McInerny anchors UNH O-line
DURHAM – They took a hit or three on the offensive line, but a Bedford native is back to be a familiar anchor.
Gone are Andrew Lauderdale, Tad McNeely, Curtis Nealer and Alexander Morrill.
All started for multiple years on the offensive line for the University of New Hampshire football team. Lauderdale, McNeely and Nealer helped the Wildcats to yet another FCS tournament berth and an 8-5 record last season, while an injury sidelined Morrill for the year.
Offensive line coach Alex Miller and the Wildcats have spent the offseason and spring rebuilding the unit, a process that will continue through the summer and into preseason camp come August.
They’ve got a couple of big returning starters – senior and Bedford native Will McInerny and junior Dayne Herron – to help the process along.
Herron has moved from right tackle to left tackle and McInerny is at right tackle on the depth chart for Saturday’s Blue-White Spring Game in Wildcat Stadium.
Saturday’s game at noon closes out spring football for another year. It will also feature a Service Credit Union Victory Club Open House, including tours of the Stadium that opened last September. Tours will run every half hour from Gate A, starting at 11:30 a.m.
Concessions will be open during the game. UNH students who present their student identification will receive a free hot dog.
The season opens with a “Thursday Night Throwdown” game against Colonial Athletic Association and border rival Maine on Aug. 31, in Wildcat Stadium at 7 p.m.
Season tickets for the 2017 campaign are on sale and may be purchased at www.unhwildcats.com. They may also be purchased at the Blue-White game on Saturday, and a sampling of available seats in various sections will be marked, so fans can choose their location on site.
In between Herron and McInerny on the depth chart, senior Jake Kennedy is penciled in at center, sophomore Nick Velte is at one guard spot and redshirt freshman Jack Carroll at the other.
“We’ve got a little bit of experience, but we don’t have that three-year starter or anything like that coming back,” Miller said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s one of those things with the offensive line: If you’re willing to put the work in it will come out the other side. But these guys have a lot of work to do ahead of them.”
Herron, McInerny and Kennedy bring the most size and experience to the group. McInerny, 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds, and Herron, 6-foot-4 and 307, started last season.
Kennedy, 6-foot-3 and 309 pounds, was named one of the team’s captains along with running backs Trevon Bryant and Donald Goodrich and safety D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie on Thursday.
“Dayne’s got a good tackle body,” Miller said. “He’s got long arms. He’s extremely athletic. He’s a former basketball player. Those are the guys that we usually like taking at tackle with our zone operation and stuff like that. His athleticism, his effort, that’s something that sets him apart. He’s got to continue to work on his technique. But I think last year that’s what kept him starting for 10 games: He gave great effort and just kind of kept attacking things. That’s something he’s got to continue to do.”
McInerny started 11 games last season and five as a sophomore, sometimes at guard and sometimes at tackle.
“Will’s a big guy, Miller said. “He can play inside and outside so he gives us a little flexibility. If we get better depth inside, we’ll probably play him at tackle. But if we have a little more depth at tackle, maybe we’ll play him at guard. His versatility is good right now as we kind of work out the kinks with the young guys.”
Kennedy has fit in nicely at center.
“The good thing for Jake is he had Mike Coccia and Tad McNeely, All American, All- Conference guys ahead of him, so he’s kind of seen how to practice and how to carry himself and the responsibility and the pressure we put on the center in our offense,” Miller said. “He’s done a pretty good job. He had a decent offseason and he’s been solid this spring That helps us that he’s come in and been kind of solid through the middle there.”
Velte and Carroll are among the youngsters of the group.
Velte started five games last year as a redshirt freshman. Carroll worked on the defensive side and dealt with a foot injury last fall.
“Nick’s a smart kid and he was able to pick the offense up really well,” Miller said. “As a young kid, it’s usually the other way. They’re trying to figure out the offense, so they’re not playing with good confidence and technique. He’s a pretty smart kid, an engineering student. He picked it up really well. I think he was able to play a little freer and focus on some technique.”
Carroll’s been a welcome addition to the offense.
“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” Miller said. “He’s a former rugby player in high school so he’s a pretty athletic kid. He can play with a base really well and use his power in his hips. It’s not like he was playing offensive line. Basically every practice is something new. . . . He’s a tough kid. He’s a strong kid. He reminds me a lot – it’s not just because he has the same number – of Morrill when he came in as a freshman. He was a D-tackle for half a year and came over, but just kind of kept attacking things and eventually it worked itself out. If he keeps doing that, I think we’ll be fine.”
The line continues to be a work in progress.
Redshirt freshman Matt Mascia and sophomores Noah Robison, a transfer from Coastal Carolina, Jeff Carter, Mike McGuinness and Clayton Jimerson are among the others in the mix, pushing for starting jobs and minutes.
“You’ve got a lot of moving parts,” Miller said. “But we’ve got to keep putting these guys in situations and scenarios to see who can come out the other side. Ultimately I think over the years what has made us good is the pressure we apply to our kids during practice almost makes the game a little easier at times. The more we can add that pressure, as long as they continue to meet it, they’ll be OK in the long run.”