The Fighting Hawks are officially back on the practice field in full gear. This time it’s under the umbrella of “Fall Ball”. Last time they were on the field for this type of workout was in March for their annual “Spring Ball” session. Covid hit, however, so fast forward to October and here we are.
UND completed three practices last week and plan on doing the same for the next four weeks. 15 practices in all, three per week.
Looking ahead, once Fall Ball is completed they will go back into the same routine they had before Fall Ball started, which is 12 hours per week of workouts, walk-throughs, and meetings. Then Xmas break will take place and the Hawks will plan on starting a camp-like routine (even though school is in session) towards the end of January. The first game is set for February 20 at home vs. Missouri State.
I have compiled a depth chart that I feel is pretty accurate based on the previous depth chart UND released, along with any information I have gleaned over the past few weeks. This is not official by any means but it’s my best attempt.
There are several things to take away from this depth chart and I will go into those in a bit.
For the offense, it’s about execution and repetition in the system during this practice season. OC Danny Freund installed his spread-style attack last year and there were obviously pluses and minuses to the system. UND was able to isolate WR’s effectively and put them in positions to make big plays. The running game left alot to be desired, however, as they only averaged 121 yards/game on the ground and struggled mightily in short yardage at times.
The offensive line has a significant amount to do with that as there was very little push against the better defensive lines they faced. The Hawks tried to address that in the offseason by beefing up that unit across the board so it will remain to be seen if the running game can get established more consistently this fall.
The defense brings back starting experience at each level and should be an improved unit in 2021. New DC Brett Holinka will be running the same 3-4 scheme that was previously run by Eric Schmidt.
Obvious areas of importance this fall are developing their young defensive lineman for the rigors of the MVFC and finding a capable replacement for Donnell Rodgers at ILB.
It is important to remember that there will be no redshirting this spring due to Covid-19. The Hawks can play their true freshman in all 8 games if they choose to and it won’t count against their eligibility. Knowing that makes it interesting to speculate on what freshman may play more than just a few games like in a normal season.
One player who would be on that list is Craig Orlando at nose guard. The big man from Verndale, MN is already built like a college NG (6’3″-280). He was a state champion wrestler, which helps quite a bit on the interior.
Even thought the cornerback position is quite deep this season, I could see freshman Richard Agyekum getting into the mix consistently. His tape shows unbelievable hips and footwork. He is a bit slight (5’9″-175) but makes up for with his quicks.
The staff is quite high on the freshman wide receiver corps and we could see at least two of them playing quite a bit. Marcus Preston and Bo Belquist have both shown play-making ability and with the loss of Wanzek and Toivonen in the offseason it leaves quite a bit of catches available for whoever steps up. Elijah Klein is the wildcard. At 6’6″ he is a walking mismatch but will take time to develop into a collegiate receiving threat.
Freshman QB Quincy Vaughn will more than likely have his own package for short yardage stuff. At 6’4″-240, he is a load to bring down and QB truck plays on 3rd and 2 should be effective.
Depth Chart Thoughts
Tommy Schuster is the man at the controls and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. He is so cerebral and football savvy that it should be easy for the freshman to keep his starting job even though he has two other freshman chomping at the bit to get a look.
The wide receiver group is interesting this year. We all know Garett Maag is poised to have a monster year and at 6’5″-210 should absolutely dominate some games if he develops the mental/physical consistency that is needed to be a premier threat. Wanzek did just that during his last two years. Maag, a junior, is on that track.
Tyler Burian is listed as a starter, which is a bit of a surprise and a pleasant one at that. The former walk-on from Red River has always been a developmental type of player who was more known for track in high school but had the frame (6’4″-205) to become a factor for the Hawks. That time appears to be now. It is important to remember that UND plays their top 4 WR’s interchangeably, meaning it doesn’t matter what position they are listed at on the depth chart. The top 4 will play the majority of the snaps.
Adam Zavalney has been working more with the tight ends of late due to a need for a receiving threat in that group. The 6’4″ redshirt freshman has really come on during his time on campus and should be a nice weapon for Freund this spring.
The running back group will be a “by-committee” approach, as laid out by Tom Miller in a recent Grand Forks Herald article. They could honestly play 5-6 guys this spring and not skip a beat. There will be two backs on the field at times, as well. Senior Dalton Gee is the do-everything type and should be the #1, if you had to name a starter.
The offensive line returns mostly intact, losing Patric Rooney at center but returning Nate Nguon who played center when Rooney was injured. An interesting move is that of Kyle Hergel sliding over from right guard to center. He was a mainstay last season as a freshman but the staff felt he would be better utilized at center due to his durability and the depth they have at guard. Big tackle Easton Kilty would be the freshman darkhorse of the group to see some playing time.
At safety UND returns senior starters Hayden Galvin and Jordan Canady, which is good for the entire defense. However, I need more out of this group. They only had two interceptions in 12 games between the two of them. For comparison the UND linebacker corps had six last season. Dominant safety play is a must if any football wants to be successful. Guys like Kadon Kauppinen, Matt Koshiol, and Jayson Coley are definitely waiting in the wings looking for their chance.