HERO Sports welcomes you to "Two-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 125 FCS programs, with two being released each day from June 18 to August 18 (with the final day having three in one day). Today we give you … New Hampshire.
[divider]MORE: Compare Any Two FCS Players or Any Two FCS Teams[divider]
FCS TEAM BY TEAM PREVIEW: The countdown
FCS PRESEASON TOP 25: The poll
FCS PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA: The teams
New Hampshire (9-5 IN 2017)
Colonial Athletic Association (UNH was T-4th in 2017)
COACH: Sean McDonnell – 20th year (150-88)
2017 OFFENSE: 22.1 ppg. (69th in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 21.5 ppg. (30th in FCS)
SUM IT UP: New Hampshire enters the 2018 season having gone to the playoffs 14 consecutive seasons. Based on the massive amount of talent the Wildcats bring back, a 15th trip seems to be a foregone conclusion. The Wildcats are widely considered to be among the top three teams in the CAA, at least heading into the season.
Paced by All-American receiver Neil O'Connor and the still-underrated Trevor Knight, New Hampshire's offense has been rightfully preordained as one of the best units in the Colonial. Even today, most offenses still run to set up the pass; New Hampshire is a team that isn't afraid to pass to set up the run. The Wildcats are plenty successful in doing it, too.
James Madison will likely be the preeminent favorite to win the conference as Media Day unfolds in Baltimore on Tuesday, but UNH actually holds a uniquely beneficial position in the conference this year. Among the conference's accepted preseason top three (JMU, UNH and Delaware), only New Hampshire will play both teams during the regular season. In other words, the Wildcats may play a harder schedule, but they could also be the only team to control their own destiny for an uncontested conference championship.
To win the CAA this particular year, UNH will need Knight and O'Connor to stay healthy and post monstrous senior-season numbers. The Wildcats will also need stronger play on defense, as well as better security from the offensive line. Offensively, the ceiling is extremely high, but a lack of improvement in the trenches could blunt the best weapon New Hampshire has.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Over the last 10 years, New Hampshire is almost certainly the CAA's most consistent team when it comes to winning games in the postseason, so there's no reason to think another deep run isn't possible. Offensively, New Hampshire is as strong a team as the FCS has to offer, so its path through the postseason is both obvious and obtainable. Given that its potential flaws are much more glaring than other top teams, the Wildcats might not be true title favorites, but a trip to the Final Four is still a distinct possibility.
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BEST FCS PLAYER BY NUMBER: We count down, No. 99 through No. 1[divider]
TOP RETURNEE: WR Neil O'Connor (All-American, 97 Rec for 1,396 Yards in '17).
THE NEXT FIVE: QB Trevor Knight (Third-Team All-CAA, 3,433 Passing Yards and 26 Passing TD's in '17); LB Quinlen Dean (Second-Team All-CAA, 124 tackles in '17); DB Prince Smith Jr (Third-Team All-CAA in '17, CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year in '16, 10 PD in '17); OL Dayne Herron (13 Starts at LT in '17); DL Ryan Sosnak (6 TFL's, 4 PBU's, 3 BLK's in 2017).
TOP NEWCOMER: RB Dylan Laube (Carl A. Hansen Award-Winner).
DID YOU KNOW?: Conant Hall — the first chemistry building constructed at UNH — was the headquarters for the American Chemical Society from 1907-1911.
THE QUOTE: "We're hoping that we even get a better senior year out of [wide receiver Neil O'Connor]. Having him come back 100 percent healthy will certainly benefit him. He played with a lot of nagging injuries and he played a ton of snaps. He's a tough kid, a smart kid. I don't worry too much about him not being able to pick up what we're doing offensively just because of the type of savvy athlete he is." –UNH Pass Coordinator Michael Ferzoco
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #GraniteStrong
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @UNH_Football
. @FCS_STATS named @CAAFootball the best conference in the FCS. Week in and week out it's a grind, and we wouldn't have it any other way#GraniteStrong pic.twitter.com/0uJPaDWznN
— UNH Football (@UNH_Football) July 21, 2018
COLONIAL DEBATE: Our FCS Debate Club Argues New Hampshire v. Delaware
MORE CAA PREVIEWS: Albany | Delaware | Elon | James Madison | Maine