Sack attack puts New Hampshire defense on fast track

Jullien Turner, UNH  (Courtesy University of New Hampshire Athletics)

Don’t blame Cam Shorey if he can’t crunch the numbers. He and his New Hampshire teammates have been too busy crunching quarterbacks.

The Wildcats are tied for fourth in the nation — FBS and FCS — with 17 sacks, according to (New Hampshire lists 18.) Only Alcorn State (20), Penn State (18) and Maryland (18) have more. The Wildcats, ranked 20th in the STATS FCS Top 25, also lead the CAA heading into Saturday’s homecoming game against Elon on ASN.

Elon-New-HampshireShorey, a junior defensive end, leads the way with 4 sacks — most on the team and second in the CAA. But 10 other defenders in New Hampshire’s unorthodox 4-2-5 alignment have at least one sack, the majority coming from the defensive line.

“I couldn’t tell you what the numbers are,” he said. “We are excited for the guy next to us to get a sack. I’m more excited when other people get sacks. I celebrate more when they bring the quarterback down.”

Six linemen have combined for 13 sacks, a credit to the Wildcats’ depth. With 2014 sack leader Cody Muller gone, last year’s backups and first-year players have been filling the void. After Shorey, junior defensive tackle Jullian Turner — another backup last year — and redshirt freshman defensive end Jae’Wuan Horton both have 3 sacks. Cyrus Boone, another redshirt freshman, has posted 2.5 sacks coming off the bench.

Players credit their productivity to defensive line coach Peter McCarty, who has nearly 40 years of college experience. He also was an all-conference linebacker and co-captain at UMass back in the day. The coaches who helped him develop into an elite player made a impact on the native of Bangor, Maine. It’s one of the reasons why he got into coaching.

“He has a complete understanding of what offenses are trying to do,” Turner said. “He has taught us what to look for, to learn the habits of certain offensives and their offensive lineman. We study their weaknesses, their strengths. We talk about it throughout the week and try to exploit it.”

Shorey calls it the best game preparation of his football career and attributes his dramatic improvement to McCarty. He adjusted Shorey’s technique and stressed what hints to pick up from offensive linemen as they stepped to the line.

“Last year I was just running down the middle of the tackles, using my hands too much,” Shorey said. “I was hand-fighting too much. Picking up the offensive linemen’s pre-snap keys has helped a lot. They lean forward when its a run; back on their heels when its a pass. That totally helps to get a better jump off the ball. Both of those things have helped out tremendously.”

Shorey and Turner initially bonded last season as backups on the field together. With McCarty’s guidance, there is more cohesiveness between the two that has contributed to the defense’s success.

“Coach McCarty preaches knowing where each other are on the field,” Shorey said. “That goes for the whole defense.”

Shorey and Turner also know what each other are doing on every play.

“When the (defensive) call gets signaled in and the offense gets lined up, we look at each other and know what the other is doing,” Turner said. “He knows where I’m gonna hit (the offensive lineman) at, how long I’m gonna hold my guy before Cam comes in. He knows how long its going to take me to get outside and push the tackle before he comes inside.

“There is nothing better than sacking the quarterback on third down and forcing them to punt so the offense gets the ball back.”

Above: New Hamsphire’s Jullian Turner, who has 3 sacks this season, credits defensive line coach Peter McCarty. (Courtesy University of New Hampshire Athletics)
Keith Chartrand

Keith Chartrand

Keith Chartrand is a freelance writer based in Ocala, Fla.