With practice just wrapping up this morning, UND is officially six practices into their 2020 spring season. It has been a fairly quiet spring thus far but that doesn’t mean moves aren’t being made on the field.
We have been able to put together some tidbits and notes for you and will relay what we know through the first two weeks of practice.
Offensively, everyone wants to know about the quarterbacks – and rightfully so. R-Freshman Tommy Schuster and the two true freshman dynamo’s, Quincy Vaughn and Reid Neal, have been dueling for the keys to the car and it’s been eventful. Youthful exuberance is infectious and these three bring it.
To describe the three, here is what we would say early on:
- Schuster = quiet, reserved, very calculated and intelligent on the field – elusive in the pocket. Seems to process plays and defenses quickly.
- Vaughn = boisterous, fun, shakes things off quickly and moves on to next play, been taught well.
- Neal = best overall athlete, fastest of group, quiet, throws nice ball.
As you can see they have quite a nice mix in the quarterback room. I may regret saying this but don’t be surprised if UND goes with those three and Brock Boltmann as their four QB’s next fall. Boltmann has been taking reps all spring and can easily run the entire package if need be. But, he is so valuable as a wide receiver that it’s in UND’s best interests to develop another QB and keep him out wide (besides the Brockstar formation).
There is little doubt that Schuster would be the starter if the season began today.
There have been some nice surprises at wide receiver, as well. We all know that Garett Maag and Boltmann are #1 and #2 on the depth chart. The battle for those next 2-3 spots is taking shape. A big mover this spring has been sophomore Tyler Burian. The 6’3″ former Red River Roughrider has shown major growth in his development as a wide receiver and just seems to be more confident & comfortable out there. He caught a long touchdown last week when he blew by the safety and caught it in stride for the big gainer. Burian should be in the Top 4 right now.
Freshman Adam Zavalney is also right there with Burian battling for the two spots that were vacated by seniors Wanzek and Toivonen. The 6’4″ athlete out of Park River is looking to ensure that UND has the tallest receivers in the league, once again.
At center, the Hawks are trying out a number of players, it appears, due to Nate Nguon not participating fully. Kyle Hergel has taken snaps lately, as has senior Bennett Helgren and freshman Adam Neustel. If Hergel would end up at center we see a young guy like Kyle Downs taking over his right guard position.
An interesting development is how OC Danny Freund is using all of his running backs as wide receivers, as well. They all need to learn the slot receiver position – meaning we could very well see two running backs on the field at various times throughout the game. A guy like Cam McKinney, who just finished up his indoor track season for the Hawks T&F team, would be a great fit in the slot as he has already had experience there.
Defensively, a young guy who has really impressed is outside linebacker Josh Navratil. The Pine Island, MN product has the size (6’2″-215) and speed to be a playmaker off the edge and in the flats. He could push for major playing time opposite Jaxson Turner.
Ty Shannon recently moved to OLB from his safety position in a move very reminiscent of Tanner Palmborg. The move worked out quite well for Palmborg as he became a disruptive force off the edge for the Hawks. Shannon appears to have bulked up over the winter and could easily be in that 215-220 range by fall.
Evan Holm is having a big spring. Typically seniors aren’t called upon to do much in spring ball but Holm is doing it anyway. He picked off two passes this morning bringing both back for what would’ve been touchdowns.
The safety positions are an all-out battle royal for playing time. There are legitimately six players that could stake claim to the job with incumbents Jordan Canady and Hayden Galvin holding down the spots, for now. Kadon Kauppinen looks good early on, as does Jayson Coley and Matt Koshiol (who may end up at OLB by fall camp if he continues to add size). Somebody needs to step up and make plays, first and foremost. Two INT’s in 12 games isn’t going to cut it.
Transfer ILB Devon Krzanowski is definitely going to help at inside linebacker. With the loss of Donnell Rodgers their was a hole in the middle and he will help fill it. There’s a learning curve right now but spring ball should take care of it.
DE Graham Devore has been unblockable at times. He got his first taste of DE play last year and we look for Devore to take a huge step forward in 2020. He is up to 260 pounds now, which is exactly what UND needs.
We have been told that DE Ryan Schoenfelder quit the team prior to spring ball starting. The sophomore played sparingly last season in his only year of action.
Transfer kicker Adam Stage hasn’t kicked much due to getting injured during winter workouts. Told it’s not serious but has kept him out.
Via several sources, we expect UND to hire Robbie Rouse as their next running backs coach. Rouse is a former standout RB for the Fresno State Bulldogs and current RB’s coach at Augustana. He will join the staff immediately for the second half of spring ball.