wildcats were sitting at 5-3 at one point and needed to win two of their last three games. They did it though and then made some noise in the playoffs as well, beating Central Connecticut State and Central Arkansas before falling to South Dakota State. With 18 starters back, reaching the playoffs for the 15th straight time will not be the question. The question will be if this team can win it all.
2017 Record: 9-5, 5-3
2017 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Sean McDonnell (150-88 at New Hampshire, 150-88 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Michael Ferzoco, Alex Miller
Defensive Coordinator: John Lyons
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Evan Gray, RB, 650 yards
Passing: Trevor Knight, QB, 3,433 yards
Receiving: Neil O’Connor, WR, 1,396 yards
Tackles: Quinlen Dean, LB, 124
Sacks: Jae’Wuan Horton, DE, 8.5
Interceptions: Isiah Perkins, CB, 5
Other Key Returnees: WR Malik Love, WR Kieran Presley, S Rick Ellison, LB Jared Kuehl, CB Prince Smith Jr, S Evan Horn
Key Losses: RB DeUnte Chatman, OL Jake Kennedy, DT Rick Holt, S D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie
The offense will be prolific in the passing game again, but it is on the ground where the Wildcats need to improve. Evan Gray is back after rushing for 650 yards and eight touchdowns, but the team ranked 10th in the CAA in rushing offense and Gray needs some help from an inconsistent offensive line. Quarterback Trevor Knight would benefit from an improved offensive line as well after being sacked nearly four times per game. Despite dealing with that pressure, Knight threw for 3,433 yards and 26 touchdowns, while completing 61.8 percent of his passes. Expect similar numbers this year with Neil O’Connor and Malik Love back. O’Connor caught 97 passes for 1,396 yards and ten touchdowns, while Love added 70 receptions for 733 yards and three scores.
For the most part New Hampshire had a very productive defense in 2017. There were some rough outings that resulted in blowout losses to teams like Holy Cross and South Dakota State, but with more experience this group should be more consistent. Defensive end Jae’Wuan Horton is a good pass rusher, but the front line will miss tackle Rick Holt, who record 74 tackles and 9.0 sacks. He was a big reason why UNH was solid against the run last year. Quinlen Dean will keep this team pretty good against the run. The linebacker recorded 124 tackles and will be joined by Jared Kuehl to form the heart of the linebacker corps. The secondary could be the best unit of them all. Rick Ellison and Evan Horn are great playmakers at safety and Isiah Perkins and Prince Smith proved to be capable cornerbacks as sophomores in 2017.
The Bottom Line:
Once again UNH will be tested in non-conference play with Colgate, Colorado and Holy Cross on the schedule. The conference slate is not easy either. A stretch of games that includes Elon, Stony Brook, Delaware, Villanova and James Madison will be the turning point of the season. If New Hampshire is going to be a team that competes for a CAA title and a national championship, they will need to perform well during that difficult group of games and prove that they can compete with anybody.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 101.5 (102nd in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 259.4 (21, 2)
Total Offense: 360.9 (64, 5)
Scoring Offense: 22.1 (69, 5)
Rushing Defense: 128.1 (33, 7)
Pass Defense: 231.9 (84, 11)
Total Defense: 360.0 (57, 9)
Scoring Defense: 21.5 (30, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.50 (29, 4)
Sacks: 2.50 (32, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 3.71 (116, 12)
HERO Sports 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#235 Chris Donnelly