Now that semester break is over and any attrition that would happen has happened (hint: not much at all) we figured it would be a good time to take a look at what UND has coming back for the 2019 season.


Offensively, the big story is the removal of Paul Rudolph as offensive coordinator and Luke Knauf as offensive line coach.  They were replaced by Danny Freund (former UND WR coach), Joe Pawlak (assistant OL coach at Iowa), and Sam King (RB coach at Duluth).

The scheme will be changing to a run-based power spread offense that works mostly out of the shotgun.  For a comparison we would say watch how Eastern Washington ran their version this past season.  UND probably won’t move as quickly as the Eagles do but will operate at a much faster tempo than the previous regime did, which was a slower, methodical approach with a full huddle every play.

–Offensive Starters Returning: 8

Quarterback (1)

  • *Nate Ketteringham – 158-289-1835.  16 TD -11 INT
  •   Andrew Zimmerman – 1-2-11

The 2018 season ushered in the Nate Ketteringham era for UND football.  Ketteringham, a Sac State transfer, had ran the scout team in 2017 and waited his turn to take over once Keaton Studsrud had graduated.  The season started off with a bang as Kett went 19-30 for 225 yards and 3 TD’s vs MVSU in the home opener.  His best game of the year by far was the destruction of Montana at the Alerus Center when UND hung 41 on the Griz led by Kett’s 254 yards and 4 TD’s.

However, from that point on the offense seemed to slowly regress and along with that the play of Ketteringham.  The culmination of that decline was a 13-29-109, 1 TD-2 INT effort vs Northern Arizona.  That loss knocked the Hawks out of the playoffs and may have sealed the fate of OC Paul Rudolph.

Nate Ketteringham

We think it would be safe to say the QB job is 100% open this spring.  With Freund now the OC we can see him wanting to find his QB, the guy who will be able to run his offense the most efficiently.  When you combine that with the way the offense sputtered at the end of the season it only makes sense that the competition will more than likely go on into the fall as well.

Senior Andrew Zimmerman was the #2 last season and only played a few snaps in cleanup time.  He will definitely be in the conversation again this spring as he is probably the most cerebral of all the QBs.

The wildcard of this group is sophomore Brock Boltmann, who is the best athlete of the group.  If QB mobility and running ability are an emphasis for this offense, Boltmann will be one to watch. His style of play seems like a good match for UND’s new offense.

Junior Noah Grover was #4 on the depth chart last year but did impress the staff with his athletic ability and quick release.  The juco transfer from Arizona is definitely in the mix as well. He’s a legit dark horse candidate.

Running Back (0)

  • James Johanneson – 93-657-4
  • Otis Weah – 5-28-1
  • Teddy Sherva – 4-3-0

UND loses two of the best running backs to ever wear the Sioux/Hawks uniform.  John Santiago and Brady Oliveira have moved on to pursuing their professional careers after four years of unforgettable rushing moments.

The guy who will be the bell cow in the offense next year is senior RB James Johannesson.  The 6’1-240 brute from Fargo South High School showed a nice combination of power and speed as he could get the tough yards on 3rd and short while also breaking long runs like the 90 yard TD at Sac State.  Johannesson averaged 6.9 yards per carry in 2018.

James Johannesson

Freshman Otis Weah got a taste of action while preserving his redshirt, which will benefit him greatly.  Weah, 5’8″-185, is the smaller, speed back of the group and will be a major contributor next fall.

Look for former RB turned OLB Austin Gordon to move back to RB with the loss of Santiago and Oliveira.  Gordon showed flashes of being an outstanding speed/quick RB in his limited opportunities back in 2016 – rushing for 243 yards.

The wildcard of the RB group is Dominik London, who just transferred to UND from Minnesota at semester break.  The 5’9″-205 sophomore didn’t see any action at RB for the Gophers last year but was a bigtime player for East Ridge High School (MN) during his prep career – rushing for 3,916 yards and 41 TD’s in his prep career.

Tight End (0)

  • Alex Cloyd – 6-69-1
  • Derek Paulson – 1-11-0

Tight end was a position that largely revolved around blocking in UND’s old offense as evidenced by their leader receiver, the graduated Luke Fiedler, only have 9 catches for 93 yards.  UND does return junior Alex Cloyd, who has played consistent snaps for two straight seasons now and possesses good athleticism.  We are unsure exactly how involved the TE position is going to be in Freund’s new spread offense.

Derek Paulson and Hunter Pinke are the main backups of this group heading into spring ball and played sparingly in 2018.  The guy who may be the go-to guy in the passing game is former fullback Graham Devore.  The sophomore is the fastest and most agile of the group and is definitely better suited for TE.  Look for Freund to use Devore liberally this season.

Freshman Trae Steckler and Beau Foix will be looking to break into the rotation via special teams, etc.

Wide Receiver (3)

  • *Noah Wanzek – 52-685-6
  • *Travis Toivonen – 22-194-2
  • *Garett Maag – 18-266-5
  •   Izzy Adeoti – 13-217-1
  •   Cam McKinney – 10-62-0

The position with the most depth and talent returning is the wide receiver group.  These guys have been consistent producers over the past several years and should be poised for big things in 2019.

