Sports

Spring football

Friday, April 19, 2013

By JOE MARCHILENA

Staff Writer

If there’s a favorite to win the starting quarterback job for the University of New Hampshire football team, Andy Vailas doesn’t know who it is.

As far as he’s concerned, that’s the way it should be.

“We’re still competing, and I think that’s the best for both of us,” Vailas, who’s from Bedford and graduated from Bishop Guertin High School in 2009, said after practice Thursday.

“Even if they have an idea of who is starting, I think it’s better for us to not know and just keep fighting each and every day.”

Although it felt like football weather, the Wildcats still have a little less than five months until their season opener Sept. 7 at Central Michigan. While the players might have thoughts about what UNH is capable of this fall, they’re a long way away from being there.

That includes as the quarterback position, where Vailas, who will be a redshirt junior in the fall, split time last season with Sean Goldrich. The two are spending UNH’s spring practices showing the coaching staff who should be tops on the depth chart for the 2013 season.

“We come out and compete every day and give it our best shot,” Vailas said. “It’s what the coaches want. They want to see us compete.”

Now that he has been in the system a few years, Vailas feels like the offense is second nature.

“The playbook is all in my head and I don’t have to think too much,” he said. “I’m able to just go out there and play. Same thing with ‘Goldie.’ He feels the same way.”

It’s the same feeling Mike Kelly, a 2011 Bishop Guertin grad from Merrimack, has felt as he tries to fight his way onto the field. After splitting time as a running back and receiver last season, when he was a redshirt freshman, Kelly is taking more reps at receiver this spring – but that doesn’t mean he’ll stay there.

“It’s always up in the air,” Kelly said. “For the most part, I’m a receiver, but I still know running backs and go over some of those plays. I like wideout, but wherever they need me, I’m willing to play.”

With two seasons of learning the offense under his belt, Kelly feels he has a better understanding of what the Wildcats are trying to run, and he hopes that leads to greater trust from the coaching staff.

“It’s a complicated offense,” he said. “Coaches want to have trust in the people they put on the field, so learning the offense and going out there and making plays, just getting involved wherever I can.”

Both players agree the team’s short-term goal in the spring is to put the foundation in place for another playoff run – the Wildcats have made the FCS postseason for nine consecutive years – but Vailas can see what might be shaping up for the long term.

“For right now, we’re trying to focus on getting to our max potential,” he said. “Come the start of the season, obviously the main goal is to win a national championship. I think we have a team that can do that.

“We have a bunch of kids coming back. We’re losing some good playmakers on defense, but I think kids always step up. The coaches recruited these kids for a reason. We’re going to be that much better next year.”

The Wildcats continue spring practice throughout April before the annual Blue-White Scrimmage on May 4.

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