April 22, 2008
Durham, NH (UWIRE) -- The UNH football team's spring practices are well underway and the number one question on everyone's mind is "Who will play quarterback next year?"
With the departure of the almighty Ricky Santos, head coach Sean McDonnell and his staff have the tough task of deciding who will succeed one of the greatest athletes in the history of UNH.
Two possible candidates have emerged over the last few weeks, making their case to be chosen as the next "golden boy" of Wildcats football. On the left is sophomore R.J. Toman. And on the right, sophomore Kevin Decker.
Let the battle begin.
At the end of the season, it looked like Toman had a slight lead to take over Santos. With the departure of backup Hank Hendricks' early in the season, Toman moved to the number two spot on the depth chart.
With a small frame (6-1, 195 pounds), Toman has the build and the speed to fit well into coach McDonnell's spread offense. However, Toman did play in a typical drop-back offense in high school, and he may not have mastered the Wildcats current scheme.
He saw five games of action over the course of the season, and gave plenty of examples of why he was a capable replacement for Santos. In five games, Toman completed 25-of-34 passes (73.5 percent) for 310 yards and four touchdowns.
His most impressive performance came on October 6 against Delaware, when Toman took over the offense after Santos was injured in the second quarter. He went on to lead the Wildcats to a 35-30 upset win over the Blue Hens in which he threw two touchdowns in the second half.
The following week, Toman led the offense for all four quarters in a 49-21 beating against Iona. The Mission Viejo, California native completed a mesmerizing 15 of 19 passes, a 79 percent clip, and a touchdown.
Kevin Decker was not able to show off his skills in a game situation last year, but that is no reason to count him out of winning the position. At 6-3, he definitely has the height that most coaches look for in a starting quarterback. His speed, however is unknown, and that is an important part of the UNH system.
To get an idea of what Decker brings to the table, take a look at his high school days at Brunswick. The stat that jumps off his high school resume is a 34-1 record as a starter, giving Decker the winning experience UNH expects in a quarterback.
In his career, he completed 364-of-623 passing for 5,749 yards and 76 touchdowns. He was also named the Massachusetts NEPSAC Class C player of the year in 2004 and 2005. The numbers show he has the arm, with plenty of strength that can find the end zone. The 58 percent career completion rating could be a cause of concern, since his possible predecessor finished his collegiate career a completion rating of over 70 percent.
A possible dark horse for the position is walk-on Kyle Auffray. After spending a year on the football team at Mississipi State, Auffray made his way to Durham, where he can spend is final three years of eligibility. Standing 6-6, he has a definite height advantage, but having to learn a brand new offensive system puts him at a slight disadvantage.
The quarterback battle will be the focal point of the Wildcats annual Blue and White spring scrimmage, which will take place May 3 at Cowell Stadium. This will give the sophomores the opportunity to put their skills on display in a game-like situation, and make final impressions on their coaches.
Based on playing experience, it looks like Toman is the logical choice to play under center at the start of next season. But no matter who takes over the quarterback position, they are going to have work even harder to fill the hole left by #2.
(C) 2008 The New Hampshire via UWIRE