The UND Football team resumed spring practices yesterday after taking off a week for spring break. As one would expect, it was a bit sloppy at times but wasn’t short on big plays and enthusiasm.
First off, when walking into the HPC it’s a totally different atmosphere now with the west side bleachers installed. Besides the fact they installed bright green seats to make it pop, the sight lines from up in the bleacher section are excellent. They even added bar-style rails along the back of the top row for people standing on top. There is also storage underneath the bleachers that runs the full length. Very nice addition.
The energy that the offense as a whole exudes now is very fun to watch. OC Danny Freund has them moving at all times, whether it’s after the play, during the play, to another drill, or wherever.
Speaking of energy – I interviewed new offensive line coach Joe Pawlak shortly after practice and that guy has energy. So much in fact that once Coach Schweigert was done speaking with the team Pawlak ran off the field, up the stairs and was half-way to Memorial Stadium by the time I caught up to him! He apparently does this every practice just to stay on time with things back in the office. I hope to have that interview up tomorrow.
The offense broke out into two groups and ran plays out of the end zone vs. air to get their timing down, etc. The interesting part was when the play was over they ran to midfield and got setup again to work back towards the end zone. Then, the second group would do the same thing.
Both groups repeated that scenario back and forth for about 10 minutes. We believe they did that to keep the tempo up and get them used to moving at a decent pace and resist complacency. Here is a quick video of how it looked:
WR Garett Maag made a couple long receptions during skelly and team that drew a reaction from the team and fans. QB Nate Ketteringham hit Maag on a long sideline route that was actually tightly covered. QB Noah Grover found Maag on a deep post pass later in practice, as well. Maag has deceptive speed and seems to find his way open on deep balls quite often.
As many of you that follow us know, we are big “back-shoulder fade” guys. We feel that when you have tall, athletic WR’s you should throw those multiple times per game until the defense shows they can defend it. Ketteringham threw a shorter version of the back-shoulder, maybe a stop route, when he zinged a laser to Maag who was being pressed by CB Jacob Odom. It was exactly what UND needs to do when teams are going to press Maag, Wanzek and Toivonen (FYI, Big Sky teams love to press on the outside in man-free looks).
During this previous scenario UND was actually doing a mock end-of-game situation where the offense got the ball in their own territory and had to drive down to field goal range with only one timeout at their disposal. The offense successfully moved the ball down the field and Brady Leach drilled a 47 yard field goal to cap it off. Obviously, it was very good to see Leach hit that kick.
The teams reset and did it and it ended this time with Grover firing a strike deep down the seam to a resurgent TE Alex Cloyd for a long touchdown. The offense celebrated that one quite joyously.
One little wrinkle we noticed was QB Brock Boltmann, who is probably third or fourth on the depth chart, lined up at wide receiver several times and took reps that way. Boltmann has good speed so it’s not all that surprising to see. Something to watch as we head into the spring game.
Safety Ty Shannon had a nice interception of Boltmann when he jumped a crossing route down the middle and took it down the sidelines. Shannon is one who is in a fierce battle for the other safety job opposite Jordan Canady.
It was good to see OLB Ray Haas back on the field. Hard to miss that 6’5″ frame out there running around.
I thought it was cool to show how UND films practice now in the HPC. You can see the equipment staff and student helpers running the controls from up on the catwalk through their monitors.