The leader of the group is former Jamestown standout Noah Wanzek.  Throughout his first three years there is one thing that fans could count on with the 6’4″ Wanzek: he would catch the ball if thrown his way.  Wanzek has arguably the best hands we have seen come through UND since Mike Juhasz set the single season reception record back in 1999 with 79.  We could easily see Wanzek catching 75+ balls this year if the systems allows for matchup throws to be made (see a good matchup and take it, regardless of play call).

Noah Wanzek

His fellow senior stalwart, Travis Toivonen, has also been a rock in the lineup for the past three seasons – catching 91 passes for 1,035 yards and 6 TD’s.  Toivonen, 6’3″, is a big-bodied combo WR who can run all the routes and should thrive in his senior season.

A guy who emerged on the scene last year as a true freshman (just like Wanzek and Toivonen did) is 6’5″ Garett Maag.  It was pretty impressive how Maag became a go-to guy last year when Toivonen was injured late in the season and we expect him to take that experience and build off it in 2019.  Five of Maag’s 18 catches were for TD.

The speed guy and main deep threat of the group is junior Izzy Adeoti.  Izzy showed his big play ability when torching Montana and Sam Houston State for long, heart-starting TD catches that frankly weren’t very common over the past five seasons.

The wildcard of the group is speedster Cam McKinney.  This past season we saw a bit more of McKinney through the jet sweep game as he ran the ball 21 times for 133 yards.  We see McKinney continuing to to be that guy while also trying to evolve his ability to get down field on play-action and help UND in the passing game.

Sophomores Mikey Griebel, Jack Pifer and Pedro Schmidt are in the next group of guys providing depth, with Schmidt and Greibel getting minor playing time last fall.  Junior Easton Erbes will also be fighting for a Top 7 spot in the rotation, which means you’re on the travel squad.

Freshman Noah Sickler and Tyler Burian will be backing up the big three listed above but should see the field at times.  The North Dakota products both had solid fall camps on the scout team.

Offensive Line (4)

  • *Patric Rooney (C)
  • *Ryan Tobin (LG)
  • *Noah Mortel (LT)
  • *Matt Waletzko (RT)

This is the position group that we feel needs to take the next step towards being dominant.  The UND offensive line has shown flashes of dominance over the past several years but nothing ever sustained.  The Hawks ran for 350, 282, and 480 yards in a three game stretch in the middle of the season vs. UNC, Montana, and Sac State.  However, that proved to be the peak and production slowly fell off, culminating in the season-ending loss to NAU where they ran for a paltry 83 yards on 41 carries in a must-win game.

As the running production diminished so did the pass protection.  Throughout the first seven games of the 2018 season the UND pass protection was stellar.  They only gave up seven sacks in seven games.  QB Nate Ketteringham had time to set his feet (which was crucial for him) and the passing game was fairly consistent.

However, the Hawks headed out to Moscow and everything seemed to fall apart from that game on.  The Vandals battered and hurried Ketteringham most the game – sacking him four times.  Over the last three games of the season, when UND needed to go 2-1 to make the playoffs, they gave up 14 sacks.  They were beat up and missing pieces at that point (Mortel-Helgren-Nguon), but it showed how important the need for a dominant offensive line is in college football.

UND Offensive Line

The bright side is the Hawks return four starters and should be an improved group.  The anchor of the line will be center Patric Rooney, who proved to be the most consistent player along the line, IMO.  Center is a good position to have a senior at and it should show in 2019.

Juniors Noah Mortel (LT) and Ryan Tobin (LG) have been two-year starters already in their career, getting plenty of game reps to the point they should take that next step in 2019.  Mortel is coming off a back injury that ended his season early in 2018 but should be ready to go.

Junior Nate Nguon never quite healed from his foot injury suffered in spring ball last year and it showed throughout the season.  He made it back into the lineup down in Huntsville vs Sam Houston State but was slowed by that injury all season.  A healthy Nguon makes UND a much better football team.

Matt Waletzko surprised everybody by working his way into the lineup early in the season and then eventually taking over the starting tackle (right and left) job.  The true sophomore mountain (6’7″-320) showed pretty good agility and footwork against rush ends, especially for a true freshman straight out of high school.  Waletzko could be a heck of a player with increased development.

The wildcard of the OL group is freshman Kyle Hergel.  The strongman (6’2″-300) from Ontario was also being mentioned as having to play as a true freshman but it never materialized, which is good for all involved.  Hergel has drawn good reviews during his time at UND thus far and we see him battling for that open right guard position that was held by recently graduated Grant Aplin.

Junior Bennett Helgren started at right tackle 10 out of 11 games this past season and played fairly well early.  His play tailed off a bit as the offensive line’s in general did, which may have to do with it being his first full season of playing.  Improved play by Helgren would be a major boost to the UND offense.

Connor Kruse will more than likely be backing up one of the guard positions with the ability to push the starters.  We have heard good things about his progression thus far.

Sophomore Jeremy Jenkins and junior Sean Russo will be backing up the tackle positions.  Russo got some playing time last fall due to injuries, which will be a benefit to him this spring.

Freshman Donny Ventrelli will be the backup at center getting a year to learn from the senior starter Rooney.

We have also been told that junior OL Bryce Blair is no longer on the team.


Photos courtesy of:

  1. Eric Burton –
  2. UND Athletics –
  3. University of Washington Athletics –