2022 Monmouth vs New Hampshire

New Hampshire's Josiah Silver Looking For Big Things In Sophomore Campaign

New Hampshire's Josiah Silver Looking For Big Things In Sophomore Campaign

University of New Hampshire defensive end Josiah Silver was one of the Wildcats' few bright spots last season and is ready for bigger things in 2022.

Aug 11, 2022 by Stephen Kerr
New Hampshire's Josiah Silver Looking For Big Things In Sophomore Campaign

The transition from high school to college football isn't an easy one. The players are better, and practices more intense. Not every high school star gets the recognition of a five-star recruit to a Division I program.

University of New Hampshire defensive end Josiah Silver discovered this first-hand during his senior year of high school. 

The 6-foot-2, 234-pound Hampton, Virginia, native was a standout at Phoebus High, where he racked up 27 sacks his senior season in 2019. The team went 12-2 overall, and 10-0 in district play, before falling in the VHSL state tournament.

But, recruiters weren't flocking to Silver's door.

"Going into my senior year, I had one scholarship offer," Silver told UNH Athletics last season. "A lot of schools wanted me to come on a partial scholarship or as a walk-on. I believed in myself more than that."

New Hampshire was the one school offering that full scholarship. 

Durham was a 12-hour drive from Hampton. Silver had never been there, much less anywhere in the New England area. After some convincing from his high school coach, Silver's recruiting visit convinced him it would be the right fit.

"I never thought I would end up in New Hampshire," Silver admitted on the FCS Football podcast. "My (high school coach) told me they were offering. I was like, 'Coach, is this Division I?' I'd never heard of them. He was like, 'yeah, they're in the CAA.' I was familiar with the CAA because of Richmond, JMU, so I was like, 'all right, cool'."

Before his official visit, Silver had convinced himself he would commit if he liked the campus even a little bit. He arrived during the weekend of the MLK Day holiday, and many of the students were gone, but he enjoyed hanging out with members of the football team. When the visit was over, he made his decision.

The 2020 season was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. While it was an anxious time for many, Silver found a way to use the downtime to his advantage. It allowed him to ease into the rigorous practices and routines.

"COVID kind of helped me," Silver said on the podcast. "I stepped on campus not understanding how fast college football was. That whole fall we just spent practicing."

Silver got another unexpected break that would lead to more playing time than he expected in 2021. Defensive starters Brian Carter and Gunner Gibson took Silver under their wings and mentored him. Carter played the same position, while Gibson was on the opposite end of the line.

Carter opted not to return for his final season in 2021, opening an opportunity for Silver.

"They taught me everything I knew," Silver told the podcast. "Without the COVID year, I don't think I would have had the same impact as I did (last) year without Brian Carter and then COVID. I got to get in and learn the playbook and practice at the college level. I didn't have to learn the plays in camp. There wasn't a rush."

It did take a little time for Silver to gain confidence and adjust to the intense practices. He felt a little lost at first.

"When I didn't have a good practice, I was looking at myself like, 'man, I'm not used to this,'" Silver said on the podcast. "I used to be 'the man' in high school. That's when Gunner Gibson helped me. He was like, 'man, don't worry about this practice. Everyone is on this team for a reason.'"

The Wildcats had a disappointing 2021 season. They won their first three games and went on to finish the year 3-8. The most humiliating loss was a 77-7 drubbing at the hands of Pittsburgh on Sept. 25. 

Head coach Sean McDonnell stepped down after the season and was replaced by associate head coach Rick Santos.

Silver was one of the Wildcats' few bright spots, bursting onto the scene in a big way. 

He led the CAA in sacks with 12.5, one shy of the school record. He also led the conference with six forced fumbles, which tied for second nationally in the FCS. He led the Wildcats in solo tackles (42), assisted tackles (38) and tackles for loss (19.5 for a total of 87 yards). He started all 11 games and recorded a tackle for loss in all but one.

The accolades were quick to follow. 

He was named to the Associated Press FCS All-America second team, the Stats Perform and Phil Steele All-America third teams and was voted CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year. He also was a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, which honors the National Freshman of the Year.

"He's been outstanding," McDonnell said last season. "He's done a really good job of knowing and understanding the schemes we're running. He's got some knacks. He can bend. When he's pass rushing, he can really dip and get underneath some stuff."

Santos named Garrett Gillick as the team's new defensive coordinator this season. Gillick, who has coached the linebackers since 2014, replaces the retired John Lyons and moves up to become Santos' associate head coach. 

Silver will anchor a line that also features senior defensive tackle Niko Kvietkus. Silver's outstanding freshman season may result in drawing more double teams.

"Playing with (Josiah) is a great time," Kvietkus said during CAA Football Media Day last month. "I think as a freshman, he didn't have as much of a target on his back, at least in the beginning of the year. I'm assuming now he's going to take some double teams off of me, which I'm excited for."

Santos fully expects Silver to have an even better sophomore season.

"We hope Josiah Silver builds off of that All-American freshman campaign," Santos said during Media Day. "He's extremely dynamic and someone who can rush the passer as good as anybody at this level."

Silver worked hard during the offseason developing his spin move and becoming more of a power rusher. He already has been named to several preseason teams, including Stats Perform's FCS All-America first team, the Athlon Sports FCS Preseason All-America team and the CAA All-Conference preseason team. He's optimistic that a new head coach and a fresh attitude will turn things around for the Wildcats in 2022.

"The guys really respect Coach Santos," he said on the podcast. "He played here, he was successful here. We all see what he did, and now he's going to lead us to do things we haven't done in a little while